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Interview with 2021 Bach Competition Winner Beatrice Colombis

With applications now open for the 2022 Bach Competition, we sat down with violinist Beatrice Colombis, last year’s winners of the Richard Mills Prize.

We found out about her stint in the Sydney Con’s Concerto Competition, her favourite Bach pieces, and her dreams to study in Europe.

When did you start playing the violin?

I started playing when I was two and a half years old!

Why did you choose this instrument?

My parents are both pianists and were keen for me to learn music from a young age. I began learning both piano and violin, but I think I always naturally gravitated towards the violin. I had a great experience growing up with the Suzuki method and was constantly playing the violin in large groups of people. The sense of community definitely influenced my love of the instrument. By the time I reached high school, the violin became my sole instrument.

What was it like to win the 2021 Bach Competition?

Winning the 2021 Bach competition was absolutely one of the highlights of my year! The whole experience felt a little surreal – my family watched the finals and announcements from the TV at home in the middle of lockdown. The result was so uplifting amid such a difficult time when no one had been able to come together to play music. We were all so thrilled!

What has been your performance highlight so far?

This past year alone has been filled with so many performance highlights, it would be hard to choose just one! I have had some amazing chamber music experiences; I was so lucky to perform the Shostakovich Octet with the Flinders Quartet in Melbourne and also had the chance to play part of Mendelssohn Octet at ANAM with some of their wonderful students. More recently, I was a finalist in the Sydney Con’s concerto comp which was especially exciting as I performed Prokofiev’s 2nd Violin Concerto, which is now easily my favourite violin concerto!

What is your favourite Bach piece to play?

I really enjoy playing anything solo, Bach. I haven’t yet learnt all of the sonatas and partitas but of those I have played I would have to say the D minor Chaconne is my favourite. I also really enjoy playing the Andante from the A minor sonata.

What do you enjoy about performing Bach?

Despite all the technical challenges, I find Bach really fun to play and perform. There are so many ways to interpret Bach and I really enjoy finding my own way of playing his music to make my performance engaging and unique. Despite the complexity of the solo sonatas and partitas, they are very often dance-like and playful, aside to these works that I always aim to bring out when performing.

What piece are you working on now? And what do you like about it?

At the moment I am having lots of fun mainly working on the Tchaikovsky violin concerto! Tchaikovsky is definitely one of my favourite composers, and his violin concerto has so many beautiful moments that are so enjoyable to play. It has its tricky moments, but I am really enjoying the challenge, I hope to one day have the opportunity to play it with an orchestra!

What do you like to do outside of practising music?

When I am not playing music a lot of my time is taken up by reading! I especially love literary fiction and classics, and my all-time favourite read is probably either The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov or The Secret History by Donna Tartt.

What are your musical aspirations for the future?

I hope to continue performing and playing as much as I can! I would love to go overseas to study in Europe after I finish my undergrad in Sydney, but at the moment I am really enjoying my time here. I especially love chamber music, particular playing in string quartets, and I hope this is something I will have the opportunity to pursue later on in my career as well!

Any advice for 2022 Bach Competition applicants?

To go for it, give the audition your best shot and enjoy the experience! There is so much to learn by playing Bach, and regardless of the results of the competition, the experience in itself is a challenge worth taking on and learning from. Only good things can come out of giving it a go!

Applications for the 2022 Bach Competition close on Wednesday 27 April. Click here for more information.