Performing arts: Young string virtuosos vie for prizes, fame 

“The Klein” this weekend at San Francisco State University is part of a global phenomenon.

International contests for young musicians — singers, pianists, violinists — have exploded lately, involving thousands of people being telecast, streamed and on YouTube. These events benefit young artists and music lovers everywhere, supporting the former at the start of their careers, and enabling audiences to hear unfamiliar performers, usually at low prices or even free.

Twenty-five years ago, when conductor Mitchell Sardou Klein created the Irving M. Klein International String Competition in honor of his father, a virtuoso cellist and master teacher who died in 1984, there were fewer such opportunities for string players, and international participation was limited.

Now, however, competition director Klein speaks proudly of having helped launch successful careers.

“Looking back, it’s been extremely gratifying to be in touch with Klein Competition alumni who tell us what a difference we have made in their lives,” he says.

The competition is open to string players between ages 15 and 23. Previous winners include such now-famous musicians as Jennifer Koh, Frank Xin Huang and Mark Kosower.

From the early days, when “international” was only in the name of the contest, gradually the pull of the Klein spread around the world.

This year’s event Saturday and Sunday has attracted 65 hopefuls, eight of whom won places in the June 12 semifinal round. They hail from Philadelphia, China, Tel Aviv, New Jersey, Springfield, Ill., South Korea and London.

They will give 20-minute performances selected by the jury from a repertory of Bach, a concerto movement and a new work by Dick Hyman, who wrote separate pieces for each instrument represented in the competition: violin, viola and cello.

Five musicians will move on to the final round Sunday, vying for professional performance opportunities and cash, including the $14,000 grand prize, the Marvin T. Tepperman Memorial Award.

Works played at the finals include movements from the Sibelius and Tchaikovsky violin concertos, Prokofiev’s Sinfonia Concertante and G Minor violin concerto, Hindemith’s “Der Schwanendreher” and the Schumann and Dvorak cello concertos.


Irving M. Klein International String Competition

Where: Knuth Hall, San Francisco State University, 1600 Holloway Ave., S.F.

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, 4 to 7 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: $5 to $20

Contact: (415) 338-2467,


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Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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