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The most important piano competitions in the World

They gather the greatest and most talented pianists from around the world. Create greatest virtuosos playing the instrument. A specially appointed jury usually consist of the celebrities and unquestioned authority in the industry.
There are many piano competitions designed specifically for this instrument. However, the most important international competitions are currently: International Chopin Piano Competition, Ignacy Jan Paderewski Contest, Tchaikovsky Moscow Music Competition, Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels, Contest M. Long and J. Thibaud in Paris, as well as Piano Competition F. Liszt in Budapest , the tournament Busoni in Bolzano, Bach Competition in Leipzig, or even Maria Canals Competition in Barcelona.
Below are short descriptions of the ten most famous international competitions for pianists.

Frederic Chopin International Piano Competition

It is one of the oldest and the most prestigious piano competitions in the world. Frederic Chopin International Piano Competition belongs to a small group of piano competitions , dedicated to the performance of music of one composer.
The first Chopin Competition was held in 1927 in the Warsaw Philharmonic. It was initiated by George Żurawlew, an outstanding Polish pianist, teacher and composer. Next were held every five years. It was only the fourth edition that was held after a break of war in 1949. Since 1955 Contests were held regularly every five years. From the sixteenth edition , which took place in 2010 , the competition is organized by the Fryderyk Chopin Institute .Since 1957 Chopin Competition belongs to the World Federation of International Music Competitions in Geneva.
Auditions are conducted in several stages. Terms of contest provides the main prizes and a number of special awards. Frederic Chopin contest is designed for pianists between 17 and 28 years. Among the winners of the first prize of the competition in 2005 was a Polish pianist Rafal Blechacz.
According to the original idea of founding the competition, was to be an organization of discussion about how to play Chopin. Obstacle was the lack of institutions in Polish Ministry of Culture and interest of power in the art.
It is worth noting that during the competition , October 17 – the day of the death of Fryderyk Chopin – in the Church of st. Cross in Warsaw is celebrated solemn mass , during which is performed Requiem of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. This work , in accordance with the wishes of the composer , was made during a mass funeral on Oct. 30, 1849 in the Church of the Madeleine in Paris.

Ignacy Jan Paderewski International Piano Competition

Next international Piano Competition held in Poland. Paderewski International Piano Competition is held every three years in Bydgoszcz. They may be involved pianists aged up to 27 years. The first competition was held in December 1961 due the initiative of the Director of the Philharmonic – Andrew Szwalbe and pianist Henry Sztompka ( student Paderewski ) , but since 1994 it is organized by the Paderewski Musical Society in Bydgoszcz.
The competition was part of the celebrations in 1960 called “Year of Ignacy Jan Paderewski” and at the same time constituted a form of honoring the patron of the Pomeranian Philharmonic . Then for many years this event was forgotten. Reactivation occurred in the 80s and coincided with the 125th anniversary of the birth of master Paderewski (1985 ) and the 45th anniversary of his death (1986).
As a result of several years of efforts of board of Music Association of Bydgoszcz, this city was awarded with the role of the main organizer of the International Paderewski Piano Competitions. Co-organizers were from now on: Pomeranian Philharmonic and Paderewski Academy of Music in Bydgoszcz.
Another competition after long break was in February 1994. In 2010, during the 54th General Meeting in Banff (Canada), the Ignacy Jan Paderewski International Piano Competition in Bydgoszcz was admitted to the World Federation of International Music Competitions in Geneva. It is one of five Polish music competitions affiliated to the Federation, including a second piano.
Rules of competition expects several stages, during which participants perform works composed by Ignacy Jan Paderewski and other composers. Since 2007, the competition begins with eliminations in eight cities around the world e.g. in Paris, Hanover, Shenzhen, Yokohama, Seoul, New York, St. Petersburg and Warsaw.

The IX International Paderewski Piano Competition, Bydgoszcz, Poland
November 3rd – 17th, 2013
Xu Zi – Semifinalist of the IX International Paderewski Piano Competition, candidate to the 17th International Chopin Piano Competition

 Tchaikovsky International Music Competition in Moscow



It takes place regularly, every four years in Moscow. It is one of the most prestigious competitions for instrumentalists in the world. Tchaikovsky International Competition is held since 1958. Since 2007, the competition takes place in accordance with the four-year schedule. Like the Polish Chopin competition belongs to the World Federation of International Music Competitions in Geneva.
Competition for instrumentalists initially was organized in only two categories – for pianists and violinists. In 1962, cellists was added to the list, in 1966 vocalists were added and since 1990, violin, viola and cello were introduced.
The competition is organized by a committee composed of eminent Russian musicians and Russian impresario Concert Office “commonwealth”. The international jury consists of the outstanding instrumentalists, music academy professors and directors of musical institutions. Many times in the jury box sat Pole, Halina Czerny-Stefańska. Eliminations are held in three rounds.
Last Tchaikovsky Music Competition took place in 2011. His winner was Daniil Trifonov. Another is planned for 2015.

Queen Elisabeth International Music Competition

Queen Elisabeth Music Competition is another contest from list of the most prestigious music competitions. It gained its name in 1965, in honor of Elisabeth of Belgium (Gabriela Elizabeth of Bavaria). Just as competition in Moscow include different categories. It includes violin (since 1951), piano (since 1952), composition (since 1953) and singing (since 1988). The competition takes place in Brussels. Most importantly, it became a founding member of the World Federation of International Music Competitions in 1957.
Last Queen Elisabeth Competition for pianists took place in 2013. It received a record number of applications, and an international jury checked the DVDs of 283 candidates sent to Belgium from all over the world. Finally, 75 candidates were admitted for a public performance in the first round. The competition has quite an interesting formula, because every year there is another competition for different category. In 2014, the competition will be for the singers, and the violin in 2015. 2016 year will be the same year designed for composers. Another struggle for pianists in Brussels will be held in 2017.


 Marguerite Long and Jacques Thibaud International Competition in Paris

Another one from the elite list of music competitions, is the Marguerite Long and Jacques Thibaud International Competition in Paris, which is a member of the World Federation of International Music Competitions in Geneva. This prestigious and designed for pianists and violinists review of talents is held since 1943. It emerged from the idea of the pianist Marguerite Long (1874-1966) and the violinist Jacques Thibaud (1880-1953).
Among the winners were e.g. Dimitri Alexeev, Philippe Entremont, Samson François or Tamás Vásáry. There were also Polish pianists who have joined this group: Bartholomew Nizioł (1st place in 1993) and Barbara Hesse-Bukowsko (5th place in 1953).

ARD International Music Competition in Munich

For the first time, it took place in 1952 and since that it has become one of the most prestigious classical music competitions. Usually, it takes place in September. Winning an award in this competition means getting internationally renowned fame for artist. The most well-known winners are e.g. Jessye Norman, Francisco Araiza, Natalia Gutman , Christoph Eschenbach , Thomas Quasthoff , Sharon Kam, Heinz Holliger , Isabelle Moretti , Peter Fat or Maurice André.
ARD is a multistage competition, organized annually in several categories, including violinists, cellists, horn players and piano duos. In the first stage, the jury initially qualify for further competition on the basis of applications on CD or video. In Munich, the participants have to go through four stages, with the semi-final (third stage)performed with the accompaniment of the Münchener Kammerorchester (Munich Chamber Orchestra). Final takes place with the participation of famous Symphonieorchester Bavarian Radio (Symphony Orchestra of the Bavarian Television). Especially for this occasion, all participants receive notes compositions of today’s composers that are ordered by the organizers. If somebody qualifies to the final, he should perform it.

The Bach International Competition in Leipzig

It includes six categories: piano , organ, harpsichord , singing , violin and cello. Bach International Competition, which is in German “Internationaler Johann- Sebastian- Bach- Wettbewerb” takes place in Leipzig and is primarily dedicated to the works of Johann Sebastian Bach. This contest is intended mainly for young artists. First held in 1950. In the years 1964-1996, it was held regularly every four years. However, currently it is held every two years, each time in the three categories.
The competition has the age limit, from 16 to 32 years for instrumentalists and from 16 to 34 years for vocalists. Since 1965, the competition belongs to the World Federation of International Music Competitions in Geneva.

Ferenc Liszt International Piano Competition in Budapest

It takes place every year in Budapest. Its history dates back to 1933. But only since 1958 is played continuously every year. It is designed for pianists under 31 years. Liszt International Piano Competition is also on the list of the most prestigious piano competitions in Europe.
The competition is divided into three rounds. It is organized by the Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra.

Ferruccio Busoni International Piano Competition

For the first time, Ferruccio Busoni International Piano Competition was organized in 1949 to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the death of composer Ferruccio Busoni . This is like the previous, one of the most prestigious piano competitions in the world. The first organizer of the competition and its founder was Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, he was later jury of the contest . With few exceptions , the competition from the beginning is organized every year in the Italian Tyrol. It is in the World Federation of International Music Competitions in Geneva.
The most famous winners are Martha Argerich, Maurizio Pollini or Garrick Ohlsson.

Martha argerich play Chopin la POLOnaise N°6 dite l’heroique

Maria Canals International Music Competition

Held annually at the Palau de la Música Catalana in Barcelona, is another on the elite list of competitions for pianists. Initially, in 1954, remained only a piano competition, but in 1964 was extended to other categories that are held occasionally. The initiators of the competition were Catalan pianist Maria Canals Remei Cendrós (b. 1913), and her husband, composer and writer Rossend Llates (1899-1973). Maria Canals International Music Competition belongs to the World Federation of International Music Competitions in Geneva.