Ho Qian Hui, a third year BMus student was the Grand Prize Winner of this year's annual Conservatory Concerto Competition. Accompanied by the Conservatory Orchestra led by Principal Conductor Jason Lai, Qian Hui performed Alfred Schnittke’s Viola Concerto (1985). Henk van der Meulen, principal of the Royal Conservatory in the Hague was the adjudicator. Two other grand finalists were Chen Pin-Jyun who played Prokofiev’s Sinfonia Concertante and Luong Khan Nhi who played Saint-Saëns Piano Concerto No. 2, both first prize-winners in their respective departmental finals held in March this year.
How did you begin studying violin?
QH: I started playing the violin when I was four when my parents enrolled me in the School of Young Talents at NAFA and I passed the audition. I was a student there for seven years before going to the Yehudi Menuhin School to study in the UK. After that, I applied to study at YST Conservatory and came back to Singapore because of the facilities and support that the conservatory provided.
How did the switch to viola happen?
QH: I have always thought about switching to viola since I first started playing it back when I was 13. It was only here in YST, after a serious discussion about what I wanted to do in the future with Prof. Qian Zhou, did I finally just change. It felt right and I can't believe it took so long!
QH: I first learnt of the Schnittke concerto when I was researching viola concertos. I didn't want to play a standard viola concerto (Bartok, Walton) and I really wanted to challenge myself. When I heard the Schnittke, I knew I have got to showcase this. I felt like the work really spoke to me as it is such a vivid and visceral work and I knew I had to perform it one day, so I then chose to play it for the Conservatory Concerto Competition.
What else are you doing this semester?
QH: I am now in Laos for a project I have wanted to do this since I first visited Laos last year representing YST Conservatory in a SEADOM student project. After months of planning with my colleagues at YST, it's really wonderful that this project is finally coming together. It will be a collaboration between students of Mahidol College of Music in Thailand, YST and the National School of Performing Arts in Laos. We are going to work together through chamber music. Workshops will be given by different YST students and I will be giving a violin/viola masterclass too. It will be like an exchange of ideas: for the students from Singapore, we hope to learn more about the traditional music and instruments of Laos, and for Lao students a chance to gain a new perspective about classical music.
I am also looking forward to working with YST faculty members (my teachers) in a concert in October performing the Mozart viola quintet. It's all looking really exciting at the moment!