Semi-finalists announced for international viola competition


Thirty young violists representing 20 nationalities have been announced as semi-finalists in the second Cecil Aronowitz International Viola Competition at Birmingham Conservatoire.

Taking place in November this year, it will also be the first major competition to take place in the Conservatoire’s new £57 million home, currently under construction in the Eastside region of Birmingham.

Birmingham Conservatoire

Birmingham City University

Performers will be coming to the UK for the semi-finals from as far afield as Austria, China, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Russia South Korea, Spain, Switzerland and the USA.

Hosted in conjunction with the British Viola Society and Birmingham Music Service, the competition is named after acclaimed South African violist, Cecil Aronowitz.

Dr. Louise Lansdown is Head of Strings at Birmingham Conservatoire. She said:

“Twenty countries were represented across the competition entries and we are looking forward to welcoming gifted violists from across the globe to this unique event. Congratulations to all those who have progressed through to the semi-finals!

“This competition honours the South African violist extraordinaire Cecil Aronowitz – performer, chamber musician, orchestral player and educator – and the competition repertoire reflects Cecil’s favourite music and musical ideals.”

Cecil Aronowitz

As well as being a leading chamber musician and long-term collaborator with Benjamin Britten, Cecil was a founding member of the Melos Ensemble and taught at both the Royal College of Music and, later, at the Royal Northern College of Music.

Cecil’s wife, Nicola Aronowitz, is a member of the jury for this year’s competition. She said:

“We as a family were thrilled at the success of the first Cecil Aronowitz International Viola Competition and are delighted that the second one will be happening in 2017. Cecil – a supremely modest man – would have been truly honoured that a competition should be named after him. And yet if he thought about it, he would realise how fitting it is.

“He was one of the foremost viola players of this time but perhaps above all he was a source of inspiration to all those around him, whether players or pupils, amateurs or professionals, colleagues or audiences. 

“He often used to quote the title of violist Lionel Tertis’s autobiography, ‘Cinderella No More’. A competition such as this will help ensure that the viola remains in the thick of and at the forefront of musical life around the world.”


The Cecil Aronowitz International Viola Competition was open to all violists from anywhere in the world who will be aged 21 or under when the live rounds take place between Saturday 18 November and Friday 24 November.

Various prizes are on offer, with the overall winner being awarded the Cecil Aronowitz Prize of £5,000, a recording contract with Champs Hill Records and several high profile recitals as part of Birmingham Conservatoire’s Concert Series.

Organisers are also planning a series of events to run alongside the competition that will immerse hundreds of children from Birmingham schools in workshops, UK conservatoire students in masterclasses, public recitals from jury members and displays from luthiers – all taking place in the institution’s new building.

Part of Birmingham City University, the new Birmingham Conservatoire will be a unique contemporary building, incorporating five public performance spaces including a new 500 seat concert hall for orchestral training and performance, private rehearsal and practice rooms, and teaching spaces for musicians from a variety of disciplines.

Furthermore, as the first purpose built conservatoire in the UK since 1987, it will be the only one of its kind in the country designed for the demands of the digital age. It will also be home to Birmingham’s only dedicated jazz venue.

The inaugural Cecil Aronowitz International Viola Competition in 2014 saw 13 semi-finalists competing over three days from countries including China, Germany, Lithuania, South Korea and Switzerland.

19-year-old Timothy Ridout, a student at London’s Royal Academy of Music, was crowned the inaugural winner. He said:

“The Cecil Aronowitz International Viola Competition was a huge opportunity for me. I learnt a great deal from the experience, and my success there was the first major step towards launching a career.”

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