Gustav Mahler Conducting Competition

The 2007 competition is over and the entrants have all gone home, or to wherever they were heading. Prizes have been awarded and new legends are in the process of being created.

This competition, which attracts entrants from all over the world, is held in the Bavarian City of Bamberg and bears the name of one of the 20th Century's famous conductors, although to modern listeners, Gustav Mahler is known as a composer.

The first winner of the Gustav Mahler Conducting Competition was Gustavo Dudamel in 2004. Since then he has performed in a wide range of places and recorded one CD on the Deutsche Grammophon label. It was recently announced that he would be taking up the baton at the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

2007 entrants

Initially there were more than 220 candidates from 40 countries; this number was whittled down to the last 14 representing ten countries. All participants were under 35 years old.
Some of these finalists had already won prizes in competitions. Marcis Amants from Latvia was recently awarded Third Prize in the 4th International Competition for Young Choral Conductors in Budapest; Joolz Gale, representing Great Britain, has attracted a range of opinions in Oxford (check out his links on Google to see what I mean); also representing this country is Dominic Grier .

One to definitely watch out for originally hails from Poland. Ewa Strusinska is her name and we can look forward to hearing a lot more about her. This is because she has recently been confirmed as the new conductor of the Sheffield Philharmonic Orchestra. Her first concert with them will be in the Sheffield Botanical Gardens in July 2007.

The last 14

The last 14 were:

The Jury

The members of the jury include Marina Mahler (honorary member and Patron of the competition), Jonathan Nott (President of the Jury and Chief Conductor of the Bamberg SO), Herbert Blomstedt (Honorary Conductor of the Bamberg SO and the Bavarian State Philharmonic), Hans Graf (Principal Conductor of the Houston Symphony Orchestra); Mark-Anthony Turnage, Composer; Paul Müller, Director, Bamberg Symphony Orchestra; Rolf Beck, Manager Orchestra and Choir NDR Hamburg and Director of the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival; Serge Dorny, General Director, L’Opéra National de Lyon; Ernest Fleischmann, Consultant; Peter Pastreich, Consultant; and a member of the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra.

The competition

Alongside works by Gustav Mahler (whose grand-daughter Marina Mahler was once more the Patron of the competition) (Symphony No 1 and Songs from “Des Knaben Wunderhorn”) and Franz Schubert (6th Symphony) were two contemporary pieces: Orchestral Pieces by Bruno Mantovani (Time Stretch on Gesualdo) and Juno and the Torino Scale from Asteroids for Orchestra by Mark Anthony Turnage composed for and premiered by the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra.

The first round of the closing stages was held with the public excluded. This took place on the 23rd and 24th April, when each candidate rehearsed the orchestra for 40 minutes in the Mahler Symphony and the Schubert. The jury decided on running order and which movements were to be used.

In the second round, 6 candidates rehearsed in public for forty minutes. The jury decided on running order and which pieces were to be rehearsed (songs and contemporary). This took place on the 26th April (morning and afternoon). The running order was as follows:
10.00 – 10.40 Uhr Shi-Yeon Sung
10.55 – 11.35 Uhr Yoel Gamzou
11.50 – 12.30 Uhr Jérémie Rhorer

16.00 – 16.40 Uhr Ewa Strusinska
16.55 – 17.35 Uhr Benjamin Shwartz
17.50 – 18.30 Uhr Christoph Altstaedt

Participants in the Final Round Announced


On Thursday evening, 26. April, the Jury members of the Bamberger Symphoniker Gustav Mahler-Conducting Competition announced that the following participants would go on to compete in the Final Round:


Ewa Mr. Benjamin Shwartz, USA (b. 20 October 1979)
Ms Ewa Strusinska, Poland (b. 19 July 1976)
Ms Shi-Yeon Sung, South Korea (b. 22 July 1975)

The Final Round saw three candidates publicly rehearse the orchestra the following morning (27th April) in one of the Wunderhorn songs, together with the first movement of the first Symphony. Ewa was first on.

Announcement of the Prize-Winners

On Friday 27 April 2007, the Jury of the Bamberg Symphony Gustav Mahler Conducting Competition 2007 publicly announced the competition winners:
1st Prize (€ 20,000 -) (not awarded)
2nd Prize (€ 10,000 -) Shi-Yeon Sung, South Korea
3rd Prize (€ 5,000 - ) Benjamin Shwartz, USA
4th Prize (€ 5,000 - ) Ewa Strusinska, Poland
Special Encouragement Award: Yoel Gamzou, USA
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