Memories of the Prize-winners

Salvatore Accardo
2nd Prize ex-aequo in 1957
Winner in 1958

To all violinists Paganini stands for an uncomparable myth. It is thus easy to imagine how I felt when, at 17, I was the first absolute winner of Premio Paganini. I can still see myself awaiting the Jury's verdict, when my mother was scolding me because I was playing football with some metallic bottle caps instead of worrying for the result. Being awarded with the First Prize, at a time in which important music contests were very few, has for sure contributed to build up my professional career.

Giovanni Angeleri
5th Prize in 1994
6th Prize in 1996
Winner in 1997

I had already decided it was the last time I was taking part in a contest and just the Paganini gave me the greatest satisfaction in my career as a contest competitor. I was already studying on my own, feeling no more as a "student", but as an artist who, however, had to be judged according to the principles of the traditional and most famous violin schools. When I won the First Prize in Genoa, all my uncertainties disappeared and I felt my child's dream had come true. I am thus grateful to the Premio Paganini mainly because it frred me from playing only aiming at communicating my emotions and my feelings to the audience.

Beatrice Antonioni
4th Prize ex-aequo in 1961

To think of Premio Paganini is, to me, to go back to the memories of my musical life. Only very few contests make me feel this way. I believe that any "complete" violinist has taken part in this competition. In the generous Genoa I had the chance to experience the challenge, the responsibiliy of the Jury and the deep emotion of seeing one of my students, Massimo Quarta, living my same experience as a young violinist, when he was awarded with the First Prize in 1991. The Premio Paganini stands not only for an important memory, but also for the real evidence of how history - in this case the history of music - needs leaders, although names and faces change. And Genoa can still discover them.

Dmitri Berlinsky
Winner in 1985

In 1984 when I was 15 years old and ready to take a plane to Genoa, to participate to the Paganini competition, the Soviet authorities would not let me go. It was a devastating moment. It took me one more year of passing all Soviet competitions again in order to come in 1985 to Genoa. It was my first time in Western Europe. Those years were the most important for my development as a musician. I was fortunate to set very high artistic goals, thanks to my wonderful teachers in Leningrad, every day it was a discovery for me and I was growing as a musician. During the competition I was so inspired by that process that I was hardly thinking of winning or losing. But winning the Paganini competition changed my life dramatically. I started concerting in Italy, in the Soviet Union and, later, all over the world. I am thankful to the Paganini competition and to the wonderful Italian public for recognizing my artistic value at the very beginning of my career.

Lu Szu Ching
Winner in 1987

One of the greatest violin competitions in the world, the International Paganini Violin Competition has been on my mind ever since my winning moment in 1987. From the long flight from Beijing, China (it took us more than 30 hours due to airline delays), the wonderful food, the warm people of Genoa and the competition staff, to the extremely high level of violin play, and the excitement of the competition. All of these have been in my memory as it happened yesterday. I am proud to be a part of this rich history, but above all very proud to be the first Asian violinist to have won the competition. Still till now, the winning moment still stands as my proudest moment in life. I have been performing in over 30 countries since I won the competition and people everywhere know what to expect from me, because I am a Paganini Competition winner. Thank you, the people of the great city, Genoa, may the spirit of our legend, Nicolò Paganini, inspire us forever!

Isabelle Faust
Winner in 1993

The Paganini competition was for me a big challenge, as I felt that the atmosphere was rather tense between the competitors. Staying in the same hotel, with everybody practising Paganini's Capricci, night and day (and some competitors even having a sort of nervous break-down in the middle of the night..) ... it was rather difficult! I guess I was very happy when everything was over and even more surprised that I had won! Funny enough, I cannot really say that - on the short term - this prize changed a lot in my concert life, as I was already leading an active concert life and unfortunately - out of the extremely long concert list included in the prize - I actually did play only two recitals up to now! I was also very surprised that the international press did not react at all on this event, especially the German press ... after all, I was the first German prize winner in the history of the Paganini competition!

Marco Fornaciari
6th Prize ex-aequo in 1975

As time goes by, personal emotions are replaced by more impersonal memories: competitors, Jury members, organizers, amateurs and friends ....
It was a great opportunity of study, on which I am still working today.
The example provided by all those wonderful artists awarded by the contest is the best incentive to keep on studying.

Miriam Fried
Winner in 1968

The Paganini competition in 1968 was the first international competition I participated in. It also marked my first visit to Italy. These two events have remained very vivid in my memory. Winning was, of course, very exciting, but perhaps even more memorable was the opportunity to play on Paganini's violin. I remember the occasion when the violin was taken out of the case and handed to me. I especially cherish the memory of the sound of the instrument, which was the most wondrous of any instrument I had ever played up to that point in my life. I spent several hours practicing on the violin, experimenting with the endless palette of colours, and then performed a few minutes on it during the closing ceremony. The pageantry of that event and the sense that I was somehow connecting with violin history through Paganini's violin remain embedded in my memory. I have returned to play many concerts in Italy since the competition and made many wonderful friends. I doubt that any of this would have happened without the competition. I will be forever grateful for this.

Ilya Gringolts
Winner in 1998

I do have "certain recollections" about the Premio Paganini. The associations are the following: the roaring buses outside the thoroughly-shut double window frames of my teacher's hotel room (particularly annoying after a 3 hour lesson), red-white furniture of my room at hotel Britannia .... Il Cannone from the hands of Mr. Giordano and a stubborn inner voice repeating: "Drop it, drop it ... drop it and see what happens...", the broken string one minute before my first performance .... I am beginning to realize that few lines cannot be enough and as I am writing now by the window looking straight at Stazione Principe, in Genoa, the impressions and memories that I thought had left unreturnably, find their way back and stay, because this place and that time are on my mind.

Bin Huang
Winner in 1994

The Paganini competition remains one of my most memorable musical experiences. Not only did it open a door for a professional music-making career, but it also gave me the chances to visit different places and meet different people all around the world, some of whom have become lifelong friends. I have grown both as an artist and as a human being since then. I must say that, the title "winner of the Paganini Competition" will always be with me, and I am certainly proud of that.

Mengla Huang
Winner in 2002

I am very proud of having won the “Paganini Competition” and I think, this Competition will mean a lot for my career. I mean, it will bring many changes for me, because I will have to show my worth on stage. I had the possibility to play the “Cannone”; it was the most incredible experience in my whole life and the violin is totally fantastic!
I also performed in front of a children’s audience in a school in Arenzano; I had a great time there with them, they are so powerful and full of energy!
I have wonderful memories of Genoa and I would like to thank some of the people who helped me during the Competition: the Carlo Felice Orchestra’s concertmaster Stefano Pagliani, who gave me his E-string because my string almost broke! I would also like to thank my pianist during the Competition, Giovanni Casella, it was very nice to play with him! And of course the audience of Genoa!

Emil Kamilarov
Winner in 1961

I came to Genoa determined to win and yet, when the verdict was announced, I was astonished, happy and could not believe it!
And of course, I felt very proud indeed, especially when I heard the "masters of violin" say: "Look, Bulgary has its Paganini too!".

Alexander Kramarov
Winner in 1973

I cast my mind back to the time of my participation to the Paganini competition and to my stay in Italy with pleasure: I have good memories of the architecture, the very peculiar Genoese atmosphere, the Italian cooking, the mild weather, the sea, the public... The "Bravo" which the composer Luigi Cortese tributed me when I played his "Capriccio" during the semifinal trial. I will never forget Paganini's Guarneri del Gesù, which I was allowed to play after being awarded with the First Prize and then, on the occasion, of the two official concerts played in February 1974 accompanied by the Orchestra Sinfonica of the Theatre of Genoa, conducted by Gaetano Delogu. The Premio Paganini did play an important role in my life. Up to now the responsibility I feel towards Niccolò Paganini has been one of the criteria which my personal evaluation method is based upon, both as a violinist and as a teacher.

Julia Krasko
Winner in 1992

The Premio Paganini was my first international competition. I chose this competition not only because it is one of the most prestigious violin Competition in the world, but also because I wanted to play in Italy - motherland of the great Paganini. I could only dream about what had happened in my life. The first prize of the Paganini lead me the way to the future and the possibility to play on a big stage. I had tours all over the world and everywhere I told people with pride about the beautiful city of Genoa and the Teatro Carlo Felice, where I played Paganini's violin. I remember the magnificent sound of the Guarneri del Gesù as if it were yesterday. Since then I have never again taken part in an international violin competition. I want this competition to be the only one in my life. During my 8-year career I had many tours over Europe, performed in the Carnegie Hall of New York (USA), visited many exotic countries in Latin America, Asia and Africa, but every year I come to Italy with admiration, not only for my career, but because I love this country.

Oleh Krysa
Winner in 1963

In 1963 I was a member of the first group of violinists from the former Soviet Union to participate in the Paganini Competition. Thus, it was especially meaningful for me to be the gold medalist that year. Winning the competition was one of the most momentous events of my life. It opened the doors to my career by presenting me with my first opportunities to perform on the world's greatest concert stages with the finest orchestras and conductors. Perhaps my most treasured memory is of playing that instrument and share the finest moments I have experienced.

Natalia Lomeiko
Winner in 2000

In the first place it was the biggest challenge to come to the Competition. I found it risky and extremely exciting to participate. I was very glad that the audience was very welcoming and supportive. It really helped me to perform as I usually do in concerts.
Winning it was wonderful! I suddenly realised what an honour it was. Playing on Il Cannone twice now, was really fascinating.
This competition has helped me with my career and I'm truly thankful!
But for me however it's just a starting point to a hopefully interesting and long life ahead!

Gigino Maestri
4th Prize in 1960

When I took part in the Premio Paganini I was 20. I still remember my excitement and my joy when I was awarded with the first prize and had the compliments of great artists such as Szigeti, De Vito and many others.
Thanks to the Prize, I was invited to the Usa for a long tour, which led me to start a career rich in satisfaction.

Feng Ning
Winner in 2006

Winning the Paganini Competition is like a dream come true, and it's such a honour to have my name line up with those senior maestros. My participation was eventful right from the very beginning when my luggage got lost in the airport which made me having no concert dress for the first round, until the very end when I was half hour late for the final result announcement and went on stage for three times to accept the prizes without realizing which prizes I was awarded. But I still enjoyed each single moment during the competition. I wish the future editions of Paganini International Violin Competitions continually having great success, and the future candidates have great fun participating in this wonderful celebration of music.

Mariusz Patyra
Winner in 2001

The Paganini Competition has been an extremely important event in my life. It paved the way to the goals I always aimed at and dreamed of. Everytime I will perform in front of an audience I will have to prove that I really deserved such an important prize.
This is a moment of sheer happiness for me. Sometimes it feels like a dream; when I look at the photos of the competition or when I listen to some pieces I played in the final trial, I’d like to cry of joy. As it has happened with all the meaningful events of my life, what I felt in these last months I will never forget.

Gyorgy Pauk
Winner ex-aequo in 1956

I was a very young violinist when I came to Genoa in October 1956. Infact, it was my first trip to Western Europe, living in a Communist country, totally isolated from the free world. I arrived in Genoa 2 days later, as my visa was not released on time in Budapest. The Jury heard me separately, when everybody else had already played. By winning the competition, I had the honour to play on Paganini's Guarneri del Gesù and I remember that I was not allowed to be alone in a room while practicing. Also, I was absolutely fascinated by the sea, sitting on the shore for hours, staring at the ships and the waves. Otherwise I had no other opportunity to enjoy the city, as I was immediately ordered to return to Hungary and I had not even time to spend any of my winnings. Two years later, when I left Hungary for good, I was able to perform in Italy and enjoy the fruits of winning such a great competition.

Gabriele Pieranunzi
4th Prize in 1988
3rd Prize in 1990

My memories of the Premio Paganini are obviously very good, since I was awarded on two occasions (1988 and 1990).
The great reputation of the contest, the reliability and the rigour of the Jury positively influenced my professional career thanks to the competition, I reached a certain visibility within the artistic sphere, the press and the public.

Viktor Pikaizen
Winner in 1965

The first time I was in Genoa on the Competition Premio Paganini was in 1965. It was fantastic! Bellissima Genova, brilliant participants to the Competition, outstanding Jury: Cortese, Kogan, De Barbieri, Sizgeti. My victory on the competition, playing the violino grandissimo of N. Paganini - is one of the greatest impressions of my artistic life! The success in the Paganini's competition opened new possibilities to my artistic life, making my career more interesting. My very broad violin repertoire, always includes Paganini, I love the 24th Capriccio, which I played 72 times. It is Enciclopaedia of Art of violino.

Gérard Poulet
Winner ex-aequo in 1956

The Premio Paganini has a special place in my heart since 1956. This is to me an unforgettable year, when I had the honour of being awarded with the First Prize. This memory suddenly became vivid and alive when I was invited to Genoa again as a member of the Jury. I felt again all the emotions of that time and I was really able to feel like the young winner, sharing his joy.

Massimo Quarta
Winner in 1991

It was almost ten years ago, in 1991, when I was awarded with the First Prize at the Paganini contest and, yet, this memory still moves me incredibly. To a young musician a contest usually stands for stress.. you are tense, afraid of making mistakes, feel the competition aiming at awarding "the youngest", "the best performance of the most difficult piece -, you feel you might lose your control while playing... At that time, however, from the very beginning of the preliminary trial, I felt ready and cool, able to keep my control, maybe also because I had studied and worked a lot for the preparation of the contest. On the stage of Teatro Margherita I was enraptured and felt I was really doing my best; and this feeling was stronger and stronger in the following trials. Only during the final trial I really started considering the possibility of winning. My mind was going back to the time when I began studying, when, year after year, I was collecting the contest programmes, hoping, one day, to take part in one of them. That moment had arrived, together with a strong determination to win. I will never forget the warm applause of the public, even before the cadenza of Paganini's Concerto nr. 1 was concluded, and then the Chairman of the Jury announcing me, being awarded with the First Prize.

Mose Sekler
Winner in 1971

I always think of "Premio Paganini" as of one of the most important and meaningful events in my life. The preparation of the contest and the study of Paganini's work were already an enourmous burden. I was strongly trying to imitate his style and his tecnique as much as possible, to present his music on the stage with a new, great impact. Many famous and great violinists, such as David Oistrach, Isaak Schuk, Gidon Kremer and, of course, my wife Mia Breitburg did support me with their advice. This hard and keen preparation - always sticking to Paganini's original work, stands for the key to my success. Going back to those 8 days I can remember the orchestra, with its light and sensitive accompaniment, the meeting with the Jury, chaired by Luigi Cortese, after the semifinal, the awards... and then, down in the streets of Genoa, a group of students, free to protest and express their ideas and, of course, Paganini's violin... and the public, warm and spontaneous, who, right in the middle of Capriccio n. 1, played with Paganini's violin, started applauding enthusiastically after a particularly impressive chord. After being awarded with the First Prize, concert halls did open their doors to me, I did feel more confident of my talent and - most important - it taught that a correct behaviour and hard work can lead you to the goals you aim at. For sure, that was just the beginning of my career. But is was a very good beginning.

Sayaka Shoji
Winner in 1999

To take part in the Premio Paganini: this was my dream since, at the age of 12, I was awarded with the first prize at the Students'Contest in Japan. I was really surprised when I was admitted to the final trial and, sincerely, I would never have imagined I was the winner. During my stay in Genoa, I particularly appreciated the art treasures of this city, the good cooking and, mainly, the Genoeses' love for music. It was a great honour for me to be the winner of Premio Paganini and I would like to take this occasion to thank once more Maestro Paolo Peloso, conductor of the orchestra who accompanied me in the two concerts performed in the final trial, the Secretariat and the Genoese audience who supported me with warmth and passion.

Grigori Zhishlin
Winner in 1967

My first international appearance was the Paganini competition in Genoa in 1967. I managed to win the First Prize, which was the key for my international career, which began directly after. Therefore the Paganini competition is most important for me, personally, and had a great influence on my career. It was a great chance for me, as a young artist, to come and work my way up to the concert stage. The competition motivates the artist in a specific creative task, because he has got to bring the competition program to a certain level of quality, and that usually leads to appreciable progress; besides, it hardens one's nerve and tests one's will-power: of no small importance for the future life of an artist. Furthermore, competitions give young artists the chance of becoming famous; the competition drew the attention of the press and of the broad public on me. I have also been very grateful to have been member of the Jury in this competition to help other young artists in the same way. I will have the Paganini Competition always in my best memory and hope for a successful continued existence during the next years.

Taken from "Premio Paganini a Genova da tutto il mondo. Storia e cronaca di un evento musicale", Comune di Genova, 2000