I was honored to be a judge for the virtual December 2020 Changsha International Guitar Festival competition, which has evolved into one of the biggest guitar events in Asia. All the finalists were very impressive, but no one could argue that the eventual winner, Chinese guitarist Huaicong Mu, was anything but deserving of the crown! His varied program included Sérgio Assad’s Eli’s Portrait, the required Bagatelles with Fantasies by Stephen Goss, Alexandre Tansman’s Variations on a Theme by Scriabin, and, to close it out, a thrilling take on Giulio Regondi’s Air varié de l’ opera de Bellini ‘I Montecchi e Capuletti’ (themes from Vincenzo Bellini’s popular 1830 operatic telling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet).
Some may recall that Huaicong Mu was previously a winner of both the Junior and Senior Divisions at the Guitar Foundation of America’s International Youth Competition (in 2010 and 2012, respectively), so the word has been out (somewhat) about his talent for a number of years. He currently lives in Cologne, Germany, and is studying at the Hochschule für Musik und Tanz Köln. In any event, if you haven’t seen or heard him before, here’s your chance: A version of the Regondi/Bellini piece from July 2020. And if you’d like to check out his entire winning Changsha finals performance , you’ll find that here. —Blair Jackson