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 May 2010 - Nr. 5

Canada’s leading young Afiara String Quartet and the outstanding Montreal-based pianist Wonny Song, both of whom have won international honors, have added another – the Young Canadian Musicians Award.

The announcement was made Sunday, April 25 at Toronto’s Mooredale Concerts, at the Quartet’s performance for Mooredale Concerts series. This year, the Award comprises $40,000 worth of prizes, including $25,000 cash for the Quartet and $15,000 for the pianist. In addition, the winners may submit career enhancing projects which, if approved, the Young Canadian Musicians Award Foundation will support with additional funds. The Award was presented to the Quartet by pianist Anton Kuerti, artistic director of Mooredale Concerts.

Wonny Song and the Afiara String Quartet will be featured in their first joint performance, as part of Mooredale Concerts’ 2010-11 season, Sunday, October 31, 3:15 p.m. at Walter Hall. Details of the season were also announced, and will be posted at

Potential recipients are recommended by an informal network of musicians across Canada who are well acquainted with outstanding young talent. Winners are then chosen by a panel of eminent musicians – pianist Anton Kuerti, baritone Russell Braun, and Peter Oundjian, music director of the Toronto Symphony. The panel previously included Richard Bradshaw, the late general director of the Canadian Opera Company.

“There is a huge reservoir of amazing Canadian talent,” said Anton Kuerti, “and it was very difficult to choose among the many remarkable artists that were nominated”.

The Young Canadian Musicians Awards were found by Maestro Oundjian’s late father, Haig Oundjian, who died in 2001. A prominent friend and great donor to musical causes, and an enthusiastic amateur pianist, he wanted to help enable the finest young Canadian artists to attain important careers. The first winner was violinist Erica Raum in 1996, followed by such acclaimed soloists as pianist Stewart Goodyear, cellist Yegor Dyachkov, violinists Olivier Thouin and Benjamin Bowman, mezzo-soprano Susan Platts and soprano Frédérique Vézina. All are making excellent careers. This is the first time the Award has gone to a group, and also the first time more than one recipient has been chosen.


The all-Canadian Afiara String Quartet – violinists Valerie Li and Yuri Cho, violist David Samuel, and cellist Adrian Fung – is the graduate resident string quartet at the Juilliard School in New York, where its members serve as teaching assistants to the celebrated Juilliard String Quartet. Formed in 2006, the Quartet named itself from “fiar”, Spanish for “to trust”, and is committed to education, connecting with diverse audiences and sharing music with those less fortunate. All of the players are in their late 20’s and early 30’s.

In 2008, following a top prize at the Munich ARD International Music Competition, the Afiara Quartet won the Concert Artists Guild Competition in New York. The San Francisco Classical Voice calls the Afiara Quartet “a terrifically unified, versatile, and moving ensemble” with “startling intensity.” The same season included performances all over North America, from New York’s Chautauqua Institution to the San Jose Chamber Music Society, Calgary’s Pro Musica Series, the Banff Centre and the Montreal and Ottawa Chamber Music Festivals.

In this season’s schedule are concerts at the Library of Congress, Alice Tully Hall, Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, the Banff Centre, the New School, and Purdue University. The Quartet also began a visiting residency at the Royal Conservatory’s Glenn Gould School, and has just released its debut CD, featuring works by Mendelssohn and Schubert.

Home towns:
Violinist Valerie Li is originally from Vancouver, violinist Yuri Cho from Edmonton, violist David Samuel from Guelph, ON, and cellist Adrian Fung from Mississauga, ON.


“A versatile, intelligent, and deeply musical young pianist”, according to the Washington Post, Wonny Song, who is in his early 30s, has many awards to his credit, and has performed with leading orchestras and at major Canadian festivals as well as in the U.S. and in East Asia.

Born in South Korea and raised in Montreal, Song began piano studies at age eight, and received a full scholarship to Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music in 1994. After earning a Bachelor’s degree from the Université de Montréal in 1998, he continued his studies at the Glenn Gould Professional School with Marc Durand and completed his doctoral studies with Lydia Artymiw at the University of Minnesota in 2004.

Among his many awards are the 2005 Young Concert Artists International Auditions (New York), the 2003 Prix d’Europe in Canada (which presented him in recital throughout Canada, France, Italy and Sweden), First Prize and Best Artistic Interpretation Prize at the 1995 Montreal Symphony Piano Competition, and a Gold Medal at the 1994 World Piano Competition in Cincinnati.

Song gave a solo recital as Canada’s musical ambassador to the 1993 World Expo in Korea and a 1998 performance in Bangkok at the closing ceremony of the Asian Olympic Games. He returned to Korea in 2005 to perform in the opening concert of Seoul’s new Chungmu Art Hall.

His debut CD, featuring Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition and Rachmaninoff’s Variations on a Theme of Corelli, was released on XXI-21 Records and has sold very well in Canada.

The subject of a cover story in the February issue of La Scena Musicale, Mr. Song is also grooming the next generation of concert pianists in Montreal as associate director of the Lambda School of Music and Fine Arts.

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