When Ioana Cristina Goicea picks up her phone she's in the United States, and at the midpoint of the Indianapolis International Violin Competition, one of America's most prestigious music prizes. Even so, this is Goicea's fourth interview of the day.

It's the price a young artist on the rise must pay and a portent of what's to come if her career continues its current trajectory. Since winning the 2017 Michael Hill International Violin Competition, Goicea has played Amsterdam's Concertgebouw in a "new masters on tour" programme; taken part in the prestigious Verbier Festival Academy, where she mingled with the likes of Pinchas Zuckerman and Takacs Quartet founder Gabor Takacs-Nagy; and claimed first prize in the German Music Competition. Not bad.

Goicea says that all going well, Indianapolis will be her last appearance before the judges. Still aged just 25, she could compete for a few years yet. There are no guarantees in her profession but Goicea's career is already at the point where she no longer needs the visibility competitions afford, though she doesn't regret the time she's spent on the competition circuit.

"[Competitions] are not just exposure," she says. "They make you better. The preparation makes you stronger and allows you to learn a lot of repertoire. There's the fact that you get to play a lot and gain much more experience. Then, of course, if you win a big prize ..."


Goicea lets the implications of that go unspoken: if you win a big prize you get a big pile of cash — $40,000 in the case of the Michael Hill. Perhaps more importantly, though, your engagement diary is full. Last year's victory is why Goicea's in New Zealand, on a 10-date nationwide Michael Hill winner's tour for Chamber Music New Zealand that began on Monday and runs into October, ending in Auckland, which doesn't get a chamber recital but instead a concerto with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra on the 25th.

Accompanied on tour by 2016 Sydney International Piano Competition winner Andrey Gugnin, it's Goicea's first trip of such length and she's been preparing hard.

"The mental preparation is the most important, how you approach these works, having a very clear idea in your mind of what you want to achieve from the tour, how you want to play. I'm thinking about this a lot and it's very exciting."

Ioana Cristina Goicea is back in New Zealand after winning the 2017 Michael Hill Violin Competition.
Ioana Cristina Goicea is back in New Zealand after winning the 2017 Michael Hill Violin Competition.

Plenty of musical preparation is required too, and Goicea is bringing two distinct programmes. They offer a compact selection of mostly standard repertoire: Schubert, Brahms, Debussy, with Stravinsky and Goicea's fellow Romanian Enescu mixed in for spice. Audiences in Whangarei, Wellington, Nelson and Dunedin get the solo piece On an imaginary folk song, a work by Kiwi composer Karlo Margetic commissioned for the Michael Hill competition in the year Goicea won.

It's a lot of music, totalling more than three hours, but Goicea is fortunate to be able to keep a lot of repertoire in her head. It's just as well, since she's currently practising four violin concertos, too.

"I'm used to this. I've always played a lot of things at the same time, and competitions keep you fit with repertoire," she says.

One of her concertos is Shostakovich No.1, the piece she played in the final at Indianapolis and next month with the APO. Goicea has always had an affinity with the Russian composer.

"I adore his music," she says. "I played some symphonies [as an orchestra member] some years ago, and I love his quartets and violin music."


From the yearning opening movement to the head-first tumble of the closing 'Burlesque' section, Shostakovich's first concerto is a real test of a violinist's range.

"It is one of my absolute favourite violin concertos; it's a huge piece, such a complex work, and if you just think about the length" — roughly 35 minutes — "it requires a huge amount of stamina."

Goicea may not be as enthusiastic about the Shostakovich now. A few days after we speak she finishes the Indianapolis competition in an unaccustomed fifth place (the winner, Richard Lin, came second in the 2011 Michael Hill), a good result for most violinists but undoubtedly a let-down for someone used to winning.

Perhaps Goicea's schedule has finally caught up with her, her concentration broken by too much travel, too much repertoire, too many interviews. But for Goicea, a violinist on the cusp of an international solo career, it's just the beginning.

What: Ioana Cristina Goicea New Zealand tour, with Andrey Gugnin and in concert with the APO
Where and When: Nationwide until October 25, see chambermusic.co.nz and apo.co.nz for details.