15-year-old cellist wins Klein Competition
By Sue Wambolt, Contributing Writer
Westborough – After a vote so close that it required a tiebreaker, 15-year-old cellist Zlatomir Fung claimed first prize at the 29th annual Irving M. Klein International String Competition. The competition, which has earned international recognition as one of the leading string competitions in the world, took place in San Francisco June 5-7. For winning the competition, Fung received prizes valued at $13,000 and the privilege to perform with the Peninsula and Santa Cruz symphonies, Gualala Arts Chamber Music Series, Music in the Vineyards and Noontime Concerts. He also won the $500 Pablo Casals Award for the best performance of the solo Bach work.
The competition was close but, according to competition director Mitchell Sardou Klein, “In the end, the jury believed that Zlatomir digs so deeply into the soul of the music that he’s playing with such amazing intensity, you feel you’re in the presence of one of those performers you encounter only once in a while.”
Among Fung’s competition performances were movements from Alfred Schnittke’s Sonata for Cello and Piano, No. 1; Bach’s Suite No. 6 in D major, BWV 1011; Schumann’s Cello Concerto in A minor, Op. 129; and Mark Volkert’s commissioned work, “Melpomene.”
Fung began playing the cello with the ‘Suzuki Method’ at the age of three. The method is based on listening and imitation, and the way one learns a natural language. In addition to the cello, Fung plays the piano, viola and trumpet. For the past five years, though, he has concentrated solely on the cello.
“Playing the cello makes me feel very fulfilled,” he said. “To me, it is a form of artistic expression.”
Fung is not the only musician in the family. His sister Dessi, 18, plays the violin, sister Kaya, 12, plays the flute and brother Plamen, 8, plays the double bass. They are the children of Maria and Francis Fung.
Fung is currently homeschooled through the Oak Meadow School in Vermont. He studies chamber music, composition and theory at the New England Conservatory Preparatory School and is a student of Richard Aaron. He has also been taught by Ann Grabe, Nancy Hair, Emmanuel Feldman and Julie Albers.
In 2012, Fung won the silver medal at the seventh International Tchaikovsky Competition for Young Musicians in Montreux–Vevey, Switzerland. Then, in 2013, he placed second in the cello division of the 20th International Brahms Competition in Portschach, Austria. Fung has appeared on National Public Radio’s “From the Top” three times and recently played solo recitals in Lisbon and Portugal.
Fung has aspirations to inspire people and “do good in the world” through his music – much like the celebrated cellists who have inspired him.
“Mstislav Rostropovich is my favorite cellist,” he said. “I also admire Jaqueline Du Pre very much. They are both incredible artists, full of great ideas and strong musical integrity.”
Fung said that he would have loved the opportunity to play music with JS Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Debussy and Shostakovich. He added that when playing solo he favors the suites for unaccompanied cello by Bach.
This summer Fung will be performing at the Innsbrook festival in Missouri as well as the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado.
When he is not playing or practicing the cello Fung enjoys reading philosophy, poetry and literature as well as playing chess – he plays online and in the Worcester Chess Club.
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