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Colburn School violinist makes finals of Russia's Tchaikovsky Competition

June 28, 2011 |  6:45 am

NigelArmstrongPhilipPiroloThis post has been corrected. Please see note at bottom for details.

Word has come from the Colburn School in downtown L.A. that a recent graduate, 21-year-old violinist Nigel Armstrong, has made the finals of the International Tchaikovsky Competition, a quadrennial event for young musicians being staged in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

The field of 24 violinists has been winnowed to five after three competitive cuts, and two of them are Americans -- the other, Eric Silberger, 22, is in a joint studies program at New York's Columbia University and the Juilliard School. Their competition consists of Russian and Israeli men and a South Korean woman.

No American has won the violin competition outright, although in 1978 American Elmar Olveira and Ilya Grubert of the USSR shared first prize. Van Cliburn famously triumphed on piano in 1958, the first running of the Tchaikovsky Competition; cellist Nathaniel Rosen won in 1978; and Jane Marsh and Deborah Voigt won the female voice category in 1966 and 1990, respectively. Also credited as an American winner on the competition's website is Korean-born Hans Choi, who was living in New York when he won for male voice in 1990.

Like the Anaheim-raised Voigt, Armstrong is a Californian, hailing from Sonoma. He already has won a preliminary prize -- an award of 2,000 euros, or about $2,900  -- for delivering what was judged the best performance of one of the compulsory pieces, "Stomp," a new violin solo work by American composer John Corigliano that was commissioned for the competition. The violin champ will get 20,000 euros (about $28,600) and have a chance for the 50% bonus that goes to the best performer overall.

The violin finals continue Tuesday and Wednesday from 7:45 a.m. to 11 a.m., Pacific time, and can be viewed in a webcast on the Tchaikovsky Competition's website. Tuesday's performances begin at 8 a.m., with Silberger at 8 a.m. Armstrong 8:40 a.m. and Dogadin 9:40 a.m..

For the full story, click here.


[For the record, 12:00 p.m., June 28: A previous version of this post incorrectly said that no American violinist had received first prize in the Tchaikovsky Competition.]


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 Photo: Nigel Armstrong. Credit: Philip Pirolo/Colburn School