Dmitry Matvienko from Belarus wins the Malko Competition 2021

Dmitry Matvienko won both the audience prize and the coveted first prize in the Danish National Symphony Orchestra’s international Malko Competition which was broadcast worldwide from DR Koncerthuset.

  • Dmitry Matvienko from Belarus is the winner of this year's Malko Competition. (Foto: Agnete Schlichtkrull)
  • The 30 year old belarusian secured the victory after a weeklong conducting competition in DR Koncerthuset. (Foto: Agnete Schlichtkrull)
  • Second prize in the 2021 Malko Competition went to Linhan Cui from China. (Foto: Agnete Schlichtkrull)
  • Third prize in the 2021 Malko Competition went to Chloé Dufresne from France. (Foto: Agnete Schlichtkrull)
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There was grand-scale Russian music on the programme when the Danish National Symphony Orchestra played the finale concert of the Malko Competition, which since 1965 has enticed conductors from all over the world to flock to Copenhagen every third year.

The evening’s repertoire were three symphonies by Tchaikovsky when the three finalists from China, France and Belarus sought to win one of the world’s most coveted prizes for conducting. And the winner of the first prize, Dmitry Matvienko, is an expert in precisely the Russian repertoire.

Russian models

Dmitry Matvienko was born and grew up in Minsk in Belarus, but he studied under some of the great Russian conductors in Moscow. Among his mentors are such well-known names as Vasily Petrenko and Gennady Rozhdestvensky, and he was connected to both the Russian National Philharmonic and the Svetlanov Philharmonic before being appointed conductor of the Belarus National Opera and Ballet in 2020.

During this year’s Malko Competition, Dmitry Matvienko has – among other things – impressed the jury with his interpretation of Stravinsky’s ballet music for ‘The Firebird’, and he says this about his musical background:

- I do not come from a musical family. But when I sat in my grandmother's lap and sang folk songs, she noticed that I was musical. This started my interest in music, and today I cannot conceive of doing anything else than conducting.

Prospect of an international career

With his victory in the Malko Competition, the 30-year-old Dmitry Matvienko has not only won the coveted prize sum of €20,000. He has also gained conducting contracts with 24 leading international symphony orchestras and a three-year period with the Danish National Symphony Orchestra’s chief conductor Fabio Luisi as his personal mentor.

- Winning the Malko Competition is bound to change my life and my career. But the most important thing for me is to have been allowed to conduct an orchestra like the Danish National Symphony Orchestra. It has been a fantastic experience to meet the musicians and work together with them, so I am very happy that part of the first prize is to have the opportunity to conduct more excellent orchestras in the years ahead, Dmitri Matvienko says.

The Malko legacy

With his Russian schooling and his feeling for the Russian repertoire, Dmitry Matvienko is a highly natural winner of the Malko Competition. For it gets its name from the conductor Nicolai Malko, who brought Russian music to orchestras throughout Western Europe in the 1950s.

Nicolai Malko was the man who gave the Danish National Symphony Orchestra its special relationship to the major Russian composers, something which has developed right up to the present day, with the orchestra still having many Russian guest artists and cultivating the Russian repertoire.

A competition with obstacles

Kim Bohr, who is Head of DR Koncerthuset, has every reason to be extra-satisfied after this year’s Malko Competition. For there has been a whole series of corona-related obstacles connected with the implementation of the competition - both for the Danish National Symphony Orchestra and for the young participating candidates.

- We are particularly happy that we succeeded in carrying out the Malko Competition this year. There is no doubt that the young generation of artists has been especially hard-hit by the blackout in cultural life during this corona period, so there has been even more at stake for our Malko participants. With a branch that is under considerable pressure and where there is an extra-hard struggle to get jobs and engagements, a competition can be the only real chance of making an artistic breakthrough.

Kim Bohr emphasises that the idea behind the Danish National Symphony Orchestra’s Malko Competition is ultimately to carry classical music into the future – particularly after a period during which music has had to be on the back-burner.

- Now is precisely the time for us in the musical profession and in the audience to give an extra-cordial welcome to the new generation of young artists and make sure they get the chance they deserve. It is the young people who are to bear culture into the future and to challenge and inspire all of us with their new ideas and formats. So we are incredibly happy that this year we have managed via the Malko Competition to get things moving for 24 extremely talented young people’s careers – and that this evening we have declared a strong winner who is truly capable of taking over the baton at the highest of levels.