As in previous years, the jury for the 2018 Sylva Gelber Music Foundation awards was struck by the extraordinary depth of talent in classical music performance among those young musicians who passed to the live audition phase of our awards process. Over the course of an inspiring two days at the University of Ottawa’s School of Music, which generously provides the Foundation with rehearsal and performance space, we had an opportunity to hear young musicians from every region of the country. Most are engaged in advanced studies at prestigious music schools in Canada, the US, England and Europe, while others were looking for support to launch their career with audition tours, master classes, and coachings. The majority plan to enter one or more international competitions in addition to their studies, and if history is anything to go by, will be bringing home some important prizes!
From among a very deserving field, the jury recommended awards to 12 young artists, in amounts ranging from $8,000 to nearly $30,000, for a total disbursement this year of over $220,000. The Board of Directors of the Foundation is delighted to announce the following winners of the 2018 Sylva Gelber Music Foundation Awards:
Eva Aronian, 23, Montreal, Quebec—Violin. Violinist Eva Aronian has most recently been awarded 2nd prize and Aspen Prize at the 2016 OSM (Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal) Manulife Competition; other awards include 1st prize in the Canadian Music Competition, 1st prize in the 2015 “Città di Barlassina” Soloists and Orchestra Competition, and the Borromeo String Quartet’s Guest Artist Award. She has performed extensively across Canada, the United States, France, Italy, Germany, and Norway.
An avid chamber musician, Eva has collaborated with, among others, Kim Kashkashian, Roger Tapping, Laurence Lesser, Robert McDonald, Anthony Marwood, Lucy Chapman, Hsin-Yun Huang, the Borromeo String Quartet, and the East Coast Chamber Orchestra. She has been invited to perform at the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, ChamberFest Cleveland, Ottawa Chamberfest, and Yellow Barn. Other festivals she has attended include IMS Prussia Cove, Four Seasons Chamber Music, Pablo Casals Festival, the Kronberg Academy, and the Perlman Music Program. She has performed numerous premieres—including the North American premiere of Jörg Widmann’s Oktett—and in such prestigious venues as Carnegie Hall, Jordan Hall, Montreal’s Maison Symphonique, Milan’s Teatro dal Verme, and the Kimmel Centre.
For her undergraduate degree, Eva studied with Donald Weilerstein at the New England Conservatory; she is currently pursuing her Master’s degree at NEC as Prof. Weilerstein’s teaching assistant. She plays on a 1714 Francesco Gobetti violin on generous loan from the Colburn Foundation.
Michael Bridge, 25, Calgary, Alberta—Accordion. Lauded as “a wizard of the accordion,” Michael Bridge is internationally renowned for his warm stage personality, stereotype-smashing versatility, and blazing virtuosity. Named one of CBC’s “30 Hot Classical Musicians Under 30,” he made his solo orchestral debut with the Boston Pops and gives over 100 concerts per year in Europe and the Americas. His debut solo album, “Overture,” was named CBC Album of the Week.
Because his repertoire goes beyond the strictly classical, Michael simply describes it as “concert music” — encompassing baroque, classical, and contemporary works, plus many of his own concert arrangements of folk music. An artist who works frequently with composers, Michael has given over 40 world premieres. He performs solo or with orchestra and with his two ensembles, Bridge+Wolak and Ladom Ensemble. He has toured Poland, France, Italy, the U.K., Brazil, Ecuador, the US and in every Canadian province.
Michael is pursuing doctoral studies in accordion performance at the University of Toronto with Joseph Macerollo. His first accordion was purchased at a garage sale for five dollars when he was five; two decades later he is redefining the perception of his traditional instrument. Michael is grateful for the support of the Sylva Gelber Music Foundation and the Canada Council for the Arts.
Bryan Cheng, 21, Ottawa, Ontario—Cello. Second-prize winner of the TONALi18 Grand Prix in Hamburg, cellist Bryan Cheng has attracted widespread attention for his “absolutely astonishing” (La Presse) command of the cello and his “abundant facility, innate musicality, and sense of joy” (New York Concert Review). Grand Prize winner of NYC’s Adelphi Orchestra International Competition, 1st-prize winner of the National Arts Centre Bursary Competition, 2nd-prize winner of the OSM Manulife Competition, one of CBC’s “30 hot Canadian classical musicians under 30,” and Canada Council for the Arts’ Michael Measures Prize winner, Bryan made his solo debut at age 10 with the Orchestre de chambre I Musici de Montréal, his Carnegie Hall recital debut at 14, and most recently, his Elbphilharmonie solo debut with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen and conductor Joshua Weilerstein. With a repertoire spanning five centuries, including eleven world premieres, he has toured and performed in every Canadian province, a dozen countries, and on three continents, in such venues as Toronto’s Koerner Hall, Berlin’s Philharmonie, and Shanghai’s Poly Grand Theatre, as well as at international festivals including Trasimeno, Dresdner Musikfestspiele, Aspen, Ottawa Chamberfest, and Festival of the Sound.
As cellist of the Cheng² Duo, Bryan has released two critically-acclaimed albums on German label audite: Violonchelo del fuego (June 2018), and his debut album, Violoncelle français, which was selected as one of WCRB Classical Radio Boston’s top eight CDs of 2017. Bryan’s award will contribute to the completion of his undergraduate degree at the Universität der Künste Berlin while he prepares for international competitions, recitals, and solo appearances in North America and Europe.
Aviva Fortunata, 30, Calgary, Alberta—Soprano. Praised for her “gorgeous voice of richness and amplitude,” (Musical Toronto) Italian-Canadian soprano Aviva Fortunata was a finalist at both Placido Domingo’s Operalia competition and the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Song Prize Competition. In addition to the title role of Tosca at Opera on the Avalon, Aviva recently added the title role of Norma at Dallas Opera to her repertoire. A graduate of the Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio, her mainstage roles at the COC include Contessa Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro, Fiordiligi in Cosi fan tutte, Helmwige in Die Walkure, First Lady in Die Zauberflote, Berta in Barber of Seville, and Annina in La traviata. Cover assignments include Gutrune/Dritte Norn in Gotterdammerung, Norma in Norma, Ellen Orford in Peter Grimes, Anna in Maometto II, and Donna Anna in Don Giovanni. Further credits include Saskatoon Opera, San Francisco Opera’s Merola Opera Program, and the Buffalo Philharmonic. Upcoming season credits include the role debut of Leonore in Fidelio at Pacific Opera Victoria.
Maïthéna Girault, 23, Montreal, Quebec—Violin. Maïthéna has appeared as concertmaster with orchestras in France, Germany, Italy, the United States and Montreal’s Maison symphonique. She has been privileged to perform in Carnegie Hall, both as a soloist and as a chamber musician, and more than a dozen times as a soloist with orchestras in Quebec and France.
In addition to her 2018 award from the Sylva Gelber Music Foundation, Maïthéna has won many other prizes and awards, including the 2017 Golden Violin Award (Canada’s largest collegiate music prize) and first prize at the Canadian Music Competition. A passionate chamber musician, she was a founding member of the Milton String Quartet, which won the 2017 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition Grand Prize. The ensemble worked with members of the Alban Berg, Borodin, Ébène, Escher, Hagen, Jupiter, and Tokyo quartets.
Maïthéna entered the Conservatoire de musique de Montréal at age eight, and studied there with Helmut Lipsky for ten years. She now holds a Licentiate in Music and a Graduate Diploma of Performance from McGill University, where she studied with Axel Strauss, Alexander Read and Andrew Wan. In the coming year, she will attend the Manhattan School of Music to continue her studies with Lucie Robert.
Maïthéna performs on the 1858 Ex. ”Comte Koucheliov” violin by Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume and uses a bow by François Lotte, both generously loaned to her by Canimex.
Dasol Jeong, 26, Toronto, Ontario—Violin. Born in South Korea in 1991, Dasol began violin lessons at the age of four. She emigrated to Canada in 2003, settling in Toronto, where she studied with Professor Leo Wigdorchik. Solo performances include performing with the Kunsan and Jungeup Symphony Orchestras at the age of 9, the Eastman Philharmonia, the Kiev National Symphony Orchestra, and the Lviv Symphony Orchestra. She was recently featured on CBC radio and selected as one of the “30 Hot Classical Musicians under 30.”
Dasol earned her Bachelor’s degree at the Eastman School of Music, under Professor Oleh Krysa, and her Master’s degree at the Juilliard School, where she studied with Professor Ida Kavafian. She also earned a Professional Studies Certificate at the Manhattan School of Music with Professor Pinchas Zukerman. Currently, she is pursuing a Master’s degree in Orchestral Performance at the Manhattan School of Music, studying with Professors Glen Dicterow and Lisa Kim.
Xiaoyu Liu, 21, Montreal, Quebec—Piano. Xiaoyu Liu was born in Paris and grew up in Montréal. Musically dynamic and technically gifted, he is heralded for playing that is “powerful, polished, and emanates from a disciplined mind” (The Telegram, St John’s).
Xiaoyu has performed around the world, giving recitals in Canada, China, the USA, Japan, France, Italy, Ukraine, Salvador, Poland, Israel, and Switzerland. As a soloist, he has performed with major orchestras, such as the Cleveland Orchestra, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, the Montréal Symphony Orchestra, the Sendai Philharmonic Orchestra, the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine, Israel Camerata Jerusalem, the Lviv Philharmonic Orchestra, and YOA Orchestra of the Americas.
In 2014, he took part in a North-America tour with the China NCPA Orchestra, performing Ravel’s G major Concerto: he also appeared with them at the China National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing. The National Post described his interpretation “a subtle range of French colour and feeling ”.
Winner of the Prix d’Europe (2015) and the Grand Prize at the OSM Standard Life Competition (2012), Xiaoyu has also won awards and prizes in numerous prestigious international piano competitions, including those of Sendai, Montréal, Grand Prix Animato in Paris, Interlaken Classics in Bern, and the Arthur Rubinstein in Tel-Aviv.
He has made numerous studio recordings with ICI Radio-Canada, featuring works by Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Ravel, Satie, and his music has been broadcasted worldwide. “Melodic lines were well-defined, there was steely clarity to his articulation, a huge range of dynamic contrasts, and the lyrical episodes were lovingly shaped. Liu compelled you to listen.” (Classical Voice North America)
Currently, Xiaoyu is studying with Richard Raymond at the Conservatoire de musique de Montréal and Dang Thai Son at the Université de Montréal.
Anna-Sophie Neher, 28, Gatineau, Quebec—Soprano. Anna-Sophie Neher recently completed her Master of Music degree at McGill University, where she won the prestigious Wirth Vocal Prize. She has also studied at Bard College and the Montreal Conservatory. First Prize winner at the 2017 OSM Manulife Competition, her operatic credits include Blanche in Dialogues des Carmélites (Opera McGill); Adele in Die Fledermaus (Opera McGill); Pamina in Die Zauberflöte (Bard College); Belinda in Dido and Aeneas (Montreal Conservatory of Music); and Barbarina in Le Nozze di Figaro (Orford Music Festival). Three-time winner of the Jacqueline Demarais Scholarship, she has also appeared as a soloist with Clavecin en Concert, Montreal Bach Festival, Orchestre Symphonique de Gatineau, Festival Schubert de Montréal and Festival International de Lanaudière. Anna-Sophie is currently a member of the ensemble studio at the Canadian Opera Company, where she will be singing the role of Lavia in the world premiere of Rufus Wainwright’s opera Hadrian.
Yoanna Prodanova, 26, Montreal, Quebec—Cello. Yoanna began cello lessons in Bulgaria before immigrating to Canada in 2006. In 2012 she received her Diplome d’etudes superieures from the Conservatoire de musique de Montreal, where she studied with Denis Brott. She now lives in London, England, where she is completing her Master’s degree at the Guildhall School, having already obtained a Bachelor of Music (Hons) under Louise Hopkins.
Recently, Yoanna has played concerti with the Banbury Symphony, the Amati Orchestra and the Goodensemble in London, as well as the Sinfonia de Lanaudiere, Quebec. She has also given recitals at St Martin-in-the-Fields, Milton Court Hall and Barbican Hall in London. She is a Park Lane Group Artist and cellist with the Barbican quartet, who made their Wigmore Hall debut last February, thanks to the Maisie Lewis Award. A recipient of the Philip and Dorothy Green Award for Young Artists (2016), Yoanna has attended masterclasses at IMS Prussia Cove, the Music Academy of the West, the Kronberg Festival, and the Banff Centre. Passionate about new music, she has premiered works by Benjamin Graves (in LSO St Luke’s) and Ben Smith (in Wigmore Hall). Her award from the Gelber Foundation will support graduate studies with Rebecca Gilliver and Richard Lester, and facilitate her participation in international master classes and projects vital to her further musical development.
Hillary Simms, 24, St. John’s, Newfoundland—Trombone. A dynamic young trombonist from Canada’s east coast, Hillary Simms completed her Bachelor’s degree at McGill University and her Master’s at Yale. A Temerty Fellowship Recipient, she will begin working toward her Artist Diploma under Gordon Wolfe at the Glenn Gould School in the fall of 2018.
Hillary has made her career thus far as a solo and chamber artist. Having performed many solo and chamber music recitals, Hillary has also been very successful in competitions. Recently, she was awarded the 2nd Prize for Brass at the 2017 OSM Manulife Competition, along with a full scholarship to attend The Aspen Summer Music Festival and The Banff Centre for the Arts. Prior to this, Hillary won the 2017 Division II Tenor Trombone Solo Competition at the American Trombone Workshop and was a finalist in the 2017 International Trombone Festival Marstellar tenor trombone solo competition.
Hillary is a member of the Bonus Trombone Quartet, who were semi-finalists in the 2018 prestigious M-Prize Chamber competition. The quartet were the winners of the 2017 ATW Trombone Quartet Competition and were fortunate enough to have had their Carnegie Hall debut as part of the Yale Brass Carnegie Tour.
Charles Sy, 26, Toronto, Ontario—Tenor. Charles Sy completed his BMus and MMus degrees at the University of Toronto and is an alumnus of several opera training programs, including Music Academy of the West, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, the Britten-Pears Young Artist Program, and the Opera as Theatre program at the Banff Centre. He was a member of the Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio and is currently completing an Artist Diploma in Opera Studies at The Juilliard School.
This season, he sings Nemorino in L’elisir d’amore with ARE Opera in NYC (newly renamed the City Lyric Opera), makes his Juilliard Opera debut as Belfiore in La finta giardiniera and also makes his Carnegie Hall debut as the Evangelist and Tenor Soloist in Bach’s Weihnachtsoratorium. Upcoming performances include Agenore in Il re pastore with the Merola Opera Program and Ramiro in Cenerentola with Vancouver Opera.
Charles is the recent First Prize winner of the 2018 Oratorio Society of New York’s Lyndon Woodside Oratorio Solo Competition. He was a finalist for the Glyndebourne Opera Cup 2018 and won both First Prize and Audience Choice in the Canadian Opera Company’s 2014 Centre Stage Competition. He received First Place in the Ottawa Choral Society’s 2014 New Discoveries Oratorio Competition and is also the recipient of the 2013 Hnatyshyn Foundation Developing Artist Grant for Classical Voice.
Tony Yike Yang, 19, Toronto, Ontario—Piano. Chinese-Canadian pianist Tony Yike Yang is emerging as one of the foremost pianists of the younger generation. At age 16, Yang garnered 5th Prize at the 17th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition and became the youngest-ever laureate of the competition. Recently, he was awarded the Jury Discretionary Award at the 15th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, where he was the youngest competitor.
Yang has appeared with the Cleveland Orchestra, the Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra, the Orchestre Métropolitain of Montreal, the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra, the Hunan Symphony Orchestra, the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra, the Toronto Sinfonietta, the Toronto Festival Orchestra, and the Royal Conservatory of Music’s Academy Symphony Orchestra. In addition, he has also performed at numerous festivals, including Chopin and His Europe, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Harbin, Rockport, Lanaudière, Stratford, Canadian Chopin, Bravo Niagara, Wintergreen, and the International Niagara Music Festivals, among others.
Yang is currently pursuing a dual degree in Economics and Piano Performance through the Harvard University–New England Conservatory of Music Joint-Degree Program, where he studies piano with Professor Wha Kyung Byun. He is also a Fellow at the Oberlin–Como International Piano Academy.