To the House of Commons this week for the launch of this year’s Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition (HIPCC), at a gala event hosted by Hastings and Rye MP Amber Rudd. Not only was this an opportunity to see inside the House of Commons (which was fascinating and intriguing), it was also a chance to find out more about the revamped competition, catch up with musical friends and colleagues, and make new connections.
The HIPCC has its origins in the Hastings Music Festival which dates back over 100 years, and early winners of the piano classes include Ronald Smith and Philip Ledger. By the 1960s, the concerto class had begun to attract talented students from the UK conservatoires, and in 1968, Frank Wibaut took first prize with a performance of Beethoven’s ‘Emperor’ Concerto at the start of his long and distinguished career.
Sadly, the concerto class dwindled in popularity and by the 1990s had disappeared altogether. But in 2005 Philip Ledger (Director of Music at King’s College Cambridge from 1964 – 1982) conducted the Sussex Concert Orchestra for the first ever Final of the revived HIPCC, and was Chairman of the Jury until 2011 when Frank Wibaut took over the role and also that of Artistic Director.
Today the HIPCC is one of the UK’s leading piano competitions, and this year’s competition has attracted 176 entries from 26 countries, with live auditions in Japan, China, USA, Italy and in the UK. 49 contestants have now been invited to play in Hastings betwee 21 February and 2 March, culminating in the concerto final with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on 1 and 2 March.
The association with the RPO has been secured for the next five years, a collaboration which includes note only the compeition final in Hastings but also concerts as part of the new Festival of Piano which will take place during non-competition years. The orchestra will also provide performance opportunities for the competition laureate as part of the RPO’s residency at Cadogan Hall, and the orchestra’s UK touring programme. And there will be community and education outreach projects to keep music and music making at the centre of activities in Hastings, a town which has enjoyed a cultural resurgence in recent years.
We are proud to have such a vibrant and creative town in Hastings. Celebrating classical music has made this town a strong hub for musicians, ensuring the support of local, national and international bodies. – Amber Rudd, MP
Whatever your view of music competitions, there is no question that they are a signficant part of the international music scene and are very much here to stay. For many young musicians, competitions are seen as part of their professional training and can be the gateway to a successful career on the concert platform and in the recording studio. (One pianist, who is a regular on the competition circuit and a former HIPCC participant, told me that competitions encourage him to learn repertoire very carefully, and that without his success in a recent international competition, he would not have been able to release his debut recording.)
Education outreach programmes, masterclasses and music making activities within the local community beyond the rarefied confines of the concert hall, such as the HIPCC is planning (and the revamped Leeds competition has successfully delivered) serve as healthy reminders that classical music is for everyone and give people who may not normally experience classical music the chance to engage with and explore it, right on their doorstep.
The HIPCC aims to make Hastings the go-to place for classical music on the south coast.
The final of the HIPCC takes place on 1 and 2 March in the White Rock Theatre, Hastings. Full details here
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