Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music and who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

For me, my earliest memories of listening to various great works for the first time was the biggest catalyst for me wanting to learn the piano. There was never really an exact point in which I decided this would be my career, but I guess I always pretty much had a one-track mind in wanting music to be my life. Partly a reason for this is that I don’t think I was good at anything else! My first piano teacher Dorothy she, who recently just passed away, was certainly an extremely instrumental figure in my life. She was the one who taught me everything from the beginning. All of my teachers each played a very important role in my development, from my professors in my early teenage years, A. Ramon Rivera and Alexander Korsantia, to the teachers that really molded my development from the age of 15 onwards up until today: Robert McDonald, Dang Thai Son, and Jonathan Biss. Aesthetically, I would say that the pianists whose musical language and careers have inspired me the most are Radu Lupu, Grigory Sokolov, and Mitsuko Uchida.

What do you do off stage that provides inspiration on stage?

I listen to a lot of recordings of various works frequently. Whether it be a Bach Cantata, Schubert Lieder, or Mozart Piano Concerto, etc. I always want to have music in my ears, and somewhat subconsciously and consciously get deeper into the musical and emotional worlds of these great composers. Further, when I’m listening to a great piece of music whilst enjoying a beautiful part of nature, this inspires me the most.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

This process varies all the time, but I would say first and foremost I would choose pieces I really want to play. The burning desire must be there for me to have to play this work at this time. Then, the decisions come where a programme must make sense musically, and also I have to imagine how it would work and sound to an audience. I don’t like programmes that are random, and are more of a showcase of all the different types of pieces a musician can play. I much prefer a programme that has cohesion and relation in its aesthetic, and the musical worlds of certain composers. This would apply mostly to the music within one half of a recital programme. After an intermission it can either be completely different, or continue on a common thread.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

There really have been so many very memorable concert experiences, and in a way, all of them have been, because of how unique each experience is, and you never know what will happen on stage. However, one that has stood out very much so far was my BBC Proms debut. This was a concert that I had prepared a lot of time for, and there was nothing quite like that experience of walking out on stage to this ocean of people at the Albert Hall. I really did feel this unique and electric energy, and general warmth coming from the public that day.

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

I would hope that I can continue to have the chance to play music for people in all corners of the globe. I think despite all its unique challenges, and immense stress, our profession as a performing musician is a very lucky one. What an opportunity it is to be able to travel the world, see so many different countries and cultures, whilst doing what you love. Music is a very active and living thing. So much of this music left to us by these transcendent geniuses is so unbelievably great. However, without it being brought to life and played, it’s simply notes on a page. I just feel very lucky to be able to have a part in this wonderful process of bringing these works to more people.


Eric Lu won First Prize at The Leeds International Piano Competition in 2018, the first American to win the prestigious prize since Murray Perahia. He made his BBC Proms debut the following summer, and is currently a member of the BBC New Generation Artist scheme. Eric is a recipient of the 2021 Avery Fisher Career Grant, and is an exclusive Warner Classics recording artist.

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Pianists, aged between 20 and 29 and representing 28 countries, have been carefully selected to compete in the first ever Virtual International First Round, taking place in London, Berlin, Paris, Beijing, Tokyo, Seoul, New York, 6-10 April 2021

 

Second Round, Semi-Finals & Finals of the 2021 Leeds International Piano Competition to be held in Leeds, 8-18 September 2021

 

The Leeds International Piano Competition today announced that 63 pianists have been shortlisted for the First Round of the 20th edition of the competition. 

The pre-selection Jury, chaired by Artistic Director Adam Gatehouse, listened to 264 applicants – a 43% increase in applications from the last Competition in 2018. Jurors commented on the challenges of choosing the 63 due to the “exceptionally high quality of applicants.” The 63 pianists represent 28 nationalities, with 44% selected from East Asian countries. Four British nationals have been selected as well as competitors from Morocco, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Iran, Israel and Peru.

The First Round Jury, chaired by Adam Gatehouse and including Simone Dinnerstein (USA), Noriko Ogawa (Japan) and Martin Sauer (Germany), will hear a 25-minute recital from each of the 63 pianists before selecting 24 to go through to the Second Round in Leeds in September 2021.

‘The Leeds’, with its defining qualities of excellence and musical integrity, has long attracted some of the world’s most exciting young pianists. 

Detailed safety measures are in place at all venues with a local film crew deployed in each venue, centrally directed and produced from London, to capture the performances in high-definition sound and vision that The Leeds is known for via its partnership with medici.tv. 

All the performances from the International First Round will be made public in the summer, and the Leeds rounds will be streamed by medici.tvon their dedicated platform, which is free to watch in 190 countries around the world.

Adam Gatehouse, Artistic Director of The Leeds said: 
“It is of paramount importance that our artists and jurors are able to take part as safely as possible, whilst maintaining the integrity of the Competition experience. This means we have decided to make the First Round ‘virtual’, by filming Competitors’ performances in a small selection of venues closest to them. With the amazing support and enthusiasm of conservatoires and venues around the world, we can ensure the pianists have the shortest possible journey to their First Round performance. Our partners also enable us to make sure that all our pianos are of the world-leading standard we demand and that we can capture the highest quality performances for our remote Jury to hear.” 

With the speedy rollout of vaccines in the UK, The Leeds organisers are very confident that the September rounds will be a live celebration in their spectacular venues at the University of Leeds and Leeds Town Hall. All rounds will be streamed worldwide by medici.tv and BBC Radio 3 and BBC Four TV will cover the Finals. The Concerto Final performances, with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, will be conducted by Andrew Manze, their Principal Guest Conductor.

The stakes are higher than ever with cash prizes worth over £90,000 and a prize package which has redefined what a competition can offer young artists. It includes artistic management with Askonas Holt, one of the world’s most renowned music management agencies; concerts and engagements with some of the world’s premiere venues and orchestras, including London’s Wigmore Hall, South Bank Centre and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra; concert and recording engagements with BBC Radio 3, a media partner of The Leeds; a European tour organised with partners Steinway & Sons; a studio recording with Warner Classics; a programme of recital engagements in Yorkshire and other UK venues; and mentoring from Artistic Director Adam Gatehouse and other members of the performer-led Jury, chaired by Imogen Cooper (England), which includes Adam Gatehouse (England), Inon Barnatan (Israel/ USA), Adrian Brendel (England), Gaetan Le Divelec (France), Ingrid Fliter (Argentina), Ludovic Morlot (France/ USA) and Steven Osborne (Scotland).

Adam Gatehouse said:
“It is clear from the large increase in the number of applicants we’ve received that musicians have a strong need to be heard and connect with their audiences. We are here to support all our pianists on their Leeds journey, and will provide a programme of advice, masterclasses and industry insights to help build their careers, no matter how far the journey with the Competition takes them. We aim for everyone to be transformed by the experience of coming to our city and taking part, whether that’s through the friendships they make or the opportunities they find.”

 

A full list of Competitors can be viewed here.


Source: press release

Dame Fanny Waterman, 22 March 1920 – 20 December 2020
 

It is with great sadness that The Leeds International Piano Competition announces the death of its founder and President Emeritus Dame Fanny Waterman at the age of 100

Dame Fanny died peacefully this morning in her residential care home in Ilkley, Yorkshire. She is survived by her two sons, Robert and Paul, and six granddaughters.

Adam Gatehouse, Artistic Director of The Leeds, said:

“Dame Fanny was a force of nature, a one-off, a unique figure in our cultural firmament who infused everyone with whom she came into contact with a passion and enthusiasm and sheer love of music, particularly piano music, that was totally impossible to resist. From nothing she created the world’s most prestigious piano competition and chose to do so not in London but in Leeds, at the time a dark, industrial but incredibly lively and vibrant town in the North of England. From small beginnings it swiftly grew as word spread that here was a competition where music and the musicians came first. The lives she has touched, both through the Competition, but also through her teaching and piano books, are too numerous to mention. She was quite simply irreplaceable, and to have had the chance to work with her and eventually succeed her as Artistic Director of The Leeds has been one of the greatest privileges and joys of my life.”

Dame Fanny Waterman founded The Leeds International Piano Competition in 1961 with her late husband Dr Geoffrey de Keyser and Marion Thorpe CBE, then the Countess of Harewood. The first event followed in 1963 and she remained its Chairman & Artistic Director until her retirement in 2015 at the age of 95. As President Emeritus she attended live concerts and events until the beginning of 2020, although ambitious plans to celebrate her 100th Birthday in March 2020 had to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thanks to Dame Fanny Waterman’s artistic integrity, passion, charisma and hard work, ‘The Leeds’ became the most coveted prize in the piano world and internationally acclaimed for introducing some of the greatest pianists of our time. Artists including Radu Lupu, Murray Perahia, Sunwook Kim and most recently Federico Colli and Eric Lu launched their careers by taking first prize; Sir András Schiff, Mitsuko Uchida, Lars Vogt and Denis Kozhukhin meanwhile, are among the Competition’s illustrious finalists. 

Born in Leeds (22 March, 1920), she studied with Tobias Matthay, and later as a Scholar at the Royal College of Music, London, with Cyril Smith. After a notable performing career, including a performance at the 1942 Proms with Sir Henry Wood, she felt that her real vocation would be as a teacher. Over the years she gave masterclasses on six continents, appeared on television and radio, and compiled a series of publications entitled Piano Lessons with Fanny Waterman/Marion Harewood, which now runs to thirty volumes and has achieved sales of over three million copies.

Among her greatest achievements as a teacher was in the 1950s when she trained four pianists under the age of 11 from Leeds to such a standard that they received invitations to perform piano concertos at London’s Royal Festival Hall. The four pianists were Alan Schiller, Wendy Waterman (her niece), Kathleen Jones and future winner of the first Leeds International Piano Competition, Michael Roll.

In recognition of her services to music, Fanny Waterman was awarded an OBE in 1971, the CBE in 1999 and in 2005 she was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. In 2004 Dame Fanny Waterman received the Freedom of the City of Leeds, the highest honour the City can bestow and, in 2009, was invited to become President of the esteemed Harrogate International Festivals. She was made an Honorary Member of the Royal Philharmonic Society in 2010.

A full biography of her life and archive images of Dame Fanny are available at https://www.leedspiano.com/dame-fanny-waterman/

@leedspiano


Source: press release

Extensive learning and engagement activities take piano out of the concert hall and into communities 

Outstanding young scholars from Lang Lang International Music Foundation also perform

“Artistry of that kind is rare in pianists of any age; to find it in a 20-year-old is simply astounding.”
The Daily Telegraph

Following his win at the Leeds International Piano Competition in September 2018, 21-year-old pianist Eric Lu returns to ‘The Leeds’ for Leeds Piano Festival, with recitals in Leeds and London. World-renowned pianists Steven Osborne and Barry Douglas also perform recitals, with Osborne leading a masterclass with Young Scholars from the Lang Lang International Music Foundation, building on the ongoing relationship between the Foundation and The Leeds.

Eric-Lu-winner-of-the-Leeds-International-Piano-Competition-2018-performs-at-the-Finals-at-Leeds-Town-Hall-c-Simon-Wilkinson-Photography-e1537184338402

The Festival continues the much-enriched programme of events that surrounded the 2018 Competition, allowing audiences to engage with the piano and The Leeds beyond the triennial Competition. As part of The Leeds’ commitment to developing new and exciting ways of bringing the piano to as wide an audience as possible, the Festival – successfully inaugurated in 2018 – will again comprise many learning and engagement activities, including the return of the ‘Discover the Piano: Piano Fantasia’ on 28 March – The Leeds’ biggest primary school event to date, reaching more than 1,000 schoolchildren. The Young Scholars also participate in learning activities in primary schools and adult care settings in both Leeds and London – the latter once again in partnership with Wigmore Hall’s learning and participation programme – inspiring music lovers young and old with their prodigious talents.

Leeds Piano Festival recitals 

Eric Lu’s return to The Leeds is part of the revolutionary prize package at The Leeds last year, designed with career development in mind. The prize also included world-wide management with Askonas Holt, a release of his Leeds-winning performance on major label Warner Classics (released to much acclaim in November 2018), opening the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra’s 2018/19 season, mentoring with jury members and more. Lu performs Chopin’s Piano Sonata No. 2 – a piece he performed in the Competition semi-finals and released as a single on Warner Classics following his win – as well as works by Mozart, Brahms and Handel.

Former Royal Philharmonic Society ‘Instrumentalist of the Year’ Steven Osborne explores Beethoven’s final three piano sonatas. Osborne is a renowned interpreter of Beethoven’s music, not least from his critically-acclaimed recordings of the composer’s piano sonatas on the Hyperion label, and these recitals offer a rare opportunity to see him perform in an intimate setting.

Internationally-renowned pianist Barry Douglas pairs miniatures with more expansive works in both halves of his programme for the Festival, contrasting Tchaikovsky’s vignettes The Seasons with his Grande Sonata in G major, before pairing Rachmaninov’s Six Moments Musicaux with Schubert’s intense Sonata in A minor.

The Festival also showcases three Young Scholars from the Lang Lang International Music Foundation, developing the continuing relationship between the Foundation and the Leeds. Three exceptional young pianists, Aliya Alsafa, Jaspar Heymann and Shuheng Zhang – handpicked and mentored by Lang Lang, the Competition’s Global Ambassador –perform recitals at both Festival venues, as well as participate in a masterclass led by Steven Osborne at Leeds College of Music.

Speaking at the Finals of the 2018 Competition – where he also presented prizes and was conferred with an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Leeds – Lang Lang stated: I’m extremely proud of my association with the city of Leeds, and with the Piano Competition – which is doing so much to unite excellence and accessibility”.

Closing the Festival, celebrity pianist Alistair McGowan returns to The Leeds with Introduction to Classical Piano at Besbrode Pianos. An alumnus of the University of Leeds, McGowan previously performed at The Leeds during Piano + events at the 2018 Competition, and his 2017 recording The Piano Album reached Number One in the UK Classical Album Charts.

Learning and Engagement 

In addition to their recitals and masterclass, the Young Scholars participate in many external learning and engagement activities, following the success of similar events at last year’s Festival. As well as performing in the Piano Fantasia to over 1,000 primary schoolchildren, they also visit local primary schools in both Leeds and London, as well as adult care settings.

The University of Leeds, a principal partner of the Competition, hosts a ‘Steinway Experience’ on 30 March as part of Be Curious, the University’s research open day, where families can enjoy these wonderful instruments. Steinway & Sons, also a partner of The Leeds, has provided the pianos for the Competition since its beginnings in 1963.

Coinciding with Piano Day on 29 March, pop-up performances take place on the Leeds Piano Trail, in partnership with Leeds Business Improvement District (BID). These Besbrode pianos, decorated by local artists, were a popular feature of last year’s Competition and encouraged the public to play and experience the pianos at high-profile locations around Leeds city centre; most of the trail pianos stayed in place after the Competition due to the huge popularity of the initiative.

Adam Gatehouse, Artistic Director of the Leeds International Piano Competition, said: “After winning over both the jury and audiences at the 2018 Competition, we’re delighted to welcome Eric Lu back to The Leeds for the second annual Leeds Piano Festival. We’re thrilled too that Steven Osborne, Barry Douglas and the extraordinary Lang Lang Scholars will join him in both Leeds and London, allowing audiences to experience their remarkable talent and help us share in wonderful performances of great piano music. Deepening our roots in our communities by developing fun, diverse and inclusive events to enable more people to discover and fall in love with the piano is also crucial to our mission, and the Festival continues its inspiring work to attract ever-wider audiences.” 

Tickets for the Leeds recitals and the masterclass can be booked here, and the London recitals here.

 

Leedspiano.com

@leedspiano

20-year old American pianist, Eric Lu, has been awarded first place and the Dame Fanny Waterman Gold Medal at the prestigious Leeds International Piano Competition 2018, a triennial event which is widely regarded as among the most coveted prizes in the musical world. He also won the Terence Judd Hallé Orchestra Prize.

International star pianist Lang Lang, Global Ambassador of the Competition, presented the prizes following the last Concerto Final with the Hallé, conducted by Edward Gardner in Leeds Town Hall.

In addition to the £25,000 cash prize, Lu receives a ground-breaking portfolio prize designed with long-term career development in mind. It includes worldwide management with Askonas Holt – one of the world’s leading arts management agencies; an international album release on Warner Classics – one of the foremost global classical music recording companies, and a range of performance and recording opportunities with BBC Radio 3. The prize also includes a host of performance engagements with high profile promoters, including with some of the world’s premier venues and orchestras, such as London’s Wigmore Hall and Southbank Centre, the Hallé and Oslo Philharmonic Orchestras.

Leeds International Piano Competition
Eric Lu playing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 in the Final of Leeds Piano Competition

On Thursday [20 September], Lu opens Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra’s new season under the baton of Vasily Petrenko, performing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, Op. 58. On Friday [21 September], Warner Classics releases a digital single of a highlight from his Competition performances, and, on 2 November, a full album, including Lu’s live Concerto performance from the Final with the Hallé conducted by Edward Gardner, as well as a selection of recital repertoire from the earlier Rounds.

Second place, £15,000 and the Yaltah Menuhin Award for the greatest collaborative chamber performance, was awarded to 28-year old German pianist, Mario Häring.

Xinyuan Wang, 23 from China, was third and received £10,000. The Audience Award, which was, for the first time this year, opened up to a global audience through online streaming by medici.tv, also went to Wang, who will have a concert broadcast on medici.tv.

Both Häring and Wang will give major recitals in St George’s Hall, Liverpool, on 17 and 18 September 2018 as part of their prize, and will each – like Lu – have an opportunity to give a solo recital at London’s Wigmore Hall in 2019. A full list of concert engagements for the prize winners is available here.

All the prize winners will have long-term mentoring from Patron Murray Perahia, Co-Artistic Director Paul Lewis – who also chaired the jury, and other members of the performer-led jury which included Sa Chen, Imogen Cooper, Adam Gatehouse, Henning Kraggerud, Thomas Larcher, Gillian Moore, Lars Vogt and Shai Wosner.

The prize presentations followed the conferment of an honorary degree on Lang Lang from the University of Leeds, the Competition’s Principal Partner.

Lang Lang said:

“The Finals of The Leeds will stay in my memory for a long time. It has been a privilege to witness so much extraordinary talent on stage and an honour to receive a Doctorate from the University of Leeds. I’m extremely proud of my association with the city of Leeds, with the piano competition – which is doing so much to unite excellence and accessibility – and with the University. It is truly is the city of the piano and I look forward to returning.” 

Paul Lewis, Chair of the Jury and Co-Artistic Director of The Leeds, said:

“All the pianists  have shown extraordinary  talent, passion and  dedication throughout the Competition, and it goes without saying that the standard of playing has been remarkable. Many of the world’s greatest pianists have started out at The Leeds and I’m certain all the 2018 Finalists  have bright futures, and we look forward to supporting what we believe will be successful and fulfilling careers.“

The Leeds hugely expanded its programme for 2018, going beyond a single competition to become a city-wide celebration of the piano. With a new programme of talks, masterclasses, exhibitions, free family events, schools projects, and concerts – as well as The Leeds Piano Trail, which invited the public to play on 12 beautifully decorated public pianos in the city centre – The Leeds had the opportunity to share its passion for the piano with more people than ever before. The majority of the public pianos will remain in place for the foreseeable future, continuing the Competition’s legacy for new and wider audiences.

medici.tv’s extensive coverage, supported by the University of Leeds, which began in August and ran throughout the Competition, reached audiences in more than 3,700 cities in 140 countries. It was particularly popular in the UK, USA, China, Japan and Germany. Millions more enjoyed the Finals on BBC Radio 3, which broadcast live from Leeds Town Hall and also covered all the Semi-Finals.

All rounds of The Leeds remain available to watch at leedspiano2018.medici.tv for three years, and BBC Radio 3’s extensive coverage of the Semi-Finals and Finals is available via BBC i Player Radio. The Finals are broadcast on BBC FOUR television on Sunday 23 September.

The next Competition will take place in 2021.

For more information about the Competition visit www.leedspiano.com.

@leedspiano


[source: Victoria Bevan PR]

Of course we know the results now and warm congratulations go to all the finalists and  prizewinners.

My brief thoughts on tonight’s performances are again drawn from notes made during the live stream broadcast. It’s not the same, watching at home. How can it be? One loses the special, palpable excitement, the tremors of anticipation which vibrate through the concert hall and the social spaces around it, but the MediciTV live broadcasts have been excellent. I hope this splendid initiative will continue into the next Leeds Competition.

Xinyuan-Wang-Copy
Xinyuan Wang

Xinyuan Wang – Schumann Piano Concerto in A minor, Op.54

A pleasure to hear the Schumann Concerto – it is not performed nearly enough, and Xinyuan Wang brought a warmth and richness to his sound which really suited this heartfelt and deeply romantic music. I felt he really caught the scale and sweep of the work and neatly captured its fleeting, shifting moods and changes of pace. His sound palette was varied and contrasting and he brought a pleasing muscularity to the music, especially in the finale. The second movement had a lovely dialogue with the orchestra and a genial character. The transition had mystery and suspense, though I wanted a little more heorisim in the finale. A poised, assured performance with much communication and rapport with orchestr and conductor. The spontaneous thumbs up by Xinyuan Wang at the end of his performance was rather charming too.

Xinyuan Wang was awarded the MediciTV Audience Prize and Third Prize.

Eric Lu – Beethoven Piano Concerto No.4 in G, Op.58

Eric-Lu-Copy
Eric Lu

Lu impressed in the earlier rounds – his Chopin B-flat minor Sonata and Fourth Ballade were particularly fine displaying a maturity beyond his 20 years. The Beethoven felt natural and spontaneous with a fantasy-like air to the opening movement. Great clarity and attention to detail, but never at the expense of the expression and character. Lu’s Beethoven was romantic, but never sentimental.

The slow movement had a wonderful contrast between the gruff, punchy interjections by the orchestra and the piano’s serene, calming responses. Again, Lu caught the fleeting moods with exquisite control and tone. The finale was joyful and robust, revealing how Beethoven uses structure and texture rather than pure melody to create drama and excitement. A really thrilling, satisfying, maure and deeply sincere performance.

Eric Lu won the Terence Judd prize, awarded by the Hallé Orchestra  and the Dame Fanny Waterman Gold Medal.