Soprano Samantha Crawford has been awarded a Golden Medal with Honors in the First Berliner International Music Competition. The singer heads a series of Australian musicians who have achieved success in international competitions this month. The Berliner International Music Competition, in its first year, is judged by video submissions and awards prizes in three categories, Piano, Strings and Voice.

The Grand Prize Winners, who each received 2,500 Euros, were Sergey Sobolev in the Piano Category, violinist Haik Kazazyan in the Strings Category and tenor Sunghyun Kim in the Voice Category, with soprano Beatriz Díaz winning a recording deal with Orpheus Classical.

Soprano Samantha CrawfordSoprano Samantha Crawford. Photo © Jeremy Hosking

Crawford topped the Golden Medal winners in the Voice section as the only singer to be awarded Honors. Her competition success has been “wonderful and encouraging,” Crawford told Limelight. “I worked hard on the repertoire I chose and am thrilled to have such an esteemed jury award me the Golden Medal with Honors. There are so many elements of a competition you do not control, that I wanted to just pour my heart out when it came to finally the performing the arias. I feel very grateful to have won this award.”

Crawford sang two arias from operas by Tchaikovsky, Tatyana’s Letter Scene from Eugene Onegin and Lisa’s third act aria Akh, istomilas ya gorem, from Pique Dame, as well as Schmerzen from Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder.

“Singing this music is a labour of love for me,” she said. “Continually gaining new insight whilst refining my technique means there is no end to new discoveries in the music and text. Interpreting part of Lisa and Tatyana’s stories is simultaneously wonderful and challenging as they are two totally different women, grappling with the consequences of falling for men who fail them. The Letter Scene is full of hope, excitement and trepidation, whereas Lisa feels utterly crushed and remorseful. Performing these arias lots has helped prepare me for the roles, which I would love to sing soon.”

“I am a huge fan of Wagner, Strauss and lieder,” explained Crawford. “Choosing the Wesendonck Lieder was a way for me to show my voice’s suitability for some Wagner roles in the future, and take time to study the style needed for this repertoire. I have been really fortunate in this area, with guidance from Sir John Tomlinson and Dame Anne Evans since winning the Wagner Society Singing Competition, a few months before I entered the Berliner International Music Competition. It has also been joy to learn these songs along side Strauss’ Vier letzte Lieder, which I’ve also been performing in concert recently.”

And what does the award mean for Crawford’s career moving forward? “Opportunities and more hard work! Competitions are a great platforms for artists to gain wider recognition in the classical music sphere,” she says. “My desire is to perform many more challenging opera roles in the leading opera houses of the world. New countries and new collaborations are something to look forward to as my engagements take me from country to country. I wish to surround myself with excellence and learn from those at the top of the industry.”

“I love working at the theatre and playing my part in bringing a story to life,” Crawford explains. “I would like my career to span as many years as possible, which means listening to those who made a success of their careers before me. This takes care, dedication, focus, humility, passion and a decent sense of humour to carry it off! Yvonne Kenny AM has been my teacher for many years, and always offers sound advice.”

“In the coming years it would be wonderful to perform the Tchaikovsky roles mentioned above, and some other favourites like Elsa, Eva, Elettra (Mozart), Arabella, Marschallin, Kat’ya and Jenůfa. My hope is that the award takes my career in this direction.”

Benett Tsai, cellistCellist Benett Tsai

Crawford wasn’t the only Australian honoured, with rising star cellist Benett Tsai – who is in year eight at high school and last year became the youngest ever winner of the Fine Music Network Young Virtuoso Award – taking out one of four Young Virtuoso Awards at the Berlin competition.

Chinese pianist Moye Chen, whom Australian audiences will remember from his success in the 2016 Sydney International Piano Competition (and who has been subsequently signed to Deutsche Grammophon), was also awarded a Golden Medal in the piano section.

Nor were Crawford and Tsai the only Australians to achieve competition success in Europe this month. Trombonist and Australian Youth Orchestra alumnus Colin Prichard won first prize in the International Trombone Competition of Alsace in France while cellist Wang Guillaume took out third prize in the 2017 ProArt International Cello Competition in the Ukraine.