Cecil Aronowitz International Viola Competition

Important Update – Competition Postponed to November 2021

The British Viola Society, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and Birmingham City University are delighted to announce the third Cecil Aronowitz International Viola Competition.

In September 2020, we regrettably had to take the decision to postpone the competition to March 2021. Now, given the recent developments concerning the new variant of Covid-19, we have been informed by our host institution that the competition will unfortunately not be able to proceed in March. The competition will instead be postponed to 6-12 November 2021.

As before, the format of the competition (and evening recitals) will remain unchanged, and all the competitors originally selected will still be automatically eligible to take part in  November 2021. Initial responses from competitors about the first postponement were understanding and positive, and we would anticipate similar reactions to the new date.

The competition invited applications from violists from anywhere in the world aged 21 or under at the time of the competition (born on or after 21st November 1998).  Despite the current circumstances, we were delighted to receive 93 applications, all 21 years and under, with the youngest applicants only 14 years of age. To all the applicants, thank you so much for your incredible hard work and beautiful playing. The world really is filled with wonderful violists!

Prizes information download


Launched in 2014 by the British Viola Society and the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, the Competition is dedicated to Cecil Aronowitz, the South African violist and long-term collaborator with Benjamin Britten.

The next competition  will be held from  6-12 November 2021.

The event has been held in 2014 and 2017 open to players under the age of 21.

Alongside the Competition viola events will place throughout the week: including Viola Workshops with Ross Cohen, Masterclasses; Recitals from the Jury members and displays from expert Luthiers.


The 2014 Cecil Aronowitz International Viola Competition was won by 19-year-old Timothy Ridout, whilst a student at London’s Royal Academy of Music.

The Neil Ertz and Noel Burke Prize for the winning performance of solo Bach went to Violaine Despeyroux from France.

Shishi Gong from China was awarded the Ayres Violin Award for the most promising competitors aged 15 years and under.
Here is a taste of the 2014 event


The 2017 Cecil Aronowitz International Viola Competition was won by 18 year old Emma Wernig, from the United States.

2nd  prize was awarded to 21 year old Lara Albesano from Italy

3rd prize was awarded to 18 year old Sáo Soulez Larivière from France

The £200 prize for the best performance of a Solo Bach work in the 2nd Round, was awarded to 3rd prize winner: Sào Soulez Larivière.

The £250 prize for the best performance of a Fritz Kreisler work in the 2nd Round, was awarded to Semi-Finalist: Lisa Sung.

The ‘Paul Ayres Prize’, a silver mounted Brazilian pernambuco viola bow, presented to the most promising candidate in the competition 18 years or younger, was awarded to Semi-Finalist: Yizilin Liang.

The ‘Bishop Instruments and Bows Prize’, a silver mounted Pierre Guillaume viola bow, presented for the most outstanding performance of a Sonata in the 3rd Round, was awarded to Finalist: Yue Yu.

The 2017 jury comprised: Nicola Aronowitz, Ettore Causa, Thomas Selditz, Robin Ireland, Florian Leonhard and Thomas Riebl.

The next competition will be held in 2021 .