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A winner is announced for the 2020 Lillian and Maurice Barbash J.S. Bach Competition

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Cellist Maxime Quennesson has won First Prize in the second annual Lillian and Maurice Barbash J.S. Bach Competition for strings.

Quennesson was one of five finalists who advanced from a field of over 130 entrants from across the globe.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s competition was held online and streamed on the Violin Channel. 

Quennesson’s stunning performance of Bach’s Suite No. 5 in C minor BWV 1011 earned him an award of $5,000, and a solo performance at the Island Symphony Bach Festival (date to be announced), which will be held at St. Peter’s By-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Bay Shore,.

A student of Gary Hoffman and artist-in-residence at the Queen Elisabeth Chapel in Belgium since 2019, Quennesson was born in Orsay, France, and began studying the cello at age 6. His previous major teachers were Hélène Dautry, Michel Strauss and Guillaume Paolettei.

Quennesson is the winner of many international competitions, among them the Louis Rosoor, Woluwe-Saint-Pierre, Flame, and the Bellan.

He and his Trio Zeliha were artists-in-residence at the international piano festival La Roque dʼAnthéron 2019.

The trio’s debut album has just been released on the Mirare label.

Acclaimed pianist Menahem Pressler described the playing of Quennesson and his Trio Zeliha, as “exceptional, not only for its exquisite musicality, but also for the total commitment and technical qualities.”

Quennesson has performed as a soloist with the Ensemble Appassionato, Orchestre du Concert de la Loge, Stuttgart Kammerorchester and in recital at the Festival Radio France Montpellier-Occitanie, and the Amsterdam Cello Biennale. He plays a cello made by Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume (1863), on loan from an anonymous donor.

“From the first notes I heard Maxime play, I was aware of a distinct musical voice, always interesting and full of ideas,” jurist Colin Carr said. “That is more important for me than the fact that his sound is beautiful and his intonation flawless, which they are.”

“I truly appreciate the incredible opportunity that, in these troubled times, people like the Barbash family are mobilizing to bring music to life and create a place for young artists to exist,” Quennesson said. “Bach’s music is everlasting, sincere, and deeply comforting. I feel extremely grateful, and very positively surprised to win this competition.”

The Second prize award of $1,000 went to violinist Claire Bourg, who performed Bach’s Partita No. 3 in E major, BWV 1006.

A native of Chicago, Bourg is currently pursuing an artist diploma from the Curtis Institute of Music, studying with Pamela Frank and Arnold Steinhardt. She has a bachelor’s degree from the New England Conservatory, where she studied with Miriam Fried.

Bourg has soloed with orchestras in such venues as Chicago’s Orchestra Hall and the Pritzker Pavilion, and Jordan Hall in Boston. As a laureate of many competitions, she has appeared on NPR and Chicago’s WFMT.

She has collaborated in chamber music performances across the United States and Europe in festivals such as Ravinia, Taos School of Music, and the Gstaadt Menuhin Festival Academy, where she performed with Kim Kashkashian, Peter Frankl, Jorg Widmann, and Frans Helmerson, among others. Upcoming highlights for next season include participation in the Marlboro School of Music.

Lillian and Maurice Barbash J.S. Bach Competition was established by siblings Cathy, Susan, and Shepard Barbash to honor their parents for their lifelong support of the arts.

The annual competition is for string players age 16-30 who are required to perform any piece composed by J. S. Bach for unaccompanied string instrument. 

The illustrious jurors for the second annual Lillian and Maurice Barbash J.S. Bach Competition were cellist Colin Carr, and violinist, Philip Setzer, both faculty members of the Stony Brook University Department of Music; violinists, Stanley Ritchie, and Stephanie Chase and cellist, Tanya Tomkins. 

“Many thanks to the Barbash siblings for establishing this competition and migrating it online,” said Philip Setzer, a compeition juror and member of the acclaimed Emerson String Quartet added, “no small feat, but an act of love–for the music of J.S. Bach, for the great young talent who participated in the competition, and with loving remembrance of their parents, Lillian and Maurice Barbash.”