The biennial Michael Hill International Violin Competition is a much-appreciated cultural buffer as winter envelops the city.

Tonight, three finalists were making their concerto bid for the ultimate prize, working with a specially charged Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra under Rumon Gamba.

Canadian Timothy Chooi, the only male to make the initial selection of semi-finalists, opened with Sibelius; it was an assertive performance, reflecting the confidence and style of his physical presentation.

Runner-up Eunae Koh, from South Korea, so memorable in Thursday's chamber music semi-finals, had chosen Brahms. While the first movement had its testing moments, she brought real character to the composer's more extrovert pages, and entranced in a lingering Adagio.

The winner was the third contestant, Suyeon Kang from Australia. Her Sibelius was coolly assured, searching out subtle emotions in its Adagio, sensitively accommodated by Gamba's baton.

It is difficult not to feel an immense affection for this competition and what it stands for.

The presentation tonight was very much in-house (in 2013 the government's Arts, Culture and Heritage minister had made an appearance).

CEO Anne Rodda projected her usual unfailing elegance and warmth while Sir Michael Hill spoke from the heart, with some fulsomeness, of the many joys to be harvested from music.

This award has put our country on the international map; not only for its concerts in Queenstown and Auckland, but for its extensive, high-quality streaming of every single performance going out to thousands around the country and beyond.

The smaller prizes reveal the strengths and foresight of the Michael Hill vision. These ranged from the loaning of a Bergonzi violin to young Auckland student, Hannie Lee to contestant Jung Min Choi being rewarded for the best rendition of Kenneth Young's test piece.

Eunae Koh predictably took off the chamber music prize and Suyeon Kang the audience award.

The Development prizes went to Australian Markiyan Melnychenko and our own Amalia Hall, who had a spot on TVNZ's Good Morning show a few days ago playing Fritz Kreisler. It was an enjoyable four minutes but this important event deserves far more coverage.

What: Michael Hill International Violin Competition
Where: Auckland Town Hall