What it takes to win in the world of violin competitions
Rarely does a day go by where violinist Sergei Dogadin, winner of the Singapore International Violin Competition 2018, does not spend hours practising his violin. The concert soloist and chamber musician jokes: “The violin is like my wife, I need to keep the relationship up at all times!”
Since winning the triennial violin competition in Singapore, with a top prize of US$50,000 (SG$71,000), he has been busy practising and performing in the Asia-Pacific region. He has had concerts in Japan, China, and Singapore, as well as Australia, “a country I never visited before,” says the Russian classical musician.
He believes, however, that all work and no play make for a dull musician. “Probably two or three times a year I take a small break. Afterwards, my hands and mind feel fresh,” he says. But he caveats this, stating “practice is extremely important.”
Indeed, although the global pandemic has forced many of his concerts, scheduled to take place in Russia, Japan, Finland, Malta, France and Germany, to be cancelled from mid-February until July, he has not stayed idle.
He says: “I had many concerts planned, I had many ideas for recordings, so it is really a disastrous situation. But on the flipside, I have spent a lot of time with my family, I have been able to learn many new pieces of music and prepare a variety of programmes for the new season. These are definitely positives in the current situation.”
Dogadin, who is based in Austria, also took time out of his practice to share with The A List about the world of violin competitions and how he finds ways to have fun and enjoy himself in the pursuit of excellence.
What are three things you find most challenging about taking part in violin competitions?
There are many things that are challenging. The first is choosing the programme. Usually, it is better to choose pieces that you have been playing for several years. But it is more important to practise the pieces very well, so you are confident about the programme before competing.
The second thing is finding a compromise between your idea of how the pieces should be interpreted and that of the jury members, who have their own opinions about style and interpretation. It is not possible to please everyone.
Lastly, it is to keep preparing for all rounds of the programme. Often, your programme comprises four to five hours of music and it is very difficult to practise the whole programme every day, so it is important to come up with a plan to practise all the rounds equally.
Why do you take part in these competitions, especially when it is so demanding?
It is helpful to not think of it as taking part in a competition, but as preparing music for a concert performance, which is far more enjoyable and freeing. Also, my motivation for taking part in these competitions is professional and career development. Taking part in big competitions allows me to play more concerts, meet interesting people, find a management agency – these help me concentrate on my passion for playing the violin.
What special habits do you keep during a competition?
It is important for me to have a good rest between the rounds of competition to keep calm. In my opinion, there is no need to practise a lot when the competition is underway. It is important not to overwhelm the hands and mind. I prefer a good night’s sleep to be ready for the competition round that is held in the morning, or to sleep for an hour or two in the afternoon if the competition round happens later in the day.
Replies were edited for clarity.
Applications for the Singapore International Violin Competition 2021 are open. Learn more about the Singapore International Violin Competition here.