Wu Yao-yu (吳曜宇) was awarded the title of best conductor on Saturday at the International Competition for Young Conductors in Besancon, France, where his performance earned him the adulation of the judges, the audience and the orchestra.
The 24-year-old graduate student at Taipei National University of the Arts not only won the event’s top prize, but also two other awards for being the public’s and the orchestra’s favorite competitor.
“Is this for real?” Wu said in an interview with the Central News Agency following the award ceremony.
In the final round of the event, Wu faced off against Hungary’s Huba Hollokoi, 32, and Kiril Stankow, 30, of Germany. The three finalists had been selected from 296 candidates hailing from 46 countries.
Wu secured the best conductor prize after leading the Orchestre National de Lorraine in a program of three pieces: the first movement of the Concerto for Violin and Orchestra by Johannes Brahms, with soloist Olivier Charlier; Concert Suite for Orchestra No. 2 from The Firebird by Igor Stravinsky; and Musubi II by Misato Mochizuki, resident composer at the festival this year.
“There is still a lot left for me to learn,” he said, despite receiving a triple affirmation of his talent with the brace of awards, adding that some jury members said he lacked attention to style.
With his victory at the competition, the young conductor has earned the opportunity to work with several orchestras around the world, including the Frankfurt Radio Symphony, the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra and the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia.
He also won 12,000 euros (US$16,000) in prize money and a watch from Swiss watchmaker Breitling.
The youngest of this year’s three finalists, Wu is the second Taiwanese competitor to win the contest since it was launched in 1951.
He follows Lu Shao-chia (呂紹嘉), musical director of Taiwan’s National Symphony Orchestra, who won the competition in 1988.
The prestigious event was held yearly until 1993, before it was change to a biannual competition.
Notable past winners of the competition include Japan’s Seiji Ozawa, music director laureate of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and Czech Zdenek Macal, a former chief conductor of the Czech Philharmonic.
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), Vice President Wu Den-yih (吳敦義), Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lin (林永樂) and Minister of Culture Lung Ying-tai (龍應台) have sent their congratulations to Wu.