Trio with Taiwanese wins Polish chamber music competition

Taipei, May 18 (CNA) An ensemble consisting of British-Taiwanese violinist Ashley Tong (董奕纖) and two other musicians won first prize at the just-concluded 9th Johannes Brahms International Chamber Music Competition.

The Copenhagen-based Heathcliff Trio also won two special prizes in the competition held May 12-15 in Gdansk, Poland, for “the best interpretation of a Brahms piece” and for “a concert at the Gdańsk Music Festival in 2023”.

The band consisting of Tong, British cellist Sebastian Kolin and Danish pianist Jonathan Siahaan was formed in 2020 when the global COVID-19 pandemic began.

“Winning the awards is a big boost for a chamber music group that is only two years old,” Tong said in a phone interview with CNA after the trio returned to Denmark.

Regarding the first prize of 10,000 Euros (about NT$313,000) awarded to the ensemble, Tong said, “We have already decided to use this bonus for something meaningful for our trio.”

According to the competition rules, participants had to prepare a piece by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in the semi-finals and a piece by Johannes Brahms in the final.

The Heathcliff Trio entered the final with the Brahms Piano Trio No. 3 in C minor, Tong said: “It was the first piece we played together when the trio was formed and it has been with us every step.”

“Once in a while we played it, and this time winning the award for best interpretation of a work by Brahms is a great achievement for us,” she added.

Tong said she and Kolin were classmates at Yehudi Menuhin School in the UK and had known each other for more than 15 years.

She met Siahaan at a music festival in Denmark, and the trio decided to form a chamber music group in late 2020. As a result, Kolin moved to Denmark, reflecting her determination to pursue their musical dreams together. , Tong added.

However, the ensemble was formed in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic when most concerts were canceled and all music practice rooms were closed.

Luckily, they were able to overcome the effects of the COVID-19 crisis and shape their music into the form they wanted thanks to government grants given to students in Denmark, Tong noted.

Over the past two years, the trio have been invited to perform a series of concerts at festivals such as Oslo Chamber Music Festival, Hvide Sande Masterclass (Denmark) and JMI Chamber Music Campus (Germany), according to the band’s official website.

Additionally, they became the only trio to qualify for the final of the Royal Overseas League Chamber Music Competition last year, according to their Facebook page.

Born in 1993 in Taiwan, Tong started playing the violin at the age of 7 and moved to the UK to study at Yehudi Menuhin School at the age of 16.

After graduating from school, she studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and Kunst Universität Graz. Currently based in Copenhagen, Tong is a student of Peter Herresthal at the Royal Danish Academy of Music.

Tong’s father is the former chairman of HTC Corp. for North Asia, Jack Tong (董俊良) and his brother Henry Tong (董子維) are also violinists.

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