2021 Concerto Competition winners announced

Apr. 30, 2021 | Students, Awards

The School of Music congratulates this year’s 2021 Concerto Competition winners: pianist Johnathan Devey with Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54, and UVic’s first graduate student in accordion performance, Nikolay Ovchinnikov, performing Galliano’s Petite Suite Française.

Johnathan and Nikolay were two of six finalists in the competition that took place on April 22. Both will perform their winning concertos with the UVic Symphony Orchestra in the 2021-22 concert season.

View Johnathan Devey performing works by Bartók and Debussy in May Ling Kwok’s March 6 studio recital (jump to 32’45 for his performance).

Johnathan Devey

An aspiring concert pianist, Johnathan just completed his second-year at UVic studying piano performance with May Ling Kwok. He’s been studying with Professor Kwok since 2018 through the Victoria Conservatory of Music, so it was a natural transition for him to continue with his “brilliant teacher” at UVic. “I feel that my experiences with professor Kwok and the School of Music’s wonderful faculty are significantly transforming my abilities as a performer,” describes Johnathan.

Born in Tokyo, Johnathan began piano lessons at the early age of 5. Since moving to Victoria, he has immersed himself in music-making at the VCM through piano lessons with Linda Low, chamber music in the Collegium program, and as a frequent soloist with the Senior Strings Orchestra. Not new to competitions, Johnathan has taken home many awards over the years, including prizes in the North Shore Musical Festival in Vancouver and the European International Piano Concours in Japan, as well as the City of Victoria Medallion—the highest award for piano—in the 2019 Greater Victoria Performing Arts Festival. In 2020, he won the BC Registered Music Teachers Association’s piano competition, which took him on a “virtual” tour of the province, and to the Canadian Federation of Music Teacher Associations’ national piano competition this year. In 2022, Johnathan is excited to attend the Mozarteum Summer Academy in Salzburg, Austria under the Strauss Foundation Scholarship.

“He is an exceptional talent, musically gifted and technically endowed with a flair for performance,” says Kwok. With a tremendous passion for music, Johnathan’s playing “shows innate musical understanding with sensitive tonal nuances and solid technique,” describes Kwok.

Johnathan has been working on the Schumann concerto for almost three years. He was drawn to the collaborative nature of the piano part, which he says feels less soloistic and overall, more like chamber music than a concerto. “This balance creates many beautiful moments throughout the piece,” which Johnathan describes as elegant, and very special to him.

If you missed Nikolay Ovchinnikov’s first-year graduate recital on April 6, you can watch it here.

Nikolay Ovchinnikov

Nikolay is touted by UVic accordion instructor, Jelena Milojević, as “one of the best young accordionists of his generation.” Hailing from Russia, Nikolay was drawn to UVic for its accordion program, one of only two offered by universities in North America. A first-year graduate student, Nikolay’s “deep musical sensibility and incredible virtuosity are both exhilarating and inspiring,” says Milojević.

Nikolay has been playing accordion since the age of 6. He studied at the St. Petersburg State Conservatory and has already won many prestigious competitions including: first place in the Trophée Mondial in 2014 (Lithuania) and in 2017, placed third at the Internationaler Akkordeonwettbewerb Klingenthal (Germany), Coupe Mondial and Citta di Castelfidardo (Italy), and Trophee Mondial (France). Despite being in his early twenties, Nikolay has already performed with world-famous jazz musicians such as Chick Corea, David Binney and Simone Zanchini. He has toured as a soloist and with his jazz ensemble “Four ever band,” participating in many international festivals and in 2019, was invited to play in the international exhibition “The New York Times Travel Show” in New York.

Petite Suite Française, composed by the famous French accordionist Richard Galliano, is a 5-movement suite for accordion and chamber orchestra that has only seen rare performances. The suite is inspired by music from the composer’s childhood—including his father’s waltzes—in conjunction with classical and jazz music. With Nikolay’s unique improvising ideas added to the piece, it achieves a “rich, expressive, yet sweet texture that demonstrates the accordion’s full potential,” describes Milojević. “Nikolay’s performance is a real treat for all music lovers,” she adds.