Applications open for 2019 Michael Hill Violin Competition

Press Release – Michael Hill International Violin Competition

Media release

For immediate release


New Zealand’s most prestigious international music competition returns

31 May to 8 June 2019
A young Michael Hill had big dreams of being a concert violinist. Instead, he was encouraged into the family jewellery business by his father and uncle, and the rest is New Zealand business history.

In 2001, Sir Michael decided he wanted to offer young violinists across the world the chance to do what he didn’t – pursue a successful career in violin performance – and the Michael Hill International Violin Competition was born.

Seventeen years on, the biennialMichael Hill” is recognised as one of the most sought-after international violin prizes and thecareers of some of today’s classical music legends have been launched right here in New Zealand.

From 31 May to 8 June 2019, sixteen 18 to 28-year-old violinists from across the world will again go head-to-head for a prize package valued at over $100,000.

Entries for the 2019 Michael Hill International Violin Competition are now open and remain so until 15 November.

The Selection Panel will convene in early December to choose the 16 Quarter-Finalists.

Rounds One and Two of the prestigious competition (Quarter-Finals) take place in Queenstown from 31 May to 3 June 2019. From there, six Semi-Finalists will be selected to head up to Auckland for Round Three, which takes place on 5 and 6 June at the Town Hall. Leading New Zealand musicians, drawn from the country’s top ensembles, will perform with the competitors.

The Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra will perform with the three finalists at the Grand Finale on Saturday 8 June, with Music Director Giordano Bellincampi conducting.

As well as establishing the careers of some of today’s most renowned violinists, the “Michael Hill” is acknowledged for its superstar judging panel. Every year, Queenstown and Auckland play host to some of the world’s greatest violin soloists and teachers.

In 2019, this includes:

Dale Barltrop, Concertmaster of the Melbourne Symphony and First Violin of the Australian String Quartet, who competed in the very first Michael Hill as a mere 18-year-old.

Canadian soloist James Ehnes who has secured rock star status in the classical world.

Mauricio Fuks from Uruguay/USA who is a renowned pedagogue while Clara-Jumi Kang of Germany/South Korea is a brilliant young soloist.

Anthony Marwood is a very popular violinist from the UK who has many ties to Aotearoa, as does his Judging Panel peer New Zealander Wilma Smith, who now lives in Australia.

Ning Feng from China is another popular international soloist. He won the 2005 Michael Hill International Violin Competition.

Dr Robin Congreve is again the Chair of the Jury – a job that is often much more difficult than expected, given the sheer calibre of the young performers and how close the Competition so often gets.

The winner of the Michael Hill receives NZ$40,000, a recording contract with the Atoll label, an intensive performance tour across New Zealand and Australia, a personalised professional development programme, and a tour outfit by either Kiri Nathan or Working Style.

The winner is also invited to perform on Sir Michael Hill’s magnificent personal violin, a 1755 Guadagnini named “The Southern Star”, on their Winner’s Tour.

All live rounds are open to the public. Tickets will be on sale in February 2019, or next month via the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra subscription season.

The entire event is also live-streamed on, YouTube and the world’s leading online classical music news source, The Violin Channel. In 2017 online activity exceeded one million views throughout the 10-day period, of which over 70 per cent were unique views/users.

Applications for the 2019 Michael Hill International Violin Competition are now open. They close 15 November.

For more information, please visit, the Competition’s Facebook page or Youtube channel.



The 2019 Selection Panel is Andrew Beer, Vesa-Matti Leppanen, Wilma Smith, Dr Robin Wilson (Australian National Academy of Music) and the popular 2015 Winner Suyeon Kang.

The 2019 collaborating pianists, who accompany the young performers for the initial, Queenstown rounds, are Sarah Watkins and Jian Liu.

The Round Three musicians, who perform Mozart Quintets with the six Semi-Finalists, are representatives from New Zealand’s leading classical music ensembles. In 2019 they are Violinist Andrew Beer (APO), Viola Players Gillian Ansell (NZ String Quartet) and Julia Joyce (NZSO), and Cellist Ashley Brown (NZTrio).

Back by popular demand in 2019 is the Ad Libitum selection which was introduced last competition. Each of the 16 competitors are required to select a work for which they have a certain affinity. They present it with their own creative direction.

The 2019 New Zealand Composition is being provided by veteran composer Lyell Cresswell.

New in 2019 is the New Zealand Emerging Artist Prize. The Michael Hill recognises the breadth of talent that exists among our young musicians in Aotearoa and honours and supports their aspirations with the New Zealand Emerging Artist Prize. Violinists aged 18-25, (by 31 May 2019) who are New Zealand citizens or residents and will be based in New Zealand between May 2019 to 2021 are eligible to apply. The prize includes professional development, a two-year loan of a Riccardo Bergonzi violin, an all-expense paid residency with the Rome Chamber Music Festival and performance opportunities through the University of Auckland.

Alongside the thrill of the Competition, which is open to the public in both Queenstown and Auckland, the Michael Hill provides development opportunities for local violinists to learn from and work with the visiting artists. This includes workshops, masterclasses, rehearsals and ‘Insider Talks’ with industry professionals.

The Competition is made possible through generous sponsorship, notably powerhouse companies Michael Hill International, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, ANZ Bank, Templar Family Office, Kensington Swan Lawyers, Bayleys and Villa Maria.

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