• Kyodo

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A 16-year-old Japanese violinist took first place in a prestigious international violin competition held in Paris, while another Japanese teen finished third, the competition’s jury announced Saturday.

Akiko Yamada, and Kyoko Yonemoto, 18, both from Tokyo, were awarded the Premier Grand Prix and third place, respectively. They competed in the violin division of the International Marguerite Long and Jacques Thibaud Competition, a major event for young pianists and violinists.

Yamada is the first Japanese violinist to win the Premier Grand Prix in the competition since Daishin Kashimoto in 1996, according to the secretariat of the competition. She became the youngest-ever winner in the competition’s violin division.

Yamada, who now lives in Paris, said she was delighted to win the contest and that she never thought she could do so.

She started violin lessons under her mother, Reiko, at age 3. At 7 she entered the Conservatoire Superieur of Paris (CNR), where she moved with her parents after her father was transferred there by his employer.

In 1999, she graduated from the CNR at the top of her class.

She entered the Conservatoire National Superieur de Paris in February 2000 at age 13, becoming the youngest student ever to enter the conservatory.

In October that year, Yamada won first prize at the International Violin Competition of Avignon, and she was awarded First Great Prize at the 14th International Concours Georges Pretre in Douai in March 2001. In January 2002, she received second place at the eighth International Mozart Competition in Salzburg.

“Still, I have a lot of things to learn. I will continue to do my best,” Yamada said.

At the competition in Paris, Yamada played Beethoven’s Concerto, with members of the jury saying her musicality, with abundant powers of expression and sophisticated technique, was a sensation among the audience.

Yonemoto played Paganini’s Concerto No. 1 in the final recital.

The contest was established in 1943 by two renowned musicians, pianist Marguerite Long and violinist Jacques Thibaud.

The piano and violin competitions come within the framework of a three-year cycle. The piano competition is held the first year, followed by the violin competition the next year. The cycle culminates in a third-year gala intended to bring the young prize winners to public notice.

This year, 136 young violinists from 28 countries — including 18 Japanese — took part in the contest.

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