The first jury I served on, I was determined that only the best would win. I suggested to my fellow jurors that we select somebody who could shine in Carnegie Hall rather than play like a well-schooled student. Everybody agreed. We all ranked each pianist and tabulated the results not once, but twice. The pianist who got the most points won. Nevertheless the outcome was disheartening. I thought the silver medalist was outstanding. After the award winners’ gala, I remarked that the second prizewinner would probably become world famous while the recipient of the jury prize might be forgotten. I glanced at my fellow judges — all seasoned musicians — hoping to provoke strong reactions that would betray the culprits who’d propelled the winner to the top. Instead, everybody laughed, and some said, “We’ll see.” And, “Don’t be so sure.”

Israela Margalit – playwright, television and screen writer, author, concert pianist and recording artist – gives some forthright and less than complimentary insights into the world of international piano competitions.

Read the full article here

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

Next to the Leeds International Piano Competition, Dudley International Piano Competition (DIPC) is this country’s oldest and most respected piano competition. Established in 1967, the DIPC celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2017. Previous winners and competitors include Benjamin Frith, Joanna Macgregor, Andrew Wilde, Alicja Fiderkiewicz, Peter Donohoe, Graham Scott and Paul Lewis, all of whom have gone of to enjoy successful international careers, and the competition offers young pianists an important career-enhancing opportunity. The competition finals take place in Symphony Hall Birmingham with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.

The next competition is scheduled for 2020 but DIPC needs a significant injection of funds (£12,000) in order to continue. Please consider supporting the DIPC fundraising campaign:

DONATE HERE

 

dudley-international-piano-festival-blog-header

The concerto is one of the greatest corners of the pianist’s repertoire. A showcase for performer and instrument, it’s an opportunity for the composer to capitalise on the combined forces of soloist and orchestra, often with thrilling and highly expressive results. The concerto format inspires great music and is a spectacle for the audience, and the genre continues to tempt composers today. The romantic image is of the soloist doing battle with the orchestra, but in most instances piano and orchestra are collaborators, creating wondrous musical conversations and exciting contrasts of sound, texture and mood. Instruments may have changed since Mozart’s day, but the genre itself is perennially popular with musicians, composers and music lovers alike. For performers, the biggest challenge in playing these very popular concertos is breathing new life into very well-known and much-loved music.

Careers are made with concertos, and for the professional pianist, playing concertos represents a significant part of one’s working life. Most pianists will aim to have several concertos “in the fingers” from an early point in their career, with some retaining over 50 by the time they are established. Competitions require concerto playing too, and certain works have become staples in the competition and international concert repertoire, a sign of their enduring appeal and ongoing challenges to pianists – and their popularity with audiences.

Here are 6 great piano concertos which are regarded as the “must learns” for soloists, and “must haves” for concert programmes.

Beethoven – Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat – the ‘Emperor’

A heroic nickname for a heroic concerto. Composed from 1809 to 1811, the work is poised on the cusp of romanticism in its scale, virtuosity and richness of expression while also harking back to its classical antecedents in Beethoven’s skilled handling of the piano concerto form. Two dynamic outer movements bookend a slow movement of infinite beauty and ethereal serenity, which inspired Schumann in the last movement of his Fantasie, Op 17.

Grieg – Piano Concerto in A minor

This is Grieg’s only piano concerto but it has justly joined the rank of “great” and “must learn”. Composed when he was only 25 and inspired by a performance by Clara Schumann of her husband’s concerto, the influence of Schumann is clear from the outset in its sweeping gestures, emotional contrasts and lyricism. But while Schumann’s writing is sophisticated and romantically introspective, this is the work of a young man making his mark with a grand musical statement, weighty and serious. There are high virtuosic elements and adventurous piano writing, inspired by Liszt and Tchaikovsky (big octave passages, for example), but the work has a naturalness too (the finale is a Norwegian folk dance!). Assured and commanding, its anthemic outer movements combine vitality and poignancy while the middle movement is a graceful, soaring Adagio which overflows with heart-warming loveliness.

Mozart – Piano Concerto No. 27 in B flat, K595

Mozart’s final piano concerto inhabits quite a different world from the powerful and bold concertos of the 1780s when Mozart enjoyed a golden time as a concert pianist. Compared to its predecessors, the K595 is pared down, but with a harmonic language that is sophisticated and daring. Full of muted colours and supple textural interweaving of solo instrument and orchestra, its beauty and melancholy looks forward to the romantic lyricism of Beethoven’s fourth Concerto and beyond. With fewer virtuosic frills and extrovert gestures than Mozart’s earlier concertos, the challenges the pianists lie in its restrained character and elegant simplicity of expression.

Rachmaninov – Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Op 30

Composed in 1909, Rachmaninov’s third piano concerto is considered one of the greatest and most challenging in the standard repertoire and is respected, and feared, by many pianists. Monumental and treacherous in scale, gorgeously romantic and highly expressive, the pianist to whom it was dedicated – Josef Hofmann – never performed it in public. Instead, it was premiered by Rachmaninov himself in New York, and its fearsome technical difficulties reflect the composer’s own transcendent prowess at the keyboard. With forty-five minutes of almost continuous playing for the soloist, the renowned English pianist and teacher Cyril Smith likened the sheer physical effort of playing it to shoveling several tonnes of coal! For many pianists, this concerto represents the ultimate “trophy” performance.

Ravel – Piano Concerto in G major

The piano was Ravel’s favourite instrument, and while the Piano Concerto for the Left Hand is profound and significant, his G major concerto was intended to satisfy the box office, the frivolous showpiece could he take on tour. Opening with the famous single “whipcrack”, it contains all the elements fashionable and clichéd at the time of writing – jazz idioms and harmonies, dissonance, neo-classicism and mechanical moments – but it’s brilliantly done and finely-crafted. Written “in the spirit’, Ravel said, ‘of Mozart and Saint-Saëns”, the exuberant, jazz-infused outer movements are offset by a slow movement of serene beauty and transparency.

Tchaikovsky – Piano Concerto No.1

The triumphant opening chords of this concerto followed by the first theme are amongst the most famous bars in all of classical music, heralding a work of sublime romanticism, dramatic expansiveness, invention and emotion, full of memorable themes and glorious textures. Composed in 1874 during a very productive period in the composer’s life, the concerto was premiered in Boston in 1875 by Hans von Bulow (Nikolay Rubenstein, Tchaikovsky’s favoured pianist, rejected the work as badly written and refused to play it). Tchaikovsky later revised the work in 1888 and it is this version which is most commonly performed today. In 1958 it became the first piece of classical music to sell a million records when the pianist Van Cliburn made an impassioned recording of the concerto. After the grandiose opening movement, the middle movement serves as a lyrical slow movement and a scherzo, while the finale is a breathless rondo based on a Ukrainian song. The works succeeds on every level: the virtuosity of the piano part is matched by vivid orchestration while the intricacies of the work are balanced by Tchaikovsky’s beautiful melodies.


This article first appeared on the Interlude HK website

8-16 June 2019 – Clarendon Muse, Watford, Hertfordshire

The inaugural Master Music Piano Festival & Competition takes place across two weekends in June 2019 at Clarendon Muse in Watford and aims to promote local talent by offering young musicians a superb platform to experience and participate in fine music-making.

Featuring a set of unmissable recitals by leading young pianists of their generation including Ji Liu, Nicholas McCarthy, Artur Cimirro and Michael Harvey. The Master Music Festival will also host competitions scheduled for all ages and levels of performance ability together with a special Children’s Concert. Alongside much-loved core repertoire, the featured artists will also showcase their own new compositions and arrangements with their published sheet music available.

The Festival is the brainchild of Benjamin Williams, Director Of Master Music Publications, a new publishing house designed to promote original compositions, transcriptions, interpretative editions and educational resources by the world’s finest contemporary musicians. As well as the beautifully produced environmentally-friendly scores, Master Music Publications offers a wealth of additional information, biographies, context and a link to an online study guide with useful tips, videos and a discussion section.

Festival Programme:

Nicholas McCarthy – Piano Recital – June 8th, 7pm

British pianist, Nicholas McCarthy was born without his right hand and only began to play the piano at the age of fourteen. He went on to study at the prestigious Royal College of Music in London, becoming the first left-hand-only pianist to graduate in the college’s history. A passionate educator and motivational speaker, McCarthy champions left-hand alone repertoire, music that developed rapidly following the First World War as a result of injuries suffered on the battlefield. Expect an awe-inspiring recital of repertoire ranging from Bartok to Gershwin via Scriabin and Strauss. Notes McCarthy: “I’m absolutely thrilled to be part of the first Master Music Festival and to be able to play alongside other esteemed artists from the piano world. As one of the few disabled artists in the classical industry, it gives me great pleasure to be able to share the music that I love so much with new audiences and hopefully even inspire people along the way”.

Artur Cimirro – Piano Recital – June 9th, 7pm

Brazilian pianist, Artur Cimirro enjoys an eclectic career as a composer, arranger, writer and art critic. He has composed works for piano, orchestra, choir, chamber ensemble, opera and ballet and his transcriptions and arrangements, dedicated to the left hand, deal with the exploration of new horizons in piano technique. They include notably ambitious projects, such as Liszt’s 12 Transcendental Etudes for the Left Hand Alone. As part of his recital, Cimirro will present a striking array of his own compositions and arrangements.

Michael Harvey – Piano Recital – June 15th, 7pm

A compelling and sensitive musician with a rare combination of intelligence, flair and charm” is how acclaimed pianist Leslie Howard described pianist, composer and teacher, Michael Harvey. Harvey has dazzled audiences at prestigious venues around the world with his virtuosic technique, individual sound and charismatic personality. His recital is bound to offer pianistic brilliance, creative sensitivity and a kaleidoscope of colours. Says Harvey: “I am looking forward to communicating with the audience at the inaugural Master Music Festival by sharing stories, pieces and some of my own compositions, several of which will be world premieres!

Ji Liu – Piano Recital – June 16th, 7pm

Praised by Pianist Magazine for his “sensitive and unpretentious musicality” and described as “a major talent” by Classical Source, Chinese pianist, Ji Liu has positioned himself as one of the brightest stars in classical music today. In addition to topping the classical charts on numerous occasions, he also delights audiences around the world, from the Royal Albert Hall in London to Carnegie Hall in New York with his thoughtful and intelligent recitals. Be sure to expect a sensational evening of music making at the highest level. Ji Liu commented: “It is my great privilege to work with Master Music Publications and to be involved with the very first festival. It is encouraging to see both new and core classical music presented in the festival and how they can meet and support each other. I very much look forward to sharing my musical thoughts and performing for everyone.

Children’s Piano Concert – June 8th, 3pm

This eagerly anticipated children’s concert will feature pianist Ji Liu, who will perform a collection of fun pieces for piano, including Schumann’s Kinderszenen and a narrated solo piano performance of Prokofiev’s popular ‘Peter and the Wolf’. This will be an enjoyable, educational event for children.

Piano Competitions – June 8th 4-6pm and June 15th – 2-6pm

On June 8th and 15th, the festival will feature piano competitions for all ages and abilities. Each participant will receive valuable and constructive written feedback. Medals, certificates and prizes up to £150 will be awarded to participants who achieve 1st, 2nd and 3rd place. The adjudicator will be Steinway and Classic FM/Global artist, Ji Liu. Entry forms are available here

Benjamin Williams, Director Of Master Music Publications added: “It has been very exciting and a great privilege for me to bring these incredibly talented international artists together for this unique festival that all can enjoy”.

Venue: Clarendon Muse, 70 Rickmansworth Rd, Watford WD18 7JA

Full details of the festival