History of the Violin Competition

The International Jean Sibelius Violin Competition is one of the most prestigious music competitions in the world. Since 1969 it has been a member of the World Federation of International Music Competitions. The Sibelius Violin Concerto was, of course, one of the main reasons for holding the first competition in 1965. The most recent competition, the eleventh, was held in Helsinki from November 22nd to December 3rd, 2015.

The Sibelius Society of Finland launched the competition in 1965, in connection with the 100th anniversary of Sibelius’ birth. The organization of the competition at the outset was impressive. An Honorary Committee was established, and a large number of distinguished musicians agreed to become members. Among them were Sir John Barbirolli, Herbert von Karajan, Yehudi Menuhin, David Oistrakh, Eugene Ormandy, Igor Stravinsky and Henryk Szeryng. The honour of chairing the Committee naturally fell to Aino Sibelius.

Since 1965 the competition – without an Honorary Committee – has been held every five years. Young violinists from all over the world who have not yet reached their 30th birthday have been able to demonstrate their musical talents and compete with one another. The number of applicants set a new record in 2015 with 234; of these, 45 were selected for the competition in Helsinki.The competitors play both optional and obligatory repertoire. The finalists play the Sibelius Violin Concerto and one other violin concerto with the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra or the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra.

The members of the Jury have always been internationally well-established violinists and violin teachers, whereas the Chairmen have all, thus far, been Finnish: Tauno Hannikainen, Joonas Kokkonen, Tuomas Haapanen, Aulis Sallinen, Mikko Heiniö and Jukka-Pekka Saraste. The artistic importance of the competition lies in its potential for discovering new talent and nurturing young artists in their careers. The competition is now organised jointly by the Sibelius Society of Finland and the Sibelius Academy. 


Photo: © Lehtikuva