© Photo: Lehtikuva
Prize giving 1965 at Helsinki University Great Hall 
Left: II Joshua Epstein, III Valeri Gradov, the winner Oleg Kagan and chair of the jury Nils-Eric Ringbom

The International Jean Sibelius Violin Competition is one of the most prestigious music competitions in the world. Since 1969 it has been a member of the World Federation of International Music Competitions. The Sibelius Violin Concerto was, of course, one of the main reasons for holding the first competition in 1965. The most recent competition, the eleventh, was held in Helsinki from November 22 to December 3, 2015.

The Sibelius Society of Finland launched the competition in 1965 in connection with the 100th anniversary of Sibelius’ birth. The situation at the outset was impressive. An Honorary Committee was set up and a large number of distinguished musicians agreed to become members. Among them were Sir John Barbirolli, Herbert von Karajan, Yehudi Menuhin, David Oistrakh, Eugene Ormandy, Igor Stravinsky and Henryk Szeryng. The honour of chairing the Committee naturally feel to Aino Sibelius.

Since 1965 the competition – without an Honorary Committee – has been held every five years. Young violinists from all over the world who have not yet reached their 30th birthday have been able to demonstrate their musical talents and compete with one another. The number of applicants set  a new record in 2015 with 234; of these, 45 were selected for the competition in Helsinki.The competitors play both optional and obligatory repertoire. The finalists play the Sibelius Violin Concerto and one other violin concerto with the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra or the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra.

The members of the Jury have always been internationally well-established violinists and violin teachers, whereas the Chairmen have been Finns – so far Tauno Hannikainen, Joonas Kokkonen, Tuomas Haapanen, Aulis Sallinen, Mikko Heiniö and Jukka-Pekka Saraste.The artistic importance of the competition lies in its potential for discovering new talents and helping young artists in their careers. The competition is nowadays organised jointly by the Sibelius Society of Finland and the Sibelius Academy. 


LAUREATES 1965 - 2015


I Oleg Kagan, USSR

II Joshua Epstein, Israel

III Valeri Gradov, USSR 



I (ex aequo) Liana Isakadze & Pavel Kogan, USSR

III Otto Armin, Canada   



I Yuval Yaron, Israel

II Ilja Grubert, USSR

III Eugen Sarbu, Rumania   



I Viktoria Mullova, USSR

II Sergei Stadler, USSR

III Andres Cardenes, USA   



I (ex aequo) Ilja Kaler, USSR & Leonidas Kavakos, Greece

III Vilmos Szabadi, Hungary   



I pas attribué

II Cristina Anghelescu, Rumania

III (ex aequo) Sigrún Edvaldsdóttir, Iceland & Akiko Tanaka, Japan   



I Pekka Kuusisto, Finland

II Elisabeth Batiashvili, Georgia

III (ex aequo) Madoka Sato, Japan & Nikolaj Znaider, Denmark   



I Sergei Khachatryan, Armenia

II Natsumi Tamai, Japan

III (ex aequo) Zhi-Jiong Wang, China & Sayako Kusaka, Japan   



I Alina Pogostkina, Germany

II Jiafeng Chen, China

III (ex aequo) Hyun-Su Shin, South Korea & Wei Wen, China 



I Nikita Boriso-Glebsky, Russia / Belgium

II Petteri Iivonen, Finland

III Esther Yoo, USA / Belgium



I Christel Lee, USA

II Emmanuel Tjeknavorian, Austria

III Friederike Starkloff, Germany


Other finalists:

Mayumi Kanagawa, USA

Minami Yoshida, Japan

Nancy Zhou, USA


Special prizes:

Best performance of Violin Concerto by Sibelius

Emmanuel Tjeknavorian


Best performance of the commissioned piece 

Friederike Skarkloff