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Gabrielle Després

Nineteen-year-old Canadian-born violinist
Gabrielle Després wins the thirty-fifth
Irving M Klein String Competition


The first prize of the thirty-fifth Irving M Klein String Competition, carrying a purse of US$ 13,000, has been awarded to nineteen-year-old Canadian-born violinist Gabrielle Després. Thousands worldwide watched eight semifinalists via YouTube livestream 6-7 June 2020 compete for cash prizes and performance contracts. A distinguished jury of seven convened remotely to determine winners, which were announced on the afternoon of Sunday 7 June 2020 online. The broadcasts were produced by California Music Center, the founder of the Klein Competition.


The Klein - San Francisco

Després' winning program included Brahms' Violin Concerto in D, Op 77, the Fugue from J S Bach's Sonata No 2 in A minor, BWV 1003, as well as the commissioned work The Harmony of Tensions: Air by Robert Gibson. She also won one of two prizes for best performance of the commissioned work.

Gabrielle Després in 2018
Gabrielle Després in 2018

Second prize went to cellist Jiaxun Yao, cello, an eighteen-year-old student of Richard Aaron and Sieun Lin at the Juilliard Pre-College, who also won a prize for Best Performance of the Commissioned Work

Third prize was awarded to violinist Masha Lakisova, eighteen, who heads to New England Conservatory in the fall to study with Miriam Fried. She also won the Pablo Casals prize for Best Performance of Bach.

One of two Fourth Prizes went to violinist Caroline Durham, eighteen, who attends Juilliard and Columbia University in their joint program and studies with Masao Kawasaki.

A Fourth Prize was also awarded to violinist Dongyoung Shim, again eighteen, who is pursuing his Bachelor of Music with Donald Weilerstein at New England Conservatory.

Artistic director Mitchell Sardou Klein commented:

We were so pleased to be able present to our audience the eight extraordinary young string players who were live-streamed this weekend. Nothing can replace the experience of hearing the next generation of musical leaders in person, in a concert setting. But seeing and hearing their performances streamed from remote locations in Korea, Canada and every time zone in the US proved to be a remarkable musical event in its own way. Each Semifinalist made a convincing case for a powerful individual vision and personality. Hearing all eight play unaccompanied Bach, world premiere works by Robert Gibson and a wide range of concertos was quite riveting and uplifting. The jury (which met via Zoom) was impressed by the high level of musicianship and artistry. We were able to reach a huge new audience of thousands of music lovers on at least four continents. We hope to be able to serve this new audience, even when we return to our usual presentation at the San Francisco Conservatory in future years.

Gabrielle Després has won numerous provincial and national competitions, including the Northern Alberta Concerto Competition and the Canadian Music Competition. She has earned top prizes in Radio-Canada's television show Virtuose and the national Shean Strings Competition. In 2018 she performed as a soloist with the Chamber Orchestra of Edmonton and the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. Gabrielle was a student of Robert Uchida since 2016 and began studying at The Juilliard School for her Bachelor of Music degree in 2018 where she currently studies with Masao Kawasaki and Joseph Lin. She has studied at the Orford Summer Music Academy, Morningside Music Bridge, and the Casalmaggiore International Music Festival. In 2019, Gabrielle attended the Aspen Music Festival and School as a New Horizons Fellowship recipient. Gabrielle gratefully acknowledges the generosity of the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, the Anne Burrows Music Foundation and the Edmonton Community Foundation in supporting her education.

This year's semifinalists were Keoni Bolding, viola, twenty-two; Gabrielle Després, violin, nineteen; Caroline Durham, violin, eighteen; Masha Lakisova, violin, eighteen; Enrique Rodrigues, violin, eighteen; Dongyoung Shim, violin, eighteeb; Jiaxun Yao, cello, eighteen; and Davis You, cello, eighteen. Contestants were selected from 116 entrants from twelve countries, ranging in age from fifteen to twenty-three. Semifinalists were required to perform – all unaccompanied – at least one movement of an unaccompanied Bach work, a complete concerto and the commissioned work by Robert Gibson.

The jury for the 2020 Competition included Richard Aaron, Christopher Costanza, Glenn Dicterow, Jaren Dreyfus, Robert Gibson (the 2020 composer), Ian Swensen and Barbara Day Turner.

Previous winners of the Klein Competition include Jennifer Koh, Oliver Herbert, Frank Huang, Robert deMaine, Tessa Lark and David Requiro. Last year, the competition awarded first prize to cellist James Baik.

First Prize (US$ 13,000) goes to nineteen-year old Gabrielle Després, violin. It includes performance contracts with the Peninsula and Santa Cruz Symphonies, Gualala Arts Chamber Music Series and Music in the Vineyard.

Second Prize (US$ 6,300) goes to cellist Jiaxun Yao, eighteen. Including performance contracts with the San Jose Chamber Orchestra and Piedmont Center for the Arts, this prize is given by Ruth Short in honor of Elaine H Klein, wife of Irving M Klein. For thirty-four years, Mrs Klein served on the California Music Center board.

Third Prize goes to Masha Lakisova, violin, eighteen. US$ 2,500 is given by David and Judy Anderson in memory of Judy's father Milton Preves, principal violist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1939 to 1986 and instrumental in developing the basis for the current judging procedures for the Klein.

Fourth Prize (US$ 1,500) goes to Caroline Durham, violin, eighteen, and is given in memory of Jerry Lee Klein, Irving M Klein's younger son.

A second Fourth Prize of US$ 1,500 goes to Dongyoung Shim, violin, eighteen.

Best Performance of the Commissioned Work prizes of US$ 500, named in memory of Allen R and Susan E Weiss, go to both Jiaxun Yao and Gabrielle Després.

The Pablo Casals Prize (US$ 500) for the best performance of solo Bach, goes to Masha Lakisova.

Each Semifinalist not awarded a named prize receives US$ 1,000.

California Music Center (CMC) was founded in 1974 by Irving M Klein, a virtuoso chamber musician and master cello teacher, as the sponsoring organization for a summer music institute and chamber music series for young artists. Following Mr Klein's passing in 1985, CMC inaugurated the Irving M Klein String Competition ('the Klein') in 1986; since then, the Klein has become one of the most prestigious and anticipated events of its kind, attracting ever-increasing numbers of entries annually from throughout the world and helping to enhance the developing careers of players who have gone on to become renowned soloists, chamber musicians, teachers, and prominent members of the world's finest orchestras. CMC also produces concerts year-round featuring laureates, and masterclasses and community engagement activities around the Bay Area. CMC is supported in part by the Mervyn L Brenner Foundation, the California Arts Council, New Music America and the Sam Mazza Foundation.

There's further information, and a chance to view both rounds of the 2020 competition, at

Posted 22 June 2020 by Marcy Straw




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