“I try to tell my own story in music”

After the passionate words from the Sendai City mayor BEc. Okuyama Emiko, the winner of the triannual Sendai International Music Competition was announced.  Ms. Jang Yooling from Korea stood the tallest among 32 of the best young violinists of the world. Her impeccable performance on Stravinsky Violin concerto in D and Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in E minor (Op.64), earned her a 10 minute ovation and the ¥3,000,000 Yen prize!

‘The Sentinel’ got the opportunity to interact with Ms. Jang Yooling (Winner of the Violin Section) and Ms. Anna Savkina (Winner of the Audience prize for Violin sectionI). Excerpts from the interview:

A. Jang Yooling

1. What does being a Violinist mean to you?

To be a violinist means everything for me, I can’t imagine to be myself without music. I love music and have a responsibility to share and introduce the beautiful music through the violin.

2. How was your experience in Sendai and would you like to come back to Sendi for performing once again?

It was amazing three weeks in Sendai, it was my first time visiting Sendai. I felt very welcoming from the people and loved the city! I am coming back for the concerts next year and I can’t wait to visit Sendai again!

3. Your performance on Stravinsky Concerto was filled with energy. What emotions did you go through while playing that music?

Stravinsky violin concerto has a lot of character in music. It has some varieties of rhythm and fun dialogue between the soloist and the orchestra. The conductor, Hirokami and Sendai orchestra was amazing musicians and very supportive. I think I was inspired performing with them and was able to generate the strong energy together on the performance.

4. What message would you like to give to aspiring violinists?

More than just aiming for the perfection, I really hope to enjoy the music!

B. Anna Savkina

1. How was your experience in Sendai and would you like to come back to Sendai for performing once again?

First time I went to Japan in 2013 when I participated in 5th Sendai International Violin Competition. Japan is amazing country and I always wanted to go there. Japanese people are very kind and friendly, always ready to help you. Then I met Michiyo Tanaka-san and her wonderful family – her husband and two daughters – Mai and Mizuki. They gave me great emotional and psychological support during the competition. I got a 4th prize and Audience prize of 5th SIMC.

After that I went to Sendai in August 2015. It was a real holiday for me! I played two concerts. First was a recital with wonderful pianist Junko Kinoshita. We performed pieces by Tchaikovsky, Mozart, Sibelius, Bach etc. Our concert was during the Summer Tanabata Festival and my Japanese friends showed me the one of Tanabata songs. I decided to write a small variations on this song for violin and piano. It was very interesting for me. Also I had a talk-session with audience. During this interview I was in national Japanese summer dress – Yukata. I talked about my life in Russia, about my country, my studying and musical life. Second concert was with Miyagi University Orchestra and Maestro Hiroyuki Hibino at Hitachi Systems Hall Sendai (Sendai City Youth Cultural Center). We played Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto. The conductor Mr.Hibino is wonderful master and musician. Orchestral interpretation was amazing and highly emotional, displaying a deep inside into Russian music. I enjoyed playing with them!

I was so much pleased with organization and welcoming atmosphere of Sendai Competition that I decided to send an application for the second time. I am interested in the competition program.

I had an opportunity to learn and play with a symphony orchestra rarely performed concertos such as Schumann’s Concerto and Shostakovich’s Second Concerto.

It is a great honor for me to have got the audience prize second time!

I think Japanese people are a most musical loving nation in the world. They have a very good musical intuition. Now I am going to visit Sendai for concerts again.

2. Your performance on Mendelssohn’s Concerto in E Minor and Shostakovich’s Concerto in C Sharp Minor was filled with energy, subtleness, passion, mystery and a myriad of emotions. What emotions did you go through personally while playing them? 

When I was 12 years old, I recorded my first CD, with symphony orchestra. The one of pieces was Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto. I played this work many times and I knew this music well. During preparation for the competition I found a lot of new things in this Concerto. I tried to look at this piece in a new way as a mature musician.

Shostakovich’s Second Concerto is new music for me. I love first Concerto and play it often.  I have found for myself that Second Concerto is not inferior to the First in the beauty and depth of music.

My Japanese friends from different cities and all members (!) of Miyagi University Orchestra and Mr.Hiroyuki Hibino went to support me.  I will never forget your storm of applause after my final round performance and especially after Shostakovich. It’s so nice for me as an artist! I want to say “great thanks” to all players of Sendai Philarmonic Orchestra and Maestro Junichi Hirokami for their brilliant playing!

3. What does being a violinist mean to you?

I love to master musical compositions again and again and to discover composers through music.

I grew up with a violin in my hands. When I was kid, I just loved music and playing for audience. I did a lot of musical things intuitively. Now I try to analyze more. I want to understand a composer’s intention and at the same time  I try to tell my own story in music and show my personal feelings.

4. What message would you like to give to aspiring violinists?

Love music and keep the music in your heart. It is most important for a musician.


This year, the performers came from 10 different countries spread across the globe and the city of Sendai welcomed them with open arms and a record-breaking attendance of over 900 people for the final round.  Along with Ms. Jang, 5 other splendid violinists made it to that stage: Ms. Meruert Karmenova (Kazakhstan), Mr. Okamoto Senji (Japan), Mr. Stephen Kim (USA), Ms. Anna Savkina (Russia) and Ms. Aoki Naoka (Japan). They were judge by a select group of experts from 8 different countries, led by Ms. Yuzuko Horigome. The jury of 12 members indeed had a difficult task of selecting the finest talent of this year cohort.

With the final concert presenting the top 3 violinists, the extravaganza concluded on June 5th. The schedule: Schumann Violin Concerto in D minor by Ms. Aoki Naoka, Medelssohn Violin Concerto in E minor (Op. 64) by Mr. Stephen Kim and Ms. Jang Yoojin with her crown jewel Stravinsky Violin Concerto in D.

Events like this are strong evidences that Sendai is not only a city with a cultural interest but also, a welcoming place for witnessing the birth of some of the finest future talents.

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