What it takes to win in the world of violin competitions
For violinist Sergei Dogadin, winner of the Singapore International Violin Competition 2018, the violin is like his wife. (Photo: Anastasia Steiner)

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.

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