Winners include 16-year-old Vaud musical prodigy Mélodie Zhao
LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND – The Leenaards Foundation has given CHF500,000 in prizes and scholarships to encourage artists in the region. One of the winners is 16-year-old Mélodie Zhao of Saint Prex, who last summer became the youngest ever person to receive a master’s degree in music from the Geneva Conservatory.
She will use her CHF50,000 scholarship to pursue private studies with Pascal Devoyon and other renowned professors around the world. Zhao began playing piano at age 3, gave her first concert at age 5 and began performing with orchestras at age 9. She will join post-graduate piano classes at the University of Arts in Berlin and post-grad classes in orchestra conducting, in Geneva in addition to training with mentors such as Devoyon.
The foundation was created in 1980 by a Belgian couple, Antoine and Rosy Leenaards, who made their fortune then retired to Switzerland. Their only son and heir died at age 58 and the couple created the foundation in his memory with CHF230,000. By the time Antoine died 15 years later he left a fortune worth CHF325 million to the foundation, which annually gives awards to encourage the cultural life of the region.
Three prizes worth CHF30,000 each, in recognition of a career, were given Tuesday evening to:Jacqueline Veuve, filmmaker, André Corboz, architectural and urban historian, and Jean Scheurer, painter.
Eight scholarships worth CHF50,000 each were awarded to young people at a crucial point at the start of their careers, to help them continue developing. This year’s winners, in addition to Zhao:
Antoinette Dennefeld, mezzo-soprano, Douna Loup, writer, Sylvie Neeman Romascano, writer and editor, Mélodie Zhao, pianist, Frédéric Cordier, artist, Guy-François Leuenberger, pianist-composer, Michael Rampa, painter and Adrien Rovero, industrial designer.
Zhao is young, but she has already made a name for herself; her most recent concert at Victoria Hall in Geneva 12 October in commemoration of the 200th birthday of Liszt, was sold out and she has recently completed a new recording, her second: Douze Etudes d’exécution transcendante de Liszt (Claves label). Her first recording at age 13: the 24 Etudes de Chopin. The Leenaards Foundation notes that her new “interprétation is recognized for its perfect virtuosity and profound musicality”.
Background, “Prodigy M Zhao gives rare Chopin complete Etudes concert”, GenevaLunch 28 February 2010