Sayaka Shoji is a Japanese violinist born (in Tokyo) on January 30, 1983. She gained considerable attention after winning the Paganini Violin Competition at age 16 (in 1999), the youngest competitor to ever do so and the first Japanese violinist to win the gold medal at that competition as well. Although she spent her very early childhood in Italy, she began her violin studies in Japan, at age 5. Among her first teachers (in Tokyo) were Kazuko Yatani and Reiko Kaminishi. At 15, she moved to Germany for further study. At 21, she graduated from the Advanced School for Music in Cologne where her main teacher was Zakhar Bron, although she also studied with Uto Ughi and Shlomo Mintz, among others. (Bron’s other famous pupils have been Maxim Vengerov, Daniel Hope, Mayuko Kamio, and Vadim Repin.) Needless to say, Shoji has performed with every major orchestra and most of the world’s illustrious conductors. Her first appearance with the Berlin Philharmonic was at the Salzburg Easter Festival in 2002, playing Bruch’s first concerto. Mariss Jansons was on the podium. She first appeared with the New York Philharmonic on October 7, 2004 playing the first Prokofiev concerto under the baton of the late Lorin Maazel. She was 21 years old. Her repertoire includes three works seldom heard in concert: the Schumann, the Mendelssohn (in d minor), and the Max Reger concertos. As far as I know, Shoji has already recorded the Reger concerto but not yet the Schumann or Mendelssohn’s first concerto. Typical reviews from informed, respected, and experienced music critics read as follows:”…virtuosity of the highest order, …infused with poetry, …passionate, free, with an emotional intensity that many violinists will never achieve.” Her spectacular rendition of the Brahms concerto can be seen and heard here. In my opinion, the only performance which rivals it is the Heifetz rendition, and that, for me, is saying a lot. Shoji mostly records for the Deutsche Grammophon label. Volume 4 of her recording of all (10) Beethoven violin sonatas will be released in 2015. Her violin is the Recamier Stradivarius from 1729. Shoji’s photo (used here, slightly modified) is courtesy of Nikolaj Lund, well-known European photographer of classical musicians and classical music subjects.