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NEC’s Joshua Weilerstein ’09 Wins Malko Competition for Young Conductors

05.17.09
Joshua Weilerstein

From The New England Conservatory

Joshua Weilerstein ’09, who has just completed his Bachelor of Music in Violin at New England Conservatory, has won the international Malko Competition for Young Conductors in Copenhagen, Denmark. Weilerstein, 21, and one of the youngest candidates in a competition designed for those 20 to 35 years of age, competed against a field of 30 musicians chosen from 300 applicants from around the world.

He wins 20,000 €, a DVD of his performances, a hand-painted ceramic trophy from Royal Copenhagen, and concerts with 16 Scandinavian orchestras including the Danish National Symphony Orchestra, Bergen and Oslo Philharmonic Orchestras, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic and the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra of Sweden. In addition, Weilerstein won the 1500 € Audience Prize based on Internet polling that took place during the competition. All performances were streamed live on the Malko Competition’s website. The competition is sponsored by the Danish National Symphony Orchestra and Copenhagen Artists.

The Malko contestants tested their musical mettle in four rounds of performances that began Tuesday and concluded on Saturday. Although he had to prepare a dozen works, Weilerstein conducted the Haydn Symphony No. 45, Movements 1 & 2; Stravinsky “Firebird” Suite, Rachmaninoff Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Anders Hillborg Four Transitory Worlds (a new work commissioned for the competition), Carl Nielsen’s Pan and Syrinx, and the Brahms Symphony No. 4, First Movement.
Members of the jury included Thomas Dausgaard, Chief Conductor of the Danish National Symphony Orchestra; legendary conducting teacher Jorma Panula; Dmitrij Kitajenko, Philippe Augin, Ole Bækhøj, Edward Smith, Mats Engström, Bengt Årstad, Tuula Sarotie, Elmar Weingarten, Dmitri Golovanov, Gert Herzberg, and Mariann Norrbom.

Weilerstein is the youngest member of an illustrious musical family now closely tied to NEC: his father Donald was the founding first violinist of the Cleveland Quartet and now occupies the Dorothy Richard Starling Chair in Violin Studies at the Conservatory; his mother, pianist Vivian Hornik Weilerstein directs NEC’s Professional Piano Trio Training Program; and his sister, the cellist Alisa Weilerstein, is an Avery Fisher Career Grant winner with a burgeoning soloist career. Don, Vivian, and Alisa comprise the NEC Weilerstein Trio.

Joshua, who majored in violin performance at NEC and studied with Strings and Chamber Music chair Lucy Chapman, has increasingly turned his attention to conducting. He has taken private lessons with Hugh Wolff, the Stanford and Norma Jean Calderwood Director of Orchestras, and John Page, conductor of the NEC Sinfonietta; conducted a number of NEC Preparatory and College groups that he organized himself; and has given several conducting recitals. Next year, he will return to NEC to become one of the first two members of the Orchestral Conducting class that Wolff is inaugurating.

A graduate of NEC’s Preparatory School and Brookline High School, Joshua played in the Youth Philharmonic Orchestra, has appeared as soloist with the Símon Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela, and was chosen to tour with that orchestra as a member of its violin section during its acclaimed American tour in 2007. During that trip, he kept a blog that recorded his experiences. You can access that here [http://www.myspace.com/simonnecblog]

At NEC’s Commencement Exercises Sunday, May 17, Joshua was one of two graduating students to be awarded the George Whitefield Chadwick Medal, which honors seniors whose entire records of achievement have been distinguished in their major field, supplementary studies, extracurricular activities and good citizenship.

Weilerstein is the second NEC-trained conductor to win the Malko Competition: in 2005, Mei-Ann Chen, who studied violin and conducting in both the NEC College and Preparatory School, became the first woman to take first prize. She is currently Assistant Conductor of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and was previously Assistant Conductor of the Oregon Symphony.

For more information, check out the Malko Competition website [http://www.malkocompetition.com/home]

Check out Josh's performance with the Goteborg Symphony here [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BPFMAIXH5KQ]