Cellist Choi Ha-young (age 24) won the 2022 Queen Elisabeth Competition, which ended on Sunday in Brussels, for the first time as a Korean. Founded in 1937, the competition is known as one of the top three international music competitions along with the Chopin international piano concert and the Tchaikovsky competition. Each year, the competition is held in rotation for violinists, singers and pianists. It used to hold international competitions for composers until 2012, when the competition was replaced by the cello. The first cello competition was held in 2017 and this year is the
competition was held for the second time.
"My heart would stop when my name was called out. I am so happy," said Choi through the Korean Culture Center in Belgium. “The audience of the Queen Elisabeth competition's love for music is stronger than any other audience. I felt like I was part of a musical festival while performing.”
Prize money for first place is 25,000 euros (around 33.7 million won), followed by Yiban Chen of China and Marcel Johannes Kits of Estonia. Twelve cellists entered the final round, including four Korean musicians: Choi Ha-young, Moon Tae-kook, Yoon Seol and Cheong Woo-chan. At the final round, musicians performed composer Jörg Widmann's Five Fragments and a concerto of their own choice with the Brussels Philharmonic Orchestra led by conductor Stephan Deneve. Choi selected a piece by modern composer Lutoslawski.
"I had a good feeling for Choi's winning the competition after hearing the audience's enthusiastic response for Choi's performance from the preliminary round," said Kim Jae-won, who leads the Korea Cultural Center in Belgium, which has a business alliance with the Queen Elisabeth Concert since 2015 and has supported Korean participants and judges of the concert. Minister Park Bo-gyoon of Culture, Sports and Tourism sent a congratulatory message to Choi, saying, "The outcome was a work of pure passion for the love of music, artistic creativity and challenge.”
Choi made her debut through the Kumho Young Artist Concert, won the Brahms International Concert in 2011 as the youngest performer of all time and the 2018 Penderecki International Cello Competition. She graduated from the Preparatory School for the Korea National University of Arts, the Korea National University for the Gifted in Arts, the Purcell School of Britain.
She completed her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the Kronberg Academy in Germany. Since 2017, she taught at the Emanuel Feuermann Conservatory under the Kronberg Academy. She has been studying at the Berlin University for Arts since 2020 and affiliated with the Etoile Classic. In 2019, she was chosen as the beneficiary of the Kumho Instrument Bank, using a Paulo Machini cello on loan.