May 22, 2017

Cello students advance to finals of Queen Elisabeth Competition

UPDATE June 3, 2017: 

Brannon Cho has received sixth prize in the Queen Elisabeth Cello Competition, an award of 8000 euros. 

As an unranked laureate, Sihao He receives a prize of 4000 euros. 

See the full list of winners

Queen Elisabeth Competition finalists
Brannon Cho (first row, third from right) and Sihao He (back row, far right) pose with the 10 other finalists in the Queen Elisabeth Cello Competition.

Watch videos of Brannon's and Sihao's performances

Bienen School cello students Brannon Cho and Sihao He are among the 12 finalists who have advanced in the Queen Elisabeth Cello Competition. The find round of competition will be held May 29 to June 3 at the Brussels Centre for Fine Arts in Belgium.

Brannon Cho

Cho and He, both students of Bienen cello professor Hans Jensen, were among the 70 candidates invited to perform in the inaugural cello competition from a pool of more than 200 applicants. After successful first round recitals, Cho and He advanced to the next stage of the competition among 24 semi-finalists. In addition to a second solo recital, the semi-final round included a concerto performance with the Royal Chamber Orchestra of Wallonia. The jury then named 12 finalists.

Prior to next week’s final round performances, finalists will move to the seclusion of the Queen Elisabeth Music Chapel, where they will have a week to study, without outside assistance, a compulsory work specially composed for the competition. In the final, each competitor will play that piece, as well as a major concerto of their choice accompanied by the Brussels Philharmonic.

A native of New Jersey, Brannon Cho was the only American invited to the semi-finals of competition and will be the only American competing in the finals. Cho will perform Shostakovich’s Concerto n. 1 in E flat major op. 107, on Monday, May 29.

Sihao HeSihao He, a native of Shanghai, will also perform on May 29. He is presenting Schumann’s Concerto in A minor op. 129.

Cho and He’s performances will be streamed live on the Queen Elisabeth Competition website beginning at 1 p.m. CT on May 29. Winners of the competition will be announced on the evening of June 3.

Established in 1937, the Queen Elisabeth Competition is considered one of the most challenging and prestigious competitions for musicians. The organization sponsors piano, violin, composition, voice and cello competitions, and aims to help talented young musicians launch their international careers. This is the first year of the cello competition. 

Competition Videos

Brannon ChoBrannon Cho

Semi-final concerto

Semi-final recital

Final performance

Brannon Cho, from Short Hills, New Jersey, is a senior cello performance student of Hans Jørgen Jensen. In 2016, he was selected as a fellow for the Piatigorsky International Cello Festival and also received a Luminarts Fellowship in Classical Music. Cho has won second prize at the Naumburg International Competition, first prize at the Minnesota Orchestra’s WAMSO competition, third prize at the Gaspar Cassado International Violoncello Competition, first prize at the Johansen International Cello Competition, second prize at the Stulberg International Competition and the National YoungArts Foundation and the grand prize at the ASTA National Solo Competition. He was the highest-ranked American cellist in the 2015 International Tchaikovsky Competition. Cho was selected by the National YoungArts Foundation to be featured in an episode of HBO’s “Joshua Bell: A YoungArts Masterclass.” An avid chamber musician, Cho has performed with Christian Tetzlaff, Gidon Kremer, Joshua Bell, Philip Setzer, Stephen Williamson and Barbara Westphal, among others.

Sihao HeSihao He

Semi-final concerto

Semi-final recital

Final performance

Sihao He, from Shanghai, China, is a first-year master’s student of Hans Jørgen Jensen. As a soloist, He is a winner of many renowned competitions, placing first at the International Antonio Janigro Cello Competition in Croatia in 2006. In 2008, he won first prize at the National Cello Competition for Young Cellists in China, and in 2009, he won fourth prize at the International Tchaikovsky Competition for Young Musicians in South Korea. In 2013, he won the grand prize and first place at the ASTA National Solo Competition in New York City and took the grand prize in the Gaspar Cassado International Violoncello Competition. He has played master classes for Yo-Yo Ma, Laurence Lesser, Gary Hoffman, Frans Helmerson, Myung-Wha Chung, Jian Wang, Andrés Díaz, Enrico Dindo, Richard Aaron, Robert deMaine, Desmond Hoebig, Liwei Qin, Haiyan Ni, the Alban Berg Quartet, Hatto Beyerle, the Tokyo Quartet and Peter Oundjian. He has performed in chamber groups with Joseph Silverstein, Pinchas Zuckerman, Donald Weilerstein, Vivian Hornik Weilerstein, Hsin-Yun Huang and Robert McDuffie. He graduated from the McDuffie Center for Strings, where he studied with Hans Jørgen Jensen and Julie Albers.