16-year-old cellist Han Jae-min takes first prize from Isang Yun Competition

ByQuyen Anne

Jan 8, 2024
Cellist Han Jae-min, the winner of the International Isang Yun Competition 2022 cellist performs Isang Yun: Concert for Cello and Orchestra at Tongyeong Concert Hall, Tongyeong, South Gyeongsang Province during the final round of the competition on Saturday. (Tongyeong International Music Foundation)

Han Jae-min, a 16-year-old cellist, took home first prize from the International Isang Yun Competition on Saturday at the Tongyeong Concert Hall, South Gyeongsang Province.

Earlier last week, the four finalists, including three South Korean cellists — Han Jae-min, Joeng Woo-chan, Kim Deok-yong — and Florian Pons from France, were announced.

The finalists were required to perform one concerto with the Tongyeong Festival Orchestra led by Venezuelan conductor Christian Vasquez.

Han performed Isang Yun’s “Concerto for Cello and Orchestra.” This was the first time a contestant won the competition by performing a piece by Yun Isang. In 2003, Ko Bong-ihn placed second with the same piece.

“I’m honored to be able to perform all the pieces that I prepared from the first round to the final found. I am really grateful to be able to perform this wonderful piece at Tongyeong and even win a prize,” Han said after receiving the first prize.

The jury team awarded second prize and the Isang Yun Special Prize to Jeong Woo-chan and the third prize to Kim Deok-yong. The Isang Yun Special Prize is given to a performer who best interprets Yun’s music — for this year his “Concerto for Cello and Orchestra.”

“Please note that it was very rare all of the top three winners are Koreans,” an official at the Tongyeong International Music Foundation, told The Korea Herald on Sunday.

The 2022 jury comprised Ivan Monighetti (Chairman), Ole Akahoshi, Roel Dieltiens, Ophélie Gaillard, Yeon-sun Joo, Laurence Lesser, Sang-min Park, Li-Wei Qin and Troels Svane.

Han also took home the Seong-ywang Park Special Prize awarded to the most promising young Korean performer and the UNESCO Creative City of Music Special Prize given by the audience. Han came to international attention last year when he was awarded the grand prix of the George Enescu International Competition as the youngest prize winner in the history of the competition and won third prize at the Geneva International Music Competition.

The Isang Yun Competition is launched to commemorate the German-Korean composer who was born in 1917 in Tongyeong and died in Berlin in 1995.

The competition is held annually in November, alternating between the disciplines of piano, violin and cello.

Lim Yun-chan, an 18-year-old pianist who was the winner of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in June, won the Isang Yun Competition in 2019. He was the youngest winner at the time.

In 2021, after a one-year hiatus due to the pandemic, Karisa Chiu, a 21-year-old violinist from the US, won the top prize.

A total of 146 participants from 27 countries applied for this year’s competition which took place from Oct. 29 to Nov. 5.

The 2023 edition of the competition will be held for piano.

By Honorary Reporter Andra Michaela Pena from Romania

Photos = Andrei Gindac

Cellist Jaemin Han is the youngest winner of Romania’s George Enescu International Competition, one of Eastern Europe’s most prestigious contests of its kind.

A Korean cellist has made history this year at the George Enescu International Competition in Romania.

In winning the top prize for his instrument, Jaemin Han, 15, on May 15 became the youngest winner in the competition’s history. His final performance at the Romanian Athenaeum in Bucharest was Cello Concerto No. 1 in E-flat major, Op. 107, by Dmitri Shostakovich.

Han entered the competition at age 14 and won a year later. In addition to earning prize money of EUR 15,000, he will perform at the George Enescu Festival with several of the world’s leading orchestras and thus receive more international recognition.

Cellist Jaemin Han is a graduate of the Korea National Institute for the Gifted in Arts.

Han graduated from the Korea National Institute for the Gifted in Arts and now studies under professor Lee Kang-ho at Korea National University of Arts. He also trained under famed cellist Myung-wha Chung, who was a jury member for the competition’s cello section.

The prodigy has also performed as a soloist with orchestras in Wonju, Gangwon-do Province, Seoul and Bucheon, Gyeonggi-do Province, and attended master classes by the world’s best cellists such as Julian Steckel and Jian Wang.

In addition, Han won the top prizes at the International Dotzauer Competition for Young Cellists, David Popper International Cello Competition and Osaka International Music Competition.

The first phase of the Romanian competition was held online last year from August to September featuring 205 young musicians. The final two stages were held in person from May 12-23 in Bucharest with an audience.

Korea this year sent the most competitors of any country with 50.

The Romanian competition showcases promising musicians and promotes the works of the great Romanian musician that the event is named for. Considered the Eastern European country’s premiere international cultural event, the contest has four categories and ranks among the world’s top competitions for classical music.

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