International Jean Sibelius Violin Competition

The International Jean Sibelius Violin Competition is named after a Finnish composer. It's only for younger violinists, so only players up to the age of thirty can enter it. The competition is one of the most important competitions for violinists in the world. It has been running since 1965, and it runs once every five years. Something like this can be a great motivator or just great inspiration for a beginning violinists!

Who was Jean Sibelius?

Jean Sibelius

Jean was born in 1865 and died in 1957. The competition named after him started in 1965, just 8 years after his death.

As a composer, Jean was famous enough that Finland had his face on the 100 mark bill up until the year 2002. He composed many pieces of music in Finland, and he composed over 100 songs for piano and voice.

He loved the violin, but he had to abandon his dream of playing as a virtuoso as he felt he had started it too late. He was such a perfectionist, he felt he could not simply enjoy playing the violin, so switched to writing music for it instead.

How Does the Competition Work?

The Sibelius Violin Competition itself is held every 5 years in the city of Helinski, in Finland.

To enter, you have to send in a performance sample of yourself playing the violin. The judges will then judge it in something called a competition committee. This process is called “pre-selection.”

The competition works over three rounds. There are rounds one and two, and then a final round. The total performance of all the rounds is then ranked. Very few violinists make it to the final rounds.

What Music Is Played?

The first round usually has something with Bach, Mozart, or Paginini. The Mozart pieces are supposed to test how good you are when it comes to the understanding style. Paginini is often used to show the judges your technical skill with the instrument. Bach is used to show your readiness to be able to enter the competition.

It's not always the same, but the second round often has Sonatas, and even a few pieces by Sibelius himself. There could be Finnish songs, or virtuoso violin pieces. The second round is often called the “semi-finals.”

In the last round, those who make it that far play concertos with a full symphony orchestra behind them. One of the pieces is the “Violin Concerto in D Minor” written by Sibellius himself.

When Was the Last Competition?

Since it runs every five years and started in 1965, every competition year ends with either a “5” or a “0.” The last one was in 2010. It was the Tenth competition since the competition began in 1965. The winner was a Russian violinist by the name of Nikita Borisoglebsky.

What Are My Chances?

Chances aren't as bad as they are in some completions, but it's still true that most applicants are turned away. For example, there were 175 applications in 2005 for the competition, and only 58 made it in. Of these, only fifty actually participated, with twenty making it into the second round, and eight in the final round.

The competition is tough, even for those who have been learning how to play the violin for years. It's still inspiring and entertaining to watch and listen to some of the amazing music created by violinists all over the world.

Why Should Anyone Apply?

There are several reasons to work towards a competition like this. For one thing, many violinists have used their victory to launch their careers. For example, there have been violinists who have won like Leonida Kavakros and Oleg Kagan who have gone on to become solo violin artists with internationally recognized careers.

It’s obviously not a sure thing that winning this completion will make your career, but it certainly doesn't hurt, and a lot of violinists have used the completion to get international recognition.

But more than anything else, it will provide a goal for you to focus on when playing. If you want to get better with the violin, then it helps to have goals to strive towards. A major completion that only happens once every 5 years tends to be a fantastic goal to shoot for in your life.