The David Oistrakh International Violin Competition winners: Nikita & Sophie shine

Nikita Koller and Sophie Branson, our professional program violin students (both class of Liana Tretiakova), won 2nd and 3rd prize respectively at the X International Violin Competition ‘Astana-Violin’ In Memory of David Oistrakh, which took place in Astana, the capital city of Kazakhstan, earlier this month.

There were only two age groups in the competition: junior (from 10 to 15 years old inclusive) and adult (from 16 to 28 years old inclusive). Fourteen-year-old Nikita won the 2nd prize in the junior group, and Sophie, who is just seventeen, won the 3rd prize in the adult group. We are saying ‘just’ seventeen because Sophie was the youngest violinist in the adult group, and she had to compete with dozens of much older established professional musicians from all over the world.

To give you an idea of the competition level in the adult group, please allow us to mention two other notable contestants. One of them is 24-year-old Sara Dragan, and the other one is 22-year-old Ines Issel Burzynska, both from Poland, and both students of the legendary Professor Bron at the Reina Sofía School of Music in Madrid for more than ten years. They are truly phenomenal, world-class violinists, who are on their way of becoming real stars in the foreseeing future. Sara won the grand prix at the competition and Ines secured the first prize.

The competition program and schedule

The competition program was quite challenging. For example, in the first – qualifying – round, participants of both age groups had to perform: one Paganini caprice, one virtuosic piece, and one piece representing their country. In the junior group, young musicians also had to showcase two movements of a sonata in the Baroque style (for example, by Tartini, Geminiani or Locatelli), and in the adult group – two movements of Bach’s Sonata for Solo Violin.

Thus, many young violinists had to play for 45 minutes in the first round alone, and therefore the jury was working from 09:00 in the morning till 23:00 in the evening – fourteen hours a day! The second tour was the competition final.

The schedule was tight – both for the participants and for the jury:

  • Tuesday: first round (adult group)
  • Wednesday: first round (junior group) & rehearsal with a symphony orchestra (adult group finalists)
  • Thursday: second round with the orchestra (adult group)
  • Friday: second round (junior group)
  • Saturday: award ceremony & prize-winners’ concert

The finalists were announced around 01:00 o’clock after midnight on the day of the first round (for both age groups), and as the next day – starting at 09:00 in the morning – they had to prepare for the final, it was also quite stressful.


At the competition, Nikita performed Tartini’s Sonata (2nd and 3rd movements), Paganini’s Caprice No.9, ‘Gypsy Airs’ by Sarasate and ‘Russian Dance’ by Tchaikovsky – in the first round, and the famous ‘Violin Concerto No.2 in D minor’ by Wieniawski (2nd and 3rd movements) in the final round. Sophie played ‘Chaconne in D minor’ by Bach, Paganini’s Caprice No. 23, Fantasia on Themes from ‘Faust’ by Wieniawski and Bloch’s ‘Nigun’ – in the first round, and the ‘Violin Concerto in D minor’ by Sibelius (all movements) in the final round.

– As the repertoire was large and difficult, and hence the performance requirements were very high, the preparation for the competition was very important to us, – says Liana Tretiakova, the violin teacher of Nikita and Sophie and the school founder. – I’m very glad that both Nikita and Sophie performed wonderfully and adequately represented our school at the international level, and I’m very proud of their achievements!

The competition was organized by the Ministry of Culture and Information of the Republic of Kazakhstan in cooperation with The Republican State Institution ‘Kazakh National University of Arts‘, and was held in Astana from November 6 to 11, 2023.