Great Romantics Competition

In the lead up to the 2022 Great Romantics Competition on September 18, we sat down with violinist Emily Su, last year’s winner of the Elisabeth Murdoch Prize. We found out about her love for ballet, leading this year’s AYO, and her violin girl crush on Vilde Frang.

Why did you choose your instrument?
I was so young when I started the violin that I don’t remember much from that time! I have heard that I used to try and play my father’s full-size violin as a cello, which convinced my parents to let me try the violin. It’s funny, one of my early memories of life was of a concert we went to where there was some sort of blown-up arrangement of Mozart’s ‘Rondo alla Turca’ with four pianos, percussion and everything! I just remember being blown away, not just by their skill, but by how much FUN it looked to be on stage and performing. That feeling has stuck with me over the years and eventually I got to experience that joy for myself.

When did you start playing your instrument?
I started violin quite young, as many Suzuki students do! I was 3 years old when I first picked up my 1/16th size violin which still lives on my shelf at home.

Who are your musical heroes?
Ooh, musical heroes! Dead or alive – Vilde Frang is my absolute violin girl crush haha. I first heard her play the Sibelius concerto and that recording has stuck with me through years of playing that concerto. The phrase ‘white fire’ comes to mind – just the sheer power and command but simultaneous beauty and finesse. Oistrakh would have to be another musical hero of mine and constantly inspires me to dig deeper for my sound and with the older school of playing, to explore just how far the boundaries of rubato are in certain pieces.

What was it like to win the 2021 Great Romantics Competition?
It was such an honour to win this competition last year, and truly it meant a lot. Of course, every competition win is special, but particularly last year. I mean, having spent most of the year locked in my single-bed apartment after arriving in a new city fresh and excited for the year of intense musical collaborations, and having that taken away as so many musicians experienced. It was just so special coming back to the beautiful MRC to record! Just such an incredible experience and especially at the time that it came.

What has been your performance highlight so far?
Wow, this is hard to say! At each stage in your development, each of those special moments of pride in your hard work paying off there are so many performance highlights looking back. I would have to say the greatest highlight was my first time performing a full romantic concerto with orchestra and one of my favourite concertos at that. That was just so special! Although there are many exciting and fun performances, there are some like that concert that demanded so much growth and dedication, and as a result they are the most rewarding moments of pride and satisfaction. Besides the fact that Sibelius is an awesome piece to play with orchestra!

What pieces are you working on now? Most challenging aspects?
This year I’ve been working on a greater variety of music whereas last year ended up being a lot of solo work. I have been preparing to lead the 2022 Australian Youth Orchestra which is such a privilege and honour, working on the mammoth Eine Alpensinfonie by Strauss. Aside from that, I have also been preparing for my MSO Fellowship coming up – some Mozart 5 which is always a challenge in new ways. So many ways to improve on your Mozart concerti! On the side, some solo repertoire which for the moment is at my leisure has been nice, since I am studying medical science at university this year.

What do you like to do outside of practicing music?
I absolutely love dancing, especially ballet which yes most young girls try at some point, but I’ve continued it and just love the connection between music and movement. There is just something so intuitive in the feeling of music that inspires movement. Similarly, I love ice-skating when I can and reading when I make the time!

Any advice for 2022 Great Romantics applicants?
Ah! Go for it! Prepare to the best of your ability, and just try to remember (I know every teacher says this a hundred times haha but…) – every competition you enter is not about the win or the money etc. It is truly amazing the amount of sudden growth and improvement you will see in yourself after every competition, regardless of the results. Of course it’s nice to win, but beyond that, the reason I personally enter in competitions time and time again is for that incredible feeling post-competition when you look back and can tangibly see your improvement!

Applications are now open and close on Wednesday 10 August 2022 at midnight (AEST).

Please ensure you download and read the Competition Guidelines before completing your application.


Click here for more details.