The Viano Quartet’s Osaka Whirlwind

The Viano Quartet outside the iconic Osaka Castle. They took home the bronze from the Ninth Osaka International Chamber Competition &​ Festa.

My name is Lucy Wang, and I am a violinist and rising senior at the Colburn Conservatory of Music. I recently went to Japan with my peers in the Viano String Quartet (Hao Zhou, Tate Zawadiuk, and Johanna Nowik) for the Ninth Osaka International Chamber Competition &​ Festa, and after a whirlwind two weeks, we received bronze.

The Osaka International Competition &​ Festa consists of the Competition, for string quartets and wind ensembles, and the Festa, for ensembles of any genre and combination of instruments. It is open to rising and established ensembles from all over the world. After a prescreening round, a select number of groups are chosen to compete in Osaka. The string quartet competition has four different rounds, with three groups chosen to advance to the final round. Each quartet must prepare seven full works, including one mandatory commissioned work.

For me, one of the most wonderful aspects of participating in this competition was meeting many of the talented musicians and individuals from all over the world who were there with us. We are very grateful to the Competition for this fantastic opportunity and for their incredible support of the arts.

We arrived in Osaka on the night of May 11, after a 13-hour flight, and took the train to Osaka Station, where our hotel was located. The station is part of a huge complex called Osaka Station City, which also consists of department store buildings, restaurants, and our hotel, the Granvia Hotel Osaka.

The following morning, upon arriving at Izumi Hall for our soundcheck, I was immediately struck by how beautiful it was. I remember the echo of our footsteps as we walked onto the stage and the many golden chandeliers that hung from the ceiling catching my eye.

The first round took place the next day, for which we performed the Haydn Quartet Op. 76 No. 5, and the Ravel String Quartet. As I stepped onto the stage once again, I suddenly realized that we were finally about to perform what we had worked hard on for months. I was shocked because the hall that seemed warm and inviting the previous day now felt tense and unforgiving as I suddenly became hyper-aware of every note I played. Nevertheless, we were comforted by the fact that many of our family and friends were cheering us on while watching the livestream videos.

We were finally able to meet the rest of the string quartets that night during the results announcement. It was intimidating at first, because many of the members were mature and well into their professional years, but they were all so friendly and approachable.

For the second round, we performed Mendelssohn Quartet Op. 44 No. 3 and Bartok Quartet No. 4, and for the third round, our repertoire was Nishimura Quartet No. 5 “Shesha” and Dvorak Quartet No. 14. Later, we were informed that Akira Nishimura, the composer of the mandatory commissioned work, was present at the 3rd round, but we unfortunately did not get a chance to meet him.

Each successive time we walked on stage, we became more comfortable with the setting, but at the same time, the stakes continuously rose as we made it further in the competition. The results announcements were especially nerve-wracking and tense, as we anxiously waited to find out which groups would advance. When I heard our name among the three groups selected for the final round, I remember very clearly that I sat frozen in my seat, unable to believe my ears. The pent-up stress and pressure suddenly left me—in my mind, we had already won.

Three days later, we performed Schubert’s String Quartet No. 15 for the final round, and I was finally able to enjoy myself in that gorgeous hall. To be able to play this massive work was exhilarating, and it was very satisfying to have had the chance to perform all seven quartets that we prepared.

We are so happy for the Aizuri and Ulysses Quartets for their 1st and 2nd prizes–they are wonderful people and musicians, and the prizes were absolutely well deserved. Upon receiving our bronze medals on the Izumi Hall stage at the televised awards ceremony, we felt honored to share the stage with them.

Preparing for this competition was a journey that required a lot of time and energy, and we have many people to thank. To Mr. Greensmith, our coach, thank you for your patience, your time, your passion, and all your help! To Mr. Beaver, Mr. Coletti, Mr. Leonard, Mr. Steinhardt, Mr. Bidini, and the wonderful faculty of Colburn, thank you for teaching and inspiring us. To Laura, Kerry, Lizzy, and Josh of the Career Development Center, thank you for always being so welcoming and helpful. To Karen Berry, thank you for your hospitality, for giving us the opportunity to perform and be inspired by all the schoolchildren for whom we played. To Mr. Kapilow, thank you for helping us realize what we want to show through our music. To the Osaka Competition and JTB, thank you and your friendly and efficient staff for this amazing opportunity. ありがとうございます! Thank you to Ethan, Chandler, Joachim, and Victor for listening to our rehearsals, and to Edoardo and Luca for helping us record all those late nights! To all of our friends and family who have tirelessly supported us and cheered us on and watched those long chamber forums, we are so grateful.

Japan almost feels like a dream. Now back home in Vancouver, Canada, it feels like an adventure has ended, but I know that this was only the beginning. I can’t wait for the next one!