International Violin Making Competitions and Their Evaluation Criteria


The violin, a musical instrument with a history of over 500 years, holds a significant place in both classical and contemporary music. Over time, not only have numerous virtuoso violinists emerged, but a substantial number of accomplished violin makers have also risen to prominence.

For the younger generation of luthiers, participating in violin making competitions is an excellent opportunity to showcase their skills. Winning such a competition can greatly enhance a luthier's reputation and career prospects. Here, we provide an overview of the most important international violin making competitions, including the participation methods and evaluation criteria.

International Violin Making Competitions:

International Triennale Violin Making Competition, Cremona

Held since 1976, the International Triennale in Cremona is the most prestigious among all international violin making competitions. Cremona, the birthplace of violin making, continues to host this event every three years in September-October. Luthiers from around the world present their instruments to a panel consisting of five violin making experts and five musicians. Participants can submit up to two instruments in categories including violin, viola, cello, and double bass. The instruments must have been made within the past three years, must not be artificially aged, and must adhere to traditional design standards.

International Violin Making Competition, Mittenwald

Located in a small town in an Alpine valley near Munich, Germany, the Mittenwald International Violin Making Competition has been held every four years since June 1989. Unlike the Cremona competition, the twelve-member jury here not only evaluates violins, violas, and cellos but also assesses the making process. Entries must be completed within the previous two years and must meet traditional craftsmanship standards. Each participant may submit up to three different instruments in various categories.

International Violin Making Competition, Luby

Luby, a traditional violin making town in the Czech Republic, has hosted its International Violin Making Competition since 2005, following the relocation of its violin making school to Cheb. This competition stands out as it allows luthiers to submit instruments based on replicas of Stradivari or Guarneri models. Additionally, participants can present ongoing works as part of a two-day public workshop. Another competition, held in Luby in 2012, included categories for violins, concert guitars, and classical guitars.

Henryk Wieniawski International Violin Making Competition, Poland

First held in 1957, the Wieniawski Competition, dedicated exclusively to violins, is one of the oldest of its kind. Organized approximately every five years by the Henryk Wieniawski Musical Society, it enjoys international acclaim akin to the Wieniawski Violin Competition. The rules and evaluation standards are similar to those of the Cremona Triennale. Three top instruments receive monetary awards, with the 13th Wieniawski Competition held in May 2016, chaired by Roger Hargrave.

BVMA International Violin and Bow Making Competition, London

The BVMA (British Violin Making Association) International Violin and Bow Making Competition was first held in London in 2004, as part of the Royal Academy of Music’s "Genius of the Violin" festival. Over 350 violins and bows are judged on their tonal quality and craftsmanship. The BVMA competition is one of the many initiatives by the British Violin Making Association, established in 1995, to support continued education and idea-sharing among its members. Each jury member awards their own prize, and modern and replica instruments can both be submitted.

Concours Etienne Vatelot, Paris

The Concours Vatelot, an important international violin making competition, emphasizes showcasing the best examples of contemporary hand-crafted violins. Held in 1991, 1999, 2004, and 2011, it features evaluations by a jury of five violin making experts. The competition covers violins, violas, cellos, double basses, and corresponding bows, judged on style maturity, craftsmanship, and sound quality. Each category awards only one grand prize, with honorable mention certificates for second place. Participants may submit up to two instruments.

International Violin Making Competition, Pisogne

Unique for its focus on antique instruments and replicas, this competition in Pisogne, Lombardy, has been held five times since 2014. It is open to both amateur violin makers and students of craftsmanship. The judging is conducted in three rounds, assessing acoustic, technical, and artistic qualities.

China International Violin and Bow Making Competition, Beijing

In recent years, China's influence in the violin manufacturing industry has grown significantly, as exemplified by the two editions of the China International Violin Making Competition held in Beijing in 2010 and 2013. Especially the 2013 competition, which received wide acclaim, featured extensive participation and attracted 18 judges who evaluated violins, violas, cellos, and bows for traditional design adherence, craftsmanship, artistic expression, and tonal quality. Participants may submit up to two instruments or four bows.

Strad Cello Making Competition, Manchester

The Strad competition, part of the Royal Northern College of Music’s International Cello Festival, has been held biennially in Manchester since 1988. Founded by American cellist Ralph Kirshbaum, who served as artistic director until 2007, this competition allows cello and bow makers from around the world to present their works to an expert jury.

International Violin Making Competition, Moscow

As a fifth segment of the legendary International Tchaikovsky Competition, the violin making contest "Violin: Soul and Shape" has been held in Moscow every four years since 1990. It takes place before the main competition, allowing participants to submit classical violins, violas, cellos, and bows that conform to typical design guidelines, as well as replicas of historical instruments and bows. It also includes a "free form" category for instruments not restricted by shape, material, or color, encompassing both acoustic and electronic instruments. The best three entries receive medals, and special diplomas may also be awarded. There is no age limit for the submitted works.

VSA Violin Making Competition, USA

The Violin Society of America's (VSA) Violin Making Competition, held annually since 1973, is the most frequently occurring event of its kind in the world. The competition, which enjoys an international reputation, takes place each summer at different venues across the United States. Individual violin works and corresponding bows can be submitted for evaluation, and an entire set of four different instruments (allowing for collaborative creation) can also be presented. Multiple gold medals may be awarded if the jury reaches a unanimous decision. Evaluation criteria include artistic value, craftsmanship, and tonal quality.

Each of these competitions provides a platform for luthiers to gain recognition and showcase their expertise in the fine art of violin making, contributing to the preservation and evolution of this storied craft.

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