There was a global audience for the final round of the Michael Hill International Violin Competition, streamed online from a well-filled town hall.
Ioana Cristina Goicea, who reached the 2013 semi-finals, took top honours, her brilliant Tchaikovsky concerto showcasing the burnished tone of her 1761 Guadagnini instrument.
Those who experienced the semi-finals would not have been surprised when Luke Hsu carried off the chamber music award. All three finalists had led Mozart's G minor quintet inimitably, but Hsu's conspiratorial smile, launching his finale, marked a winner. The US musician neatly contoured Sibelius concerto, which lost some impact from being played to the conductor rather than the audience, secured him runner-up status.
Third place was taken by Benjamin Baker winner of the competition's 2013 Development Prize. The New Zealander's Brahms balanced the rugged and graceful with conviction.
Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, under the ever-attentive Giordano Bellincampi, was an exemplary partner.
Once playing was over, talking began. Anne Rodda smoothly acknowledged the many behind the MHIVC, while Sir Michael himself added a personal touch. Christopher Finlayson pleaded for our country to be recognized as much for culture as for sport.
Among the generous prizes, Olga Sroubkova took off one of the most significant, for vanquishing the fearsome difficulties of Karlo Margetic's test piece and releasing the music in it. Check it out on YouTube.
What: Michael Hill International Violin Competition Final
Where: Auckland Town Hall
Reviewer: William Dart