Back to all news stories

Exhibitions and Events

$100K grand prize winner announced at 2nd annual M-Prize competition

By Sydney Hawkins

Photo by Lon Horwedel, Michigan Photography.

ANN ARBOR—After two days of semifinals and finals concerts at the University of Michigan, Russian Renaissance has won the $100,000 M-Prize, for the second annual chamber arts competition hosted by the U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance.

The announcement was made Thursday night at Hill Auditorium after the grand prize gala competition, which also featured senior strings division winner, the Argus Quartet and senior winds division winner the Donald Sinta Quartet.

Russian Renaissance, an ensemble from Moscow that presents “high calibre traditional folk music through a modern lens,” debuted in October 2015, performing with world-renowned director Emir Kusturica, two-time laureate of the Cannes Film Festival and the No Smoking Orchestra.

Since then, the quartet—which includes members Ivan Kuznetsov (balalaika), Anastasia Zakharova (domra), Aleksandr Tarasov (button-accordion) and Ivan Vinogradov (balalaika-contrabasso)—have won many prestigious awards in international music competitions. They have performed in Tchaikovsky Concert Hall and Gnesins’ Academy Concert Hall in Moscow; Yota Space concert hub in St. Petersburg; and the Youth Theatre in Rostov-on-Don.

As part of the prize package, Russian Renaissance will also be presented by U-M’s University Musical Society in their chamber arts concert series next season and will be included in upcoming season programming for Interlochen Presents and University of Florida Performing Arts.  

Each of the top three Senior First Place Laureates will be invited back to the U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance for a residency during the 2017-18 academic year. Additional awards are provided in partnership with Great Lakes Performing Artist Associates, Azica Records and Chamber Music America.  

The event was created by SMTD Dean Aaron Dworkin in 2016 with the aim of identifying and showcasing the highest caliber of chamber music talent in the world. It received applications representing 41 countries and 60 performing arts institutions. Twenty-nine ensembles, comprising 112 artists from 7 countries, participated in the semifinal and final rounds May 2-3 at U-M.

This year’s M-Prize brings new additions: recently appointed artistic director Matt Albert, founding violinist/violist of the groundbreaking ensemble Eighth Blackbird and chair of SMTD’s new Department of Chamber Music; an interview round for first place Laureates (senior division winners) to present and advocate for their ensemble’s curatorial vision; and an increased prize pool.

“We were incredibly impressed with the talent presented at this year’s competition,” said Albert.”Russian Renaissance is an exceptional example of the blend of excellence and vision that M-Prize strives to identify in its laureates. We look forward to their return to Ann Arbor next year.”

The international jury includes former New York Philharmonic concertmaster Rodney Friend, Juilliard String Quartet cellist Astrid Schween, Swiss saxophonist Lars Mlekusch, renowned flautist Carol Wincenc, multigenre cellist Jeffrey Zeigler and Grammy Award-winning soprano Dawn Upshaw.

M-Prize is sponsored by U-M’s Office of the Provost and received additional support from an anonymous donor. The goals of the competition are to provide a world-class performance and adjudication platform for chamber arts; to launch and advance the careers of chamber ensembles through prizes, visibility and professional development opportunities; and to evolve the breadth and depth of the chamber arts landscape and associated professional opportunities for exceptional ensembles.

Including the grand prize, which was awarded to The Calidore String Quartet last year, more than $200K in prize money was distributed among the top three winners in three different categories—strings, woodwinds and “open”—in Junior (ages 18 and under) and Senior (ages 19-35) divisions. The “open” category can feature any instrumentation, including percussion, voice or technology, and music that contains a significant amount of improvisation f such as jazz, bluegrass and world music.

M-Prize Finals winners:

Junior Strings

  • First prize, $5,000: Astera String Quartet (Chicago)
  • Second prize, $3,000: Vieira String Quartet (Chicago)
  • Third prize, $2,000: Invictus Piano Quartet (Gurnee, Ill.; Battle Creek, Mich.; Fishers, Ind.)

Junior Winds

  • First prize, $5,000: KGT Trio (Chicago)
  • Second prize, $3,000: The Bone Rangers (Chicago)
  • Third prize, $2,000: Zephyrus Winds (Chicago)

Senior Strings

  • First prize, $20,000: Argus Quartet (New Haven, Conn.)
  • Second prize, $8,000:Vera Quartet (Bloomington, Ind.)
  • Third prize, $5,000: Stratos Quartet (Vienna, Austria)

Senior Winds

  • First prize, $20,000: Donald Sinta Quartet (Allendale, Mich.; Ann Arbor, Mich.; Columbus, Ga.)
  • Second prize, $8,000: Keuris Quartet (Paris, France; Amsterdam,The Netherlands)
  • Third prize, $5,000: Signum Saxophone Quartet (Bonn, Düsseldorf and Cologne, Germany)

Senior Open

  • First prize, $20,000: Russian Renaissance (Moscow, Russia)
  • Second prize, $8,000: The Living Earth Show (San Francisco)
  • Third prize, $5,000: Avido Duo (Vienna, Austria)

Senior Grand Prize

  • Winner, $100,000: Russian Renaissance (prize money includes $20,000 from First Prize in Senior Open division)

Continue Reading