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A look back

Studying the history of the Competition reveals a range of quite different »winning types« who have battled it out in the Joseph Keilberth Auditorium of Bamberg's Concert Hall. At the inaugural Competition in 2004, it was Gustavo Dudamel whose high-octane conducting won over the jury, players and public to take the First Prize. It was the start of a global career which has seen the Venezuelan firebrand emerge as one of the most important musicians of his generation.

Gustavo Dudamel
© Adam Latham

Kahchun Wong drew international attention as the winner of the 5th Mahler Competition in 2016, and almost immediately made a string of sensational debuts with the China Philharmonic and the Shanghai Symphony. The Los Angeles Philharmonic appointed him as a Dudamel Conducting Fellow for the 2016/2017 season, and from September 2018, he will assume the position of Chief Conductor of the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra.

A first in the Competition's history was the cliff-hanging final of 2013, when two Second Prizes were awarded, while the First Prize was won decisively by Lahav Shani, who soon after his Bamberg triumph made his debut with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. Further invitations followed from the Staatskapelle Berlin, the City of Birmingham Orchestra, the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, Cologne's Gürzenich Orchestra and Berlin's Konzerthaus Orchestra. Succeeding Yannick Nézet-Séguin, he will be Chief Conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra in 2018.

In 2010, Ainārs Rubiķis of Latvia showed a very different musical personality than e.g. Gustavo Dudamel, quieter and more reserved. The Jury was delighted to see him win First Prize, adding that Ainārs Rubiķis showed the potential to »grow and make an important contribution to music in years to come.« In 2011 Rubiķis made his debut at the Salzburg Festival, and from 2012 to 2014 he was Director of Novosibirsk State Opera. From 2018/2019, he will be Music Director of the Komische Oper Berlin.

The runners-up shouldn't be forgotten: they too have received promising offers and many currently hold prestigious posts. For example, Oksana Lyniv, winner of the Third Prize in 2004, who conducts at Munich's Bayerische Staatsoper. Or Shi Yeon Sung, winner of the Second Prize in 2007 – no First Prize was awarded that year – who was Associate Conductor of the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra from 2009 to 2013, and assisted James Levine at the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 2007 to 2010.

Prize winners and members of the Jury since 2004