Cellist Choi Ha-young performs during the semifinal for the second edition of the Queen Elisabeth Competition for cello last week. (Queen Elisabeth Competition)
Up-and-coming cellist Choi Ha-young has won the Queen Elisabeth Competition for the cello, becoming the first South Korean cellist to receive the top honor at one of the most demanding contests in the world.
The 24-year-old cellist was announced as the winner of the competition at the awards ceremony in Brussels, Belgium, on Saturday after the final round of 12 contestants including three other South Korean cellists -- Mun Tae-guk, Yoon Sul and Jeong Woo-chan.
The first prize came with a cash prize of 25,000 euros ($27,000).
Yibai Chen from China took the second prize, and Marcel Johannes Kits from Estonia came third.
In the final round, each finalist performed a concerto of his or her own choice and an unpublished work by Jorg Widmann, which was written exclusively for this competition. For her choice, Choi performed Lutoslawski’s Cello Concerto with the Brussels Philharmonic. After the semi-final, the finalists are given a week to study without any external assistance. After the week, they perform the new work with an orchestra.
The Queen Elisabeth Competition, named after Queen Elisabeth of Belgium, was created in 1937 and has long been considered as one of the most prestigious competitions for classical violinists, pianists, and singers. After the cello division was added in 2017, each discipline returns in a four-year cycle.
Many South Koreans have been awarded the first prize in the Queen Elisabeth Competition, including Cho Eun-hwa for composition in 2008 and Jeon Min-je for composition in 2009, vocalists Hong Hae-ran in 2011 and Hwang Sumi in 2014, as well as violinist Lim Ji-young in 2015.
Choi will embark on a tour in Belgium with the National Orchestra of Belgium starting from June 16 and plans to meet the Korean audience in September.
Choi studied at the Korean National University of Arts and at the Kronberg Academy in Germany. She won first prize in several international contests, including the Krzysztof Penderecki Competition in Poland in 2018 and the International Johannes Brahms Competition in Austria in 2011 as the youngest winner ever.