The International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competitions

The Fryderyk Chopin Institute

“[After World War I] the cult of Chopin seemed to wane a bit […] I often met with the opinion that Chopin is too romantic, makes the soul sentimental and disarms the listeners mentally. Some even claimed that for these very reasons Chopin should not be included on the lists of works for music school students. All these symptoms of a total lack of understanding of Chopin’s music were very painful to me… I decided to counteract them. As I observed the young people and their love of sport achievements, I found a solution: a competition! Later developments confirmed that I was right…”

Jerzy Żurawlew (1886-1980), initiator and many-times member of the Competition jury (c. 1927)

1927 / 1st International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition

Dates: 23rd – 30th January 1927
Venue: Warsaw Philharmonic, Poland
Entries: 32
Participants: 26
Countries: 8
Age limit: 28
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The 1st International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition took place at the beginning of 1927 (although it had originally been planned to commence on 15 October 1926 – the day of the unveiling of Wacław Szymanowski’s Chopin monument in the Royal Łazienki Park). Its initiator was the pianist and teacher Jerzy Żurawlew, who in 1925 – under the influence of Aleksander Michałowski, an outstanding interpreter of Chopin’s works – began to look for funding for a piano tournament. As Żurawlew recalled: “I met with utter incomprehension, indifference and even aversion. The opinion among musicians was unanimous: ‘Chopin is so great that he can defend himself”. At the Ministry, it was announced that there were no funds for such an event […] and that the whole idea was unfeasible.” Things only picked up with the election of a new Polish president, Ignacy Mościcki, who became patron of the Chopin Competition.

Auditions were held in the Concert Hall of the Warsaw Philharmonic. The Competition, which was conceived from the outset as an international event, hosted 26 pianists from 8 countries. The contingent from the Soviet Union included the then twenty-year-old Dmitry Shostakovich. Although not among the leading competitors, years later he became one of the most outstanding composers of the twentieth century.

The Competition proved a great success: reviewers emphasised the high standard of the participants and the huge emotions that accompanied the rivalry. The organisers were not spared criticism, however: pianists from abroad were not ensured practice rooms and had to make do with instruments in private apartments, which became the subject of jokes.

“The level of performances proved to be so high that the jury had a real dilemma […] The immense skill and competence achieved in our times by pianists who are still almost children […] provokes a reflection: What next? Technically those young people are better than the best pianists of the old generation – and yet, what will happen to this terrifying hyper-production of pianists?”Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz

The 1st Competition jury: Witold Maliszewski, Zofia Rabcewiczowa, Zygmunt Butkiewicz, Piotr Maszyński, Zbigniew Drzewiecki, Henryk Melcer, Józef Turczyński, Adam Wyleżyński, Jerzy Żurawlew, Felicjan Szopski, Adam Sołtys, and Józef Śmidowicz

PRIZE-WINNERS

First Prize – Lev Oborin (USSR)
Second Prize – Stanisław Szpinalski (Poland)
Third Prize – Róża Etkin (Poland)
Fourth Prize – Grigory Ginzburg (USSR)
Polish Radio Prize for the best performance of mazurkas – Henryk Sztompka (Poland)

PRIZE-WINNERS

First Prize – Lev Oborin (USSR)
Second Prize – Stanisław Szpinalski (Poland)
Third Prize – Róża Etkin (Poland)
Fourth Prize – Grigory Ginzburg (USSR)
Polish Radio Prize for the best performance of mazurkas – Henryk Sztompka (Poland)

Lev Oborin (USSR),
1st-prize winner in the 1st Competition (1927)

“Many a […] patriot is now despairing because the Russians beat us in the Chopin Competition. ‘Finis Poloniae’, they call it. A certain student from the University of Warsaw tried to cheer them up behind the scenes with these wise words: “Gentlemen, I tell you, this is good news! I’d rather have Russians get awards for Chopin here in Warsaw than have them give awards to us for Rubinstein in St Petersburg, as they did before the war!””

Juliusz Kaden-Bandrowski

“Setting clear-cut criteria for the so-called Chopin performance style is extremely difficult and may prove impossible. […] Any attempts to present unambiguous scientific-aesthetic guidelines are, from the artistic point of view, doomed to failure…”

Zbigniew Drzewiecki, member of the 1st Competition jury (1927)

Jurors and participants of the 1st Competition (1927)

1932 / 2nd International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition

Dates: 6th – 23rd March 1932
Venue: Warsaw Philharmonic, Poland
Entries: more than 200
Participants: 89
Countries: 18
Age limit: 28
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The 2nd International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition was held, as the organisers had originally planned, five years after the first. In March 1932, 89 pianists from 18 countries arrived in Warsaw. The Competition drew huge interest among the public and attracted correspondents from various corners of the world. Outstanding musical figures from abroad were invited to participate in the work of the jury. Guest of honour was Maurice Ravel, who in a concert on 11th March conducted a performance of his own works: the Piano Concerto in G major and La valse.

During the final, there was an unprecedented occurrence: due to a protest from the Hungarian pianist Imré Ungár, who refused to accept joint First Prize with Alexander Uninsky, lots were drawn. The blind Hungarian pianist was not favoured by fortune, however, drawing Second Prize.

During the Competition, a poll was held to find the best, most popular piano among the instruments on which the young pianists had played. The winner was a Viennese Bösendorfer.

“The initial conviction that only Poles should sit on the Competition jury, later underwent a radical revision, when it turned out that representatives of other nationalities understand and perform Chopin with a degree of insight and sentiment that our own pianists could not afford at that time. Another argument in favour of an international jury was the interest and renown that the tournament began to enjoy outside Poland, which foreshadowed the colossal development of the Chopin Competition in the future. After some deliberations, the Polish jury decided to invite […] the most eminent representatives of the music world from abroad.”

Jerzy Żurawlew

Inauguration of the 2nd Competition (1932), Warsaw Philharmonic

A meeting of the 2nd Competition jury and participants with President Ignacy Mościcki at the Royal Castle in Warsaw (1932)

PRIZE-WINNERS

First Prize: Alexander Uninsky (unaffiliated)
Second Prize: Imré Ungár (Hungary)
Third Prize: Bolesław Kon (Poland)
Fourth Prize: Abram Lufer (USSR)
Fifth Prize: Lájos Kentner (Hungary)
Sixth Prize: Leonid Sagalov (USSR)
Seventh Prize: Leon Boruński (Poland)
Eighth Prize: Teodor Gutman (USSR)
Ninth Prize: Gyula Károlyi (Hungary)
Tenth Prize: Kurt Engel (Austria)
Eleventh Prize: Emanuel Grossman (USSR)
Twelfth Prize: Josef Wagner (Germany)
Thirteenth Prize: Maryla Jonas (Poland)
Fourteenth Prize: Lily Herz (Hungary)
Fifteenth Prize: Suzanne de Mayère (Belgium)
Polish Radio Prize for the best performance of mazurkas: Alexander Uninsky (unaffiliated)

“[…] The Polish team not only suffered a resounding defeat […], but it presented the Polish piano art and the Polish Chopin style from the worst possible side.”

Mateusz Gliński

“The results of the 2nd Chopin Competition represent […] a defeat of the Polish school.”

Juliusz Kaden-Bandrowski
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Alexander Uninsky (unaffiliated participant),
1st-prize winner in the 2nd Competition (1932)

Imré Ungár (Hungary),
2nd-prize winner in the 2nd Competition (1932)

Bolesław Kon (Poland),
3rd-prize winner in the 2nd Competition (1932)

“Poles have suffered defeat again. […] I began to examine the reasons. I talked to the triumphant Soviet team, and I learned about the colossal work they had done preparing for this Competition, about how – after the preliminary rounds – they were completely secured financially and gave numberless concerts […]. I also found out that our pianists had virtually no stage experience, no artistic guidance and no financial support. Their minds reeled with stage fright.”

Jerzy Żurawlew

From the left: Teodor Gutman (USSR), Leonid Sagalov (USSR), Abram Lufer (USSR), Emanuel Grossman (USSR), 2nd Competition prize-winners (1932), Warsaw Philharmonic

2nd Competition jurors and participants (1932)

1937 / 3rd International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition

Dates: 21st February – 12th March 1937
Venue: Warsaw Philharmonic, Poland
Entries: 250
Participants: 80
Countries: 22
Age limit: 16-28
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The 1930s, during which the 2nd and 3rd editions of the Chopin Competition were held, was a time of dynamic expansion for this musical event, suddenly cut short by the outbreak of war in 1939. The Competition had soon gained an important place on the map of musical tournaments, attracting the greatest talents from the farthest flung corners of the world. There is no doubt that this was due in part to the international jury, which included eminent figures of musical life, and also to the extensive support from state institutions: the patronage of President Ignacy Mościcki and the appointment of an Honorary Committee chaired by the President of the Council of Ministers.

In 1937, the Competition adhered to the successful two-stage format. The Polish pianists, who had previously constituted the largest national group, had to pass through an additional qualifying round. Ultimately, 80 pianists from 22 countries took part in the Competition. They had at their disposal pianos by four different firms: Bechstein, Bösendorfer, Pleyel and Steinway.

The female pianists from Japan caused quite a sensation. Although Miwa Kai and Chieko Hara (distinction) were not among the prize-winners, their playing was hugely appreciated by critics and the public. They were the first representatives of the Land of the Rising Sun in the history of the Competition. As in previous editions, representatives of the USSR came out on top.

Yakov Zak during the 3rd Competition auditions (1937), Warsaw Philharmonic

3rd Competition jury deliberations (1937)

PRIZE-WINNERS

First Prize – Yakov Zak (USSR)
Second Prize – Rosa Tamarkina (USSR)
Third Prize – Witold Małcużyński (Poland)
Fourth Prize – Lance Dossor (UK)
Fifth Prize – Ági Jámbor (Hungary)
Sixth Prize – Edith Pitch-Axenfeld (Germany)
Seventh Prize – Monique de la Bruchollerie (France)
Eighth Prize – Jan Ekier (Poland)
Ninth Prize – Tatiana Goldfarb (USSR)
Tenth Prize – Olga Iliwicka (Poland)
Eleventh Prize – Pierre Maillard-Verger (France)
Twelfth Prize – Lélia Gousseau (France)
Thirteenth Prize – Halina Kalmanowicz (Poland)
Polish Radio Prize for the best performance of mazurkas – Yakov Zak

3rd Competition jury deliberations (1937)

Yakov Zak (USSR),
1st-prize winner in the 3rd Competition (1937)

“The Bolshevik pianists triumphed and won a wonderful victory […] All the pianists entered for the contest by the USSR attained excellent results. Truth to tell, according to the jury they beat all the young pianists from Western Europe. Not with the hands of genuine Russians […], but with those of the Russian Jews, though they are apparently less numerous in Russia than in Poland.”

Witold Szeliga

Rosa Tamarkina (USSR),
2nd-prize winner in the 3rd Competition (1937)

Witold Małcużyński (Poland),
3rd-prize winner in the 3rd Competition (1937)

“To these first impressions […] one should add the fact (which for us is quite a sensation) of the entry of a female Japanese performer onto the music scene. […] Possibly for the first time in the history of pianism, a coloured race appeared on the stage and kept up with the white race.”

Witold Szeliga

Participants of the 3rd Competition (1937) during a meeting with President Ignacy Mościcki at the Royal Castle in Warsaw. At the piano: Chieko Hara (distinction, Japan)

1949 / 4th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition

Dates: 15th September – 15th October 1949
Venue: “Roma” Theatre, Warsaw, Poland
Participants: 41
Countries: 13
Age limit: 16-32

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The first post-war International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition was held in 1949. In connection with the centenary of Chopin’s death, that year was proclaimed Chopin Year by the Council of Ministers. The piano tournament was accompanied by composition and sculpture competitions, stationary and travelling exhibitions, and numerous concerts at home and abroad. Chopin’s Complete Works began to appear in print under chief editor Ignacy Jan Paderewski.

The Competition was financed from government funds, as were grants and training camps for the Polish pianists. The young musicians were given access to the best pianos, test recordings were made, and the Poznań Philharmonic Orchestra was even brought in to a summer course held in Łagów Lubuski, so that the course participants could practise the concertos with its accompaniment. Those were conditions that Polish pianists could only have dreamt of before. The whole programme of preparations was overseen by a Pedagogic Committee attached to the Ministry of Culture and the Arts, comprising pre-eminent Polish teachers, who followed the progress of each of the participants. This collective work brought excellent results: an exceptionally strong contingent was formed, which made a clean sweep of the podium places (the Polish pianist Halina Czerny-Stefańska shared first place with the Russian Bella Davidovich).

The Competition was divided into three stages, with the addition of a qualifying round without audience (this was for candidates who had not taken part in national qualifying rounds). During the first two rounds, the jury listened behind wooden shutters, so as not to see who was playing. The competitors performed not under their names, but with numbers they had drawn. This was an experiment that failed to catch on and has not been repeated in later editions of the Competition. An innovation for the third round was the performance of a concerto in its entirety (previously, only two movements were played), and the upper age limit was raised to thirty-two. Due to the war-time destruction of the Warsaw Philharmonic, the auditions were held at the Roma Theatre on Nowogrodzka Street.

4th Competition participants (1949), “Roma” Theatre

A group of Soviet jurors and participants of the 4th Competition (1949) at Warsaw Airport

Inauguration of the 4th Competition (1949), “Roma” Theatre

4th Competition jury members during the auditions (1949), “Roma” Theatre. From the left: Lucette Descaves, Henryk Sztompka, Lélia Gousseau, Lev Oborin, Zbigniew Drzewiecki, Magda Tagliaferro, Arthur Hedley, and František Maxián

Jan Ekier, member of the 4th Competition jury (1949), later frequently sat on the juries of the Chopin Competition; chairman and honorary president of the Chopin Competition jury; editor of the National Edition of Chopin's Works

PRIZE-WINNERS

First Prize (joint): Halina Czerny-Stefańska (Poland) and Bella Davidovich (USSR)
Second Prize: Barbara Hesse-Bukowska (Poland)
Third Prize: Waldemar Maciszewski (Poland)
Fourth Prize: Georgy Muravlov (USSR)
Fifth Prize: Władysław Kędra (Poland)
Sixth Prize: Ryszard Bakst (Poland)
Seventh Prize: Yevgeny Malinin (USSR)
Eighth Prize: Zbigniew Szymonowicz (Poland)
Ninth Prize: Tamara Guseva (USSR)
Tenth Prize: Victor Merzhanov (USSR)
Eleventh Prize: Regina Smendzianka (Poland)
Twelfth Prize: Tadeusz Żmudziński (Poland)
Polish Radio Prize for the best performance of mazurkas: Halina Czerny-Stefańska (Poland)

“This success [the good results of Polish participants] was achieved thanks to a previously unheard-of method of the participants working collectively under the supervision of a committee composed of Poland’s most eminent piano teachers. Especially the final days before the Competition, which the pianists (subsidised for the whole final year by the Ministry of Culture and Art) spent in ideal conditions in Łagów, where they polished their Competition repertoire under the committee’s close guidance – brought excellent results. Of the 11 [Polish] pianists taking part in the Competition, as many as 8 qualified for the final, and all of them are among the top twelve prize-winners.”

Wawrzyniec Żuławski

Zbigniew Drzewiecki, chairman of the 4th Competition jury (1949), “Roma” Theatre

Halina Czerny-Stefańska (Poland),
joint 1st-prize winner in the 4th Competition (1949)

Bella Davidovich (USSR),
joint 1st-prize winner in the 4th Competition (1949)

“The problem [of the Chopin style] clearly fundamentally comes down to a proper sense of the Polish-ness of that music. This is why it should frankly be said that Poles, or more generally – Slavs – have the greatest possibilities in this area. The representatives of other nations seem to grope their way in the dark. Spiritual and mental effort is directed toward bringing out that human dimension in Chopin’s music which we could call universal. What is emphasised, therefore, are the feelings of grief, dreaming, nostalgia, rebellion, love, etc. But this is only a half measure. Though Chopin’s music does comprise all this, we must add one modifier: it is a Polish grief, a Polish dream, and a Polish nostalgia…”

Jerzy Artemski

Polish Prime Minister Józef Cyrankiewicz presents the awards to the joint 1st-prize winners in the 4th Competition (1949): Halina Czerny-Stefańska and Bella Davidovich

1955 / 5th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition

Dates: 22nd February– 21st March 1955
Venue: The National Philharmonic [international name: Warsaw Philharmonic], Warsaw, Poland
Participants: 77
Countries: 25
Age limit: 16 – 32

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The year 1955 brought the return of the Competition to the rebuilt Warsaw Philharmonic. The finishing touches were still being put to the building moments before the inauguration, and so the Competition was moved from October 1954 to February the following year, which exceptionally increased the gap between editions to six years. Its starting date was linked on this occasion not to the anniversary of Fryderyk Chopin’s death, but to the date of his birth, which according to current research was 22nd February. The Competition would be held in the winter also in 1960 and 1965, before returning to the autumn in 1970.

For participants in the 5th edition, the bar was raised very high. In each of the three rounds, the pianists had to tackle a lengthy programme. And that was after having battled through the qualifying rounds. Seventy practice pianos were installed at the Hotel Polonia, where the participants were accommodated. The jury, which during pre-war editions of the Competition had sat on the concert platform, was moved to a much more secluded spot – on the balcony of the auditorium, where it has traditionally been located ever since.

The Competition was a grand musical and society event, playing host to Queen Elisabeth of Belgium, and seventy concerts and eighty recitals were given in Warsaw and other cities. In the pianistic tournament, victory went to a representative of the host nation: Adam Harasiewicz secured the win with an excellent performance in the final. Vladimir Ashkenazy, who had been leading up to then, performed less strongly at the final stage and ultimately came second.

5th Competition preliminary rounds (1955), Ministry of Culture and Art, from the left: Jan Hoffman, Stanisław Szpinalski, Zbigniew Drzewiecki, and Witold Lutosławski

Nina Lelchuk (USSR), Adam Harasiewicz (Poland), Tania Achot (Iran), Warsaw 1955

The audience of the 5th Competition (1955), Warsaw Philharmonic

PRIZE-WINNERS

First Prize: Adam Harasiewicz (Poland)
Second Prize: Vladimir Ashkenazy (USSR)
Third Prize: Fou Ts’Ong (China)
Fourth Prize: Bernard Ringeissen (France)
Fifth Prize: Naum Shtarkman (USSR)
Sixth Prize: Dmitry Paperno (USSR)
Seventh Prize: Lidia Grychtołówna (Poland)
Eighth Prize: Andrzej Czajkowski (Poland)
Ninth Prize: Dmitry Sakharov (USSR)
Tenth Prize: Kiyoko Tanaka (Japan)

Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz during the announcement of the results of the 5th Competition (1955), Warsaw Philharmonic

Adam Harasiewicz (Poland),
1st-prize winner in the 5th Competition

Adam Harasiewicz (Poland),
1st-prize winner in the 5th Competition

5th Competition award presentation (1955). From the left: Adam Harasiewicz (Poland), Monique Duphil (France), Tadeusz Kerner (Poland), Lidia Grychtołówna (Poland), and Miłosz Magin (Poland); Warsaw Philharmonic

5th Competition award presentation (1955). From the left: Vladimir Ashkenazy (USSR), Andrzej Czajkowski (Poland), Bernard Ringeissen (France), Dmitry Paperno (USSR); Warsaw Philharmonic

“The largest piano event of this kind in Europe, possibly even in the world. It is also the best organised competition – both as a whole and in details.”

Guido Agosti

“One of the world’s greatest music events.”

Louis Kentner

Elisabeth Queen of Belgium with Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz, The Ostrogski Castle – then the seat of the Fryderyk Chopin Society, Warsaw, 1955

1960 / 6th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition

Dates: 22nd February – 13th March 1960
Venue: Warsaw Philharmonic, Warsaw, Poland
Participants: 78
Countries: 30
Age limit: 16 – 30

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The 6th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition was held on the 150th anniversary of the composer’s birth. The year 1960 was proclaimed Chopin Year, under the patronage of UNESCO. Chopin’s music was present on every major concert platform. As Stefan Wysocki recalls: “That was the competition which initiated both the decoration of the hall and the whole ritual of beginning all the auditions with a parade of the candidates across the stage, the presentation by the programme announcer and all the rest of it, which competition observers know perfectly well and which – thanks to its constancy – sticks in one’s heart and mind.” That was also the start of the great career of the then eighteen-year-old Italian pianist Maurizio Pollini, winner of the First Prize. Among the 77 participants from 30 countries, only his name went down in the history of world pianism. The audience favourite, the Mexican Michel Block, the object of great excitement and rumours, failed to win a prize. Arthur Rubinstein, honorary chair of the jury, which was the largest in the Competition’s history, decided to respond to the mood in the hall and award Block an hors concours prize.

Incidentally, Rubinstein’s great love of doughnuts was revealed during the Competition. During the jury’s deliberations, doughnuts were supplied, along with other sweet treats, by Warsaw’s finest confectioners. Apparently, the great pianist’s appetite beat all records, with a dozen or so doughnuts a day representing no great challenge.

“One more optimistic fact observed in relation to the Competition is the radical transformation of the audience attending the Competition auditions. The proportion of snobs and “regular concert-goers’ who do not really care about the music was much smaller this time. The audience consisted almost exclusively of people who not only love music but have some fundamental knowledge about it. This proves that the Chopin Competition, apart from its direct significance, also plays a major role in raising the musical awareness and awakening artistic interests in the Polish society.”

Józef Kański

A performance by Artur Rubinstein, honorary chairman of the jury of the 6th Competition (1960), Warsaw Philharmonic

Artur Rubinstein and Jerzy Żurawlew, members of the 6th Competition jury (1960), Warsaw Philharmonic

Witold Małcużyński and Nadia Boulanger, members of the 6th Competition jury (1960), Warsaw Philharmonic

“One should seriously consider what that young man should do whose nerves failed him? What should he do if there is a firm conviction in Poland that whoever drops out after the first stage has no artistic merit? […] The question arises whether a piano competition following such rules can be convincing and trustworthy from the artistic and educational point of view, and whether it still continues to realise the ideals set out by its initiator, Professor Jerzy Żurawlew.”

Jerzy Stażelski

Jury meeting: a statement from Zbigniew Drzewiecki, chairman of the jury of the 6th Competition (1960), Warsaw Philharmonic

PRIZE-WINNERS

First Prize: Maurizio Pollini (Italy)
Second Prize: Irina Zaritskaya (USSR)
Third Prize: Tania Achot-Haroutounian (Iran)
Fourth Prize: Li Min-Chan (China)
Fifth Prize: Zinaida Ignatieva (USSR)
Sixth Prize: Valery Kastelsky (USSR)
Polish Radio Prize for the best performance of mazurkas: Irina Zaritskaya (USSR)
Fryderyk Chopin Society Prize for the best performance of a polonaise: Irina Zaritskaya (USSR)

Maurizio Pollini (Italy),
1st-prize winner in the 6th Competition

“Four Warsaw confectioners – Blikle, Wróbel, Gajewski and Pomianowski – competed in the supply of sweets for the jury, which were consumed during intervals in the auditions. Blikle’s doughnuts and cakes were particularly popular with the jury members, as they beat all records of exquisite taste. But the real record-breaker was… Artur Rubinstein, who ate 7-11 doughnuts at one go. He expressed his delight with them in a short TV interview, when he said that one more Competition award ought to be founded: for Mr Blikle. […] He said this […] eating his thirteenth doughnut on that day.”

Zygmunt Mycielski

Jury deliberations at Warsaw Philharmonic, Artur Rubinstein – honorary chairman of the jury and Zbigniew Drzewiecki – chairman

1965 / 7th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition

Dates: 22nd February – 13th March 1965
Venue: Warsaw Philharmonic, Warsaw, Poland
Entries: 109
Participants: 76
Countries: 30
Age limit: 17–30

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A contemporary music concert to inaugurate the Chopin Competition? That is what happened in 1965, with the audience treated to works by the Polish composers Kazimierz Serocki, Witold Szalonek, Tadeusz Baird and Karol Szymanowski.

The very high standard represented by the pianists, as well as the introduction of an additional fourth round (henceforth, the four rounds became the norm) earned the 7th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition the frequently used name of the ‘Great’ Competition. It also remained in the memory of its participants on account of the influenza that was raging in Warsaw at the time, which struck down the young competitors and the jurors alike.

Four pianists from Latin America received prizes and distinctions. There was also great success for the New York teacher Rosine Lhévinne, who had as many as five pupils among the prize-winners. First Prize went to Martha Argerich – the “black panther of the piano”. Her tempi were described as “rocket-powered”, and her playing style was compared to the interpretations of the legendary Vladimir Horowitz.

Inaugural concert of the 7th Competition (1965), Wanda Wiłkomirska and the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Witold Rowicki

Members of the 7th Competition jury (1965). From the left: Renzo Silvestri, František Rauch, Margerita Trombini-Kazuro, Amadeus Webersinke, Timo Mikkilä

PRIZE-WINNERS

First Prize: Martha Argerich (Argentina)
Second Prize: Arthur Moreira Lima (Brazil)
Third Prize: Marta Sosińska (Poland)
Fourth Prize: Hiroko Nakamura (Japan)
Fifth Prize: Edward Auer (USA)
Sixth Prize: Elżbieta Głąbówna (Poland)
Polish Radio Prize for the best performance of mazurkas: Martha Argerich (Argentina)
Fryderyk Chopin Society Prize for the best performance of a polonaise: Marta Sosińska (Poland)

Vlado Perlemuter and Jan Ekier, members of the 7th Competition jury (1965)

Martha Argerich (Argentina),
1st-prize winner in the 7th Competition (1965)

“This time Europe did not triumph in the names of the prize-winners, even though as a matter of fact the winner of this Competition is the European piano school.”

Lucjan Kydryński

Martha Argerich (Argentina),
1st-prize winner in the 7th Competition (1965)

A performance by Arthur Moreira Lima (Brazil), 2nd-prize winner in the 7th Competition (1965), Warsaw Philharmonic

“In all the history of the Chopin Competition, this has never happened before! None of the Soviet pianists – who had played a key role in all the previous competitions – even reached the finals. What is more, apart from two representatives of Poland, the other four finalists represented non-European countries: Argentina, Brazil, Japan, and the USA. A more unusual complement of Chopin interpreters could hardly be imagined. How is it possible that his music – with such prominently national content, so distinctly national, or in any case European in its forms and dance rhythms – finds its best interpreters in nearly exotic countries?”

Lucjan Kydryński

Edward Auer (5th prize, United States), at Fryderyk Chopin’s piano at Ostrogski castle in Warsaw

Announcement No. 6, Chopin Competition Press Office, 26.02.1965:

“The doctor on duty at the Competition appeals to all Competition jurors, guests and participants to take into account the weather conditions in Poland. The doctor has observed that many participants do not wear any headgear; the ladies insist on putting on light shoes and silk stockings. This carelessness may lead to catching a cold and having to stay in bed.”

Announcement No. 4, Chopin Competition Press Office, 24.02.1965:

“Pills for coughing are available for purchase at the buffet in the foyer. Correspondents accredited to the Competition Press Office are requested to appeal to the audience to purchase those pills before attending the auditions.”

Audience of the 7th Competition (1965), Warsaw Philharmonic

1970 / 8th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition

Dates: 7th – 25th October 1970
Venue: Warsaw Philharmonic, Warsaw, Poland
Entries: 123
Participants: 80
Countries: 28
Age limit: 17 – 30
Accommodation: jurors – The Europejski Hotel, participants – Dom Chłopa

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“It turned out […] that in February our climate is too different from that in many other countries of the world, as a result of which the exotic candidates in particular caught cold on arriving in Warsaw. In the autumn, meanwhile, the climate is closer to the global average,” wrote Jerzy Waldorff in 1970 referring to the idea of moving the Competition to October. The experiences of 1965 showed unequivocally that the Chopin Competition ought not to remain a Winter Olympiad, but at worst an early autumn competition.

The 8th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition was a great triumph for the American school: First Prize to Garrick Ohlsson, Fourth Prize to Eugen Indjic, and a distinction for Emanuel Ax. It was also an historical success for Japanese pianism: Second Prize for Mitsuko Uchida, and a distinction for Ikuko Endo.

There was huge interest in the Warsaw Chopin Concerts held at the Teatr Rozrywki on the Vistula embankment. Participants in the Competition performed there, usually in the same programme that they had presented on the previous day during the auditions at the Warsaw Philharmonic. Nearly all the pianists taking part in the musical tournament performed during those twenty concerts.

The Competition was phenomenal – people in the streets were engrossed in the rivalry, taking to heart the successes and failures of their favourites, with emotions often running sky high. As Waldorff relates: “Over these days, the entire city talks only about piano playing, and every taxi driver knows best how the finale of the B Flat Minor Sonata should be played. On trams and buses, people are at one another’s throats over their favourites for the prizes. In front of the Philharmonic: crowds of people who couldn’t get a ticket. Sometimes, the militia has to be called to assist, but that doesn’t always help!”

Zbigniew Szymonowicz, secretary of the 8th Competition jury (1970) puts an envelope in the voting urn containing the jurors’ votes

PRIZE-WINNERS

First Prize: Garrick Ohlsson (USA)
Second Prize: Mitsuko Uchida (Japan)
Third Prize: Piotr Paleczny (Poland)
Fourth Prize: Eugen Indjic (USA)
Fifth Prize: Natalia Gavrilova (USSR)
Sixth Prize: Janusz Olejniczak (Poland)
Polish Radio Prize for the best performance of mazurkas: Garrick Ohlsson (USA)
Fryderyk Chopin Society Prize for the best performance of a polonaise: Piotr Paleczny (Poland)

Garrick Ohlsson (United States of America),
1st-prize winner in the 8th Competition (1970)

Garrick Ohlsson (United States of America),
1st-prize winner in the 8th Competition (1970)

“The Americans have presented a ‘sound’ Chopin, and the Russians – an ‘ailing and suffering’ one; Poles are looking in Chopin’s scores for a third way.”

Ludwik Erhardt

“Should we succumb to the fascination of the American pianists’ way of playing, or perhaps treat it as a dangerous disease? Can the American type of mentality and sensitivity enrich our idea of Chopin interpretation? And should such questions be asked at all, in the first place? […] The Americans have opted for the fetish of imagination.”

Janusz Ekiert

Garrick Ohlsson (United States of America),
1st-prize winner in the 8th Competition (1970)

Mitsuko Uchida (Japan),
2nd-prize winner in the 8th Competition (1970)

Piotr Paleczny (Poland),
3rd-prize winner in the 8th Competition (1970)

Janusz Olejniczak (Poland),
6th-prize winner in the 8th Competition (1970)

Jurors, participants and guests of the 8th Competition (1970) during the award presentation ceremony at Warsaw Philharmonic

1975 / 9th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition

Dates: 7 – 28 października 1975
Venue: Warsaw Philharmonic, Warsaw, Poland
Entries: 128
Participants: 84
Countries: 22
Age limit: 17–30
____________________

The Polish hosts of the Chopin Competition had to wait twenty years for another home-bred winner. Fortune smiled on the Poles in the 9th edition, held in 1975. Krystian Zimerman, a pupil of Andrzej Jasiński, went down in the history of the Competition as the youngest winner of the first prize and of the special prizes for the best performances of mazurkas and of a polonaise. He was also the undisputed idol of the public. Soviet pianists also enjoyed an upturn in fortunes, occupying the next three places (Dina Yoffe, Tatiana Fedkina and Pavel Gililov in second, third and fourth place respectively).

During the seventies, it became a tradition to perform Mozart’s Requiem on the anniversary of Fryderyk Chopin’s death: 17 October. That work was heard during the composer’s solemn funeral at St Mary Magdalene’s in Paris in 1849; in Warsaw, the annual concert is held at the Church of the Holy Cross, where Chopin’s heart is enshrined.

Another innovation was to present the winners of the first three places with medals: gold, silver and bronze. The medals, designed by Józef Markiewicz, were produced by the State Mint.

Members of the 9th Competition jury (1975) during a jury meeting

PRIZE-WINNERS

First Prize: Krystian Zimerman (Poland)
Second Prize: Dina Yoffe (USSR)
Third Prize: Tatiana Fedkina (USSR)
Fourth Prize: Pavel Gililov (USSR)
Fifth Prize: Dean Kramer (USA)
Sixth Prize: Diana Kacso (Brazil)
Polish Radio Prize for the best performance of mazurkas: Krystian Zimerman (Poland)
Fryderyk Chopin Society Prize for the best performance of a polonaise: Krystian Zimerman (Poland)

Krystian Zimerman (Poland) and the Great Symphony Orchestra of the Polish Radio and Television conducted by Jerzy Maksymiuk: final audition of the 9th Competition (1975), Warsawa Philharmonic

Krystian Zimerman (Polska),
1st-prize winner in the 9th Competition (1975)

“This year’s Competition will go down in the history of our music life as particularly memorable. For the first time in 20 years, a Polish pianist won not only the main prize, but also the prestigious special awards: the Fryderyk Chopin Society Prize for the best performance of a polonaise and the Polish Radio Prize – for mazurkas. The 18-year-old Pole is […]the youngest 1st-prize winner in the nearly half-a-century-long history of the Competition.”

From the daily “Dziennik Ludowy”

Krystian Zimerman (Polska),
1st-prize winner in the 9th Competition (1975)

Jurors and participants of the 9th Competition (1975) at the award presentation ceremony

From the right: Krystian Zimerman (Poland), Dina Yoffe (USSR), Tatiana Fedkina (USSR), Pavel Gililov (USSR), Diana Kacso (Brazil), Elżbieta Tarnawska (Poland); the 9th Competition award presentation ceremony (1975)

Kazimierz Sikorski, chairman of the jury of the 9th Competition (1975) presents the 4th prize to Pavel Gililov (USSR)

The audience of the 9th Competition (1975) at the award presentation ceremony, Warsaw Philharmonic

1980 / 10th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition

Dates: 2nd – 19th October 1980
Venue: Warsaw Philharmonic, Warsaw, Poland
Entries: 212
Participants: 149
Countries: 36
Age limit: 17–30
____________________

During the period of political change that was taking place in Poland in 1980, the Chopin Competition gave Poles a rare opportunity to escape the worries of everyday reality. The 10th Competition enjoyed huge interest: a record number of 149 pianists from 36 countries took part. The largest contingents were from Japan and the United States. This time, only three pianists came from the Soviet Union. Vietnam was represented by just a single artist, but it was he who came out on top. Dang Thai Son also received the prizes for the best performance of mazurkas (joint with Ewa Pobłocka), polonaise (together with Tatiana Shebanova) and concerto (also tied with Shebanova). It is worth emphasising that in the finale Dang Thai Son was playing with an orchestra for the first time in his life. The Russian pianists were also of a high standard: Tatiana Shebanova was runner-up, Arutyan Papazyan – fourth and Irina Petrova – sixth.

Shockwaves were felt around the world over the frictions within the jury. After the first round, Louis Kentner left the jury, appalled at the fact that none of his pupils had qualified for the next round; then after the third round, Martha Argerich quit, unable to reconcile herself to the elimination of Ivo Pogorelich.

Immediately after the Competition commenced – on 4th October – there came the news of the death of the initiator of the competition and long-serving member of the jury – Jerzy Żurawlew died. The jurors paid tribute to the professor at Ostrogski Castle, where his coffin was displayed.

Members of the 10th Competition jury (1980), Warsaw Philharmonic

“I have come here […] to carry out a kind of mission – namely, that of modernising Chopin’s style. I did foresee problems that might arise owing to a misunderstanding of my concepts, and also due to a general lack of tolerance for the different approach presented in my interpretation.”

Ivo Pogorelić

Ivo Pogorelić (distinction, Yugoslavia), 10th Competition (1980)

Arutyan Papazyan (USSR),
3rd-prize winner in the 10th Competition (1980)

The audience of the 10th Competition (1980) waiting for the announcement of the results, Warsaw Philharmonic

PRIZE-WINNERS

First Prize: Dang Thai Son (Vietnam)
Second Prize: Tatiana Shebanova (USSR)
Third Prize: Arutyan Papazyan (USSR)
Fourth Prize: not awarded
Fifth Prize (joint): Akiko Ebi (Japan), Ewa Pobłocka (Poland)
Sixth Prize: Erik Berchot (France), Irina Petrova (USSR)
Polish Radio Prize for the best performance of mazurkas: Dang Thai Son (Vietnam) and Ewa Pobłocka (Poland)
Fryderyk Chopin Society Prize for the best performance of a polonaise: Dang Thai Son (Vietnam) and Tatiana
Shebanova (USSR)
Warsaw Philharmonic Prize for the best performance of a concerto: Dang Thai Son (Vietnam) and Tatiana Shebanova (USSR)

Wiktor Weinbaum, director of the 10th Competition (1980) announcing the results

Dang Thai Son (Vietnam),
1st-prize winner in the 10th Competition (1980)

Dang Thai Son (Vietnam),
1st-prize winner in the 10th Competition (1980)

“Regarding the Competition – I think the overall level was really high, but true artists were not so numerous. This is a kind of trap: more and more talented young people from various parts of the world play the piano very well; the problem is that in many cases very little comes out of it.”

Nikita Magaloff, deputy director of the 10th Competition (1980)

10th Competition prize-winners (1980); from the left: Tatiana Shebanova (USSR), Arutyan Papazyan (USSR), Dang Thai Son (Vietnam), Ewa Pobłocka (Poland), Erik Berchot (France), Akiko Ebi (Japan), and Irina Petrova (USSR)

1985 / 11th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition

Dates: 1st – 20th October 1985
Venue: Warsaw Philharmonic, Warsaw, Poland
Entries: 191
Participants: 124
Countries: 32
Age limit: 17 – 28
____________________

The year 1985 brought the debut at the Chopin Competition of the firms Yamaha and Kawai. Participants in the 11th Competition could choose between as many as five instruments, which compared to the list of pianos available in previous editions – two Steinways and one Bösendorfer (Bechstein withdrew after its instrument was chosen just once during the 9th Competition) – was a big change.
Again there was no lack of controversy among the jurors: Fou Ts’Ong, winner of Third Prize in the Competition in 1955, could not accept the awarding of First Prize to Stanislav Bunin, and as a mark of protest he failed to turn up for the jury’s last session and did not sign the verdict. Bunin donated his prize to “young generations of budding Chopin interpreters”. The Ministry of Culture and the Arts, in accordance with the donor’s wishes, paid the prize into the Fund for the Development of Culture.
Also associated with the 11th Competition is the institution of the Fryderyk Chopin Society’s international phonographic competition the “Grand Prix du Disque Frédéric Chopin”.

The inaugural concert of the 11th Competition (1985), Warsaw Philharmonic

Members of the 11th Competition jury (1985); from the left: Eugène Traey - deputy chair, Jan Ekier - chair, Viktor Merzhanov – deputy chair, Bernard Ringeissen, Konstantin Ganev, Karl-Heinz Pick, and Tadeusz Żmudziński

PRIZE-WINNERS

First Prize: Stanislav Bunin (USSR)
Second Prize: Marc Laforêt (France)
Third Prize: Krzysztof Jabłoński (Poland)
Fourth Prize: Michie Koyama (Japan)
Fifth Prize: Jean-Marc Luisada (France)
Sixth Prize: Tatiana Pikayzen (USSR)
Polish Radio Prize for the best performance of mazurkas: Marc Laforêt (France)
Fryderyk Chopin Society Prize for the best performance of a polonaise: Stanislav Bunin (USSR)
Warsaw Philharmonic Prize for the best performance of a concerto: Stanislav Bunin (USSR)

11th Competition prize-winners (1985); from the left: Marc Laforêt (France), Jean-Marc Luisada (France), Stanislav Bunin (USSR),Tatiana Pikayzan (USSR), Michie Koyama (Japan), and Krzysztof Jabłoński (Poland)

Stanislav Bunin (USSR),
1st-prize winner in the 11th Competition (1985)

Stanislav Bunin (USSR), 1st-prize winner in the 11th Competition (1985) with Jean-Marc Luisada (France), 5th-prize winner

“The winner of this competition is youth. It should be noted that all the three main prize winners are pianists aged just 19 or 20, while the next three places were taken by the rather more mature generation of 26-27-year-olds. So also the Chopin that the protagonists of this Competition have presented is cheerful in a youthful manner, not very problematic, a bit stormy, and most of all – full of virtuosic panache (and so is the 1st-prize winner, Stanislav Bunin – a virtuoso and a piano talent of exceptional sort).”

Józef Kański

Marc Laforêt (II nagroda, Francja) i Jean-Marc Luisada (V nagroda, Francja), XI Konkurs (1985)

Krzysztof Jabłoński (Polska),
3rd-prize winner in the 11th Competition (1985)

“[The Chopin Competition] is a platform for discussion about the ways of interpreting Chopin’s music. New generations of performers are entering the music scene, and views in this field are also changing. […] The Competition serves as a kind of survey of how Chopin is played today, what people find and look for in his music.”

Zbigniew Pawlicki

The audience of the 11th Competition (1985) in front of the Warsaw Philharmonic building

1990 / 12th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition

Dates: 1st – 20th October 1990
Venue: Warsaw Philharmonic, Warsaw, Poland
Entries: 220
Participants: 110
Countries: 28
Age limit: 17 – 28
____________________

The biggest surprise of the 12th Chopin Competition was the lack of a winner. Probably no one had foreseen such a turn of events prior to the inauguration. Second Prize was awarded to Kevin Kenner, who was participating in the Competition for the second time (distinction in 1980). Kenner was also rewarded for the best performance of a polonaise (joint with Wojciech Świtała). For the first time in history, however, no one was given the prize for the best performance of mazurkas. The pianists were clearly not even helped in forging convincing interpretations by the unprecedented choice of as many as seven pianos.

Janusz Ekiert recalls: “The 12th Competition passed without any manifestations of great admiration and without any great controversy. Youngsters did not choose their idols, and the favourites failed to ignite people’s imagination. One was hard pressed to notice any of the feverishly sparkling eyes that one remembered from previous competitions. No one in the audience fainted from emotion; if anyone, only a pianist.”

The Competition was honoured by the presence of two crowned heads: Queen Fabiola of Belgium and Queen Sofia of Spain, who opened the exhibition “Fryderyk Chopin and George Sand’s Romantic Journey to Majorca”.

Kevin Kenner (2nd prize, United States of America) and Kazimierz Kord, the final auditions of the 12th Competition (1990), Warsaw Philharmonic

Queen Sofia of Spain with Elżbieta and Krzysztof Penderecki at the 12th Competition (1990), Warsaw Philharmonic

Queen Fabiola of Belgium, next to her – Father Jan Twardowski, on the left - Bogumił Pałasz, director of the Fryderyk Chopin Society; the Visitationist Church, Warsaw 1990

Anna Malikova (5th prize, Russia) with the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Kazimierz Kord: the final auditions of the 12th Competition (1990), Warsaw Philharmonic

PRIZE-WINNERS

First Prize: not awarded
Second Prize: Kevin Kenner (USA)
Third Prize: Yukio Yokoyama (Japan)
Fourth Prize (joint): Corrado Rollero (Italy), Margarita Shevchenko (Russia)
Fifth Prize (joint): Anna Malikova (Russia), Takako Takahashi (Japan)
Sixth Prize: Caroline Sageman (France)
Polish Radio Prize for the best performance of mazurkas: not awarded
Fryderyk Chopin Society Prize for the best performance of a polonaise: Kevin Kenner (USA) and Wojciech Świtała (Poland)
Warsaw Philharmonic Prize for the best performance of a concerto: not awarded

Bogumił Pałasz, director of the 12th Competition, announces the results

“A decisive majority [of jurors] came to the conclusion that there is not really anyone to grant it [the gold medal] to. […] So the decision was obvious, if the prestige and the level of the Competition was to be maintained, with the standards set by the winners of the previous editions: Zimerman, Pollini, Argerich. There was no virtuoso of a similar calibre at this year’s competition. For similar reasons, no awards have been granted for the performances of a mazurka, a sonata and a concerto. The point is not to select the best from among the average, but the historic from among the sensational…”

Piotr Paleczny

The audience of the 12th Competition (1990) waiting for the announcement of the results, Warsaw Philharmonic

Wojciech Świtała (withdrew during the Competition; FCS prize for the best performance of a polonaise, Poland) with Józef Stompel, Ostrogski Castle, Warsaw 1990

1995 / 13th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition

Dates: 1st – 21st October 1995
Venue: Warsaw Philharmonic, Warsaw, Poland
Entries: 257
Participants: 130
Countries: 32
Age limit: 18 – 30
____________________

The 13th Chopin Competition is associated with the addition of another work with orchestra to the programme of the final besides a concerto, with the pianists offered the choice among the Variations on Mozart’s “Là ci darem la mano”, Fantasy on Polish Airs and Rondo à la Krakowiak. This was also the first edition of the Competition in which pianists were obliged to include a video cassette of a thirty-minute recording of their Chopin interpretations with their applications.

As five years earlier, the jury failed to find among the participants an artist whose talent, abilities and personality merited the Grand Prix. Second Prize was awarded jointly to the French pianist Philippe Giusiano and the public’s favourite Alexei Sultanov. The Russian pianist, who saw himself as the favourite, demonstrated his dissatisfaction at the verdict by boycotting the prize-winners’ concert; ultimately, however, he decided to perform in the repeat concert.

For the first time in the Competition’s history, none of the three special prizes (for the best performance of mazurkas, a polonaise and a concerto) was awarded.

Rem Urasin (Russia) with the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Kazimierz Kord: the final auditions of the 13th Competition (1995)

PRIZE-WINNERS

First Prize: not awarded
Second Prize (joint): Philippe Giusiano (France), Alexei Sultanov (Russia)
Third Prize: Gabriela Montero (USA)
Fourth Prize: Rem Urasin (Russia)
Fifth Prize: Rika Miyatani (Japan)
Sixth Prize: Magdalena Lisak (Poland)
Polish Radio Prize for the best performance of mazurkas: not awarded
Fryderyk Chopin Society Prize for the best performance of a polonaise: not awarded
Warsaw Philharmonic Prize for the best performance of a concerto: not awarded

Professor Jan Ekier, chairman of the jury of the 13th Competition (1995)

Announcement of the results of the 13th Competition (1995); from the left: Alexei Sultanov (joint 2nd-prize winner, Russia), Gabriela Montero (3rd prize, USA), Witalis Raczkiewicz, Izabela Bojkowska, Albert Grudziński, Andrzej Jasiński (Secretary of the Jury); Warsaw Philharmonic

“[…] Those who could present themselves as virtuosos and as mature pianists, worthy of our 1st prize – have not come to Warsaw. This is worrying in itself, but the audience and observers’ reactions worried and surprised me even more. In many cases people went into raptures at utterly dilettantish productions, and kitschy performances met with an enthusiastic acclaim. This was not merely out of kindness for the young pianists; a large proportion of the audience simply did not know any better. […] This is, unfortunately, a symptom of the times. Traditions and norms are falling into disrespect; the sense of ethics and responsibility is lost, and everything becomes permissible. […] This is what really worries me. One would hope that Chopin remains Chopin, as much as possible.”

Andrzej Jasiński

Special prize presentation ceremony; from the right: Nelson Goerner (Argentina), Rem Urasin (Russia), Philippe Giusiano (France), and Michał Ferber (Poland); Warsaw Philharmonic 1995

“[…] the 1st prize has not been granted. This is the worst that could happen. It will be hard to convince anyone that it was quite impossible to select the best out of the more than 130 candidates and give the 1st prize to that person. […] The jurors, with their eyes fixed on an abstract ideal of Chopin performance that they idolise and that has been burdened with their lifelong habits – have caused this ideal to become ossified. They have failed to notice that a new era is making itself felt at the turn of this century. It is high time that the old habits are shaken off and the new shape of piano art is given welcome. Every generation has remained faithful to Chopin’s text, but good results have only been achieved when the interpretation followed the spirit of the age.”

Witold Rudziński

Alexei Sultanov (Russia),
joint 2nd-prize winner in the 13th Competition (1995)

2000 / 14th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition

Dates: 4th – 22nd October 2000
Venue: Warsaw Philharmonic, Warsaw, Poland
Entries: 240
Participants: 94
Countries: 25
Age limit: 17–28
____________________

During the 14th Chopin Competition, which fell at the turn of the millennium, many talented pianists from the Far East appeared on the concert platform of the Warsaw Philharmonic. One could hardly say that the chronological watershed brought the anticipated artistic breakthrough to the Competition. Once again, there was no pianist who succeeded in interpreting the Polish idiom contained in the mazurkas or who captivated listeners with the brillant style of the concerto which he or she performed. The prize for the best performance of a polonaise went to two Chinese pianists: the winner of Fourth Prize, Sa Chen, and the overall winner, Yundi Li. The jury was inclined to withhold the First Prize yet again, but there were fears about possible accusations that the Competition’s standing had been lowered.

Once more, a second-time entrant gained success. The Argentinian pianist Ingrid Fliter, winner of Second Prize, had not even qualified for the third round five years earlier. The audience’s affections were won by the Romanian pianist Mihaela Ursuleasa. Her striking personality was also appreciated by the jury, which awarded her a distinction. The pianist’s sudden death, in 2012, cut short her blossoming career.

Inauguration of the 14th Competition (2000) at Warsaw Philharmonic. Speeches from Andrzej Jasiński, chairman of the jury and Michał Ujazdowski, Minister of Culture and National Heritage

The jurors and the audience of the 14th Competition (2000), Warsaw Philharmonic

PRIZE-WINNERS

First Prize: Yundi Li (China)
Second Prize: Ingrid Fliter (Argentina)
Third Prize: Alexander Kobrin (Russia)
Fourth Prize: Sa Chen (China)
Fifth Prize: Alberto Nosè (Italy)
Sixth Prize: Mika Sato (Japan)
Polish Radio Prize for the best performance of mazurkas: not awarded
Fryderyk Chopin Society and City of Warsaw Prize for the best performance of a polonaise: Sa Chen (China) and Yundi Li (China)
Warsaw Philharmonic Prize for the best performance of a concerto: not awarded

Jury deliberations during the 14th Competition (2000)

Yundi Li (China),
1st-prize winner in the 14th Competition (2000)

Alexander Kobrin (3rd prize, Russia), rehearsing before the final stage of the 14th Competition (2000)

2005 / 15th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition

Dates: 2nd – 24th October 2005
Venue: Warsaw Philharmonic, Warsaw, Poland

Preliminary round:
Entries: 327
Participants: 257
Countries: 35

The Competition proper:
Participants: 80
Countries: 19

Age limit: 17–28
____________________

Rafał Blechacz – the unforgettable emotions of the 15th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition are associated with that name. The Polish artist became the most decorated pianist in the history of the Competition, winning not only First Prize, but also all the special prizes (for the best performance of mazurkas, polonaise and concerto), as well as the prize funded by Krystian Zimerman for the best performance of a sonata and the audience prize. In the final, while the last chords of the Piano Concerto in E Minor performed by Rafał Blechacz were still resounding, an eruption of genuine euphoria broke out among the audience. The orchestra, bringing the work to a close, could not be heard! The verdict was easy to predict.

Several crucial changes appeared in the rules of the 15th Competition: it was decided to precede the competition proper with a preliminary round, since the organisers found selecting participants solely on the basis of video recordings to be not wholly reliable. The Competition was divided into three stages. The jury’s assessment system was simplified: marking on a scale from 1 to 25 was replaced by voting ‘yes’ or ‘no’. An additional points scale from 1 to 100 was treated as secondary. The assessments of all the judges remained secret. For the first time, the Competition was broadcast in its entirety on the radio, Polish television and the Internet.

Members of the 15th Competition jury (2005). From the right: Janusz Olejniczak, Choong-Mo Kang, Vera Gornostaeva, Arie Vardi, John Perry, John O’Connor, Lidia Grychtołówna, Fanny Waterman, Bernard Ringeissen, Vladimir Krainev; at the back: Andrzej Jasiński and Piotr Paleczny

PRIZE-WINNERS

First Prize: Rafał Blechacz (Poland)
Second Prize: not awarded
Third Prize (joint): Dong Hyek Lim (South Korea), Dong Min Lim (South Korea)
Fourth Prize (joint): Shohei Sekimoto (Japan), Takashi Yamamoto (Japan)
Fifth Prize: not awarded
Sixth Prize: Ka Ling Colleen Lee (China, Hong Kong)
Polish Radio Prize for the best performance of mazurkas: Rafał Blechacz (Poland)
Fryderyk Chopin Society Prize for the best performance of a polonaise: Rafał Blechacz (Poland)
Warsaw Philharmonic Prize for the best performance of a concerto: Rafał Blechacz (Poland)

Rafał Blechacz,
1st-prize winner in the 15th Competition (2005)

Dong Hyek Lim (South Korea),
joint 3rd-prize winner in the 15th Competition (2005), final concert with the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Antoni Wit, Warsaw Philharmonic

Shohei Sekimoto (Japan),
joint 4th-prize winner in the 15th Competition (2005) with Antoni Wit, final auditions, Warsaw Philharmonic

Rafał Blechacz (Poland),
1st-prize winner in the 15th Competition (2005)

Rafał Blechacz (Poland),
1st-prize winner in the 15th Competition (2005)

2010 / 16th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition

Dates: 30th September – 23rd October 2010
Venue: Warsaw Philharmonic, Warsaw, Poland

Preliminary round:
Entries: 353
Participants: 182
Countries: 34

The Competition proper:
Participants: 78
Countries: 22

Age limit: 17–30
____________________

2010 was the jubilee year of the bicentenary of the birth of Fryderyk Chopin. In connection with the grand anniversary celebrations, Chopin began appearing everywhere and in every possible form: from the most authentic (Chopin on period instruments) to those adhering to popular culture (Chopin in tracksuit top with earphones).

In 2010, the Competition was organised for the first time by the Fryderyk Chopin Institute. The four-stage format was reinstated, and the Sonata in C minor, Op. 4 appeared on the list of works for the third round (giving three solo sonatas to choose from). Among the pianos, an Italian Fazioli was available for the first time. The jurors’ votes were no longer secret, which constituted a major novelty.

Many discussions and disputes (which are a regular feature of the Competition) arose also in 2010. The Austrian pianist Ingolf Wunder, although he had fallen at the second hurdle in 2005, was among the favourites for the 16th Competition from the very beginning, and he enjoyed huge favour among the public. He came second, though, and had to share that prize with Lukas Geniušas. The jury awarded First Prize to the Russian pianist Yulianna Avdeeva – the fourth woman to be crowned winner of the Chopin Competition.

The rivalry could be followed from the first round to the final thanks to simultaneous broadcasts on the radio, television and the Internet. Online streaming made both the sound and image from the auditions available for the first time outside Poland.

Members of the 16th Competition jury (2010); from the left: Nelson Freire, Michie Koyama, Philippe Entremont, Adam Harasiewicz, Martha Argerich, Bella Davidovich, Kevin Kenner, Piotr Paleczny, Fou Ts'Ong, Albert Grudziński, Dang Thai Son, Katarzyna Popowa-Zydroń, and Andrzej Jasiński

Auditions of the 16th Competition (2010); the jurors’ seats on the balcony, Warsaw Philharmonic

Andrzej Jasiński and Bella Davidovich, members of the 16th Competition jury (2010), Warsaw Philharmonic

Jury deliberations during the 16th Competition (2010), Warsaw Philharmonic

PRIZE-WINNERS

First Prize: Yulianna Avdeeva (Russia)
Second Prize (joint): Lukas Geniušas (Russia/Lithuania), Ingolf Wunder (Austria)
Third Prize: Daniil Trifonov (Russia)
Fourth Prize: Evgeni Bozhanov (Bulgaria)
Fifth Prize: François Dumont (France)
Sixth Prize: not awarded
Polish Radio Prize for the best performance of mazurkas: Daniil Trifonov (Russia)
Prize of the Vice-Chancellor of the Fryderyk Chopin University of Music for the best performance of the Polonaise-Fantaisie in A-Flat Major: Ingolf Wunder (Austria)
Warsaw Philharmonic Prize for the best performance of a concerto: Ingolf Wunder (Austria)
Fryderyk Chopin Society Prize for the best performance of a polonaise: Lukas Geniušas (Russia/Lithuania)
Prize funded by Krystian Zimerman for the best performance of a sonata: Yulianna Avdeeva (Russia)

Yulianna Avdeeva (Russia) with the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Antoni Wit

Yulianna Avdeeva (Russia),
1st-prize winner in the 16th Competition (2010)

“I guess no verdict could be expected to satisfy all observers without exception. But it seems that even in the wildest dreams no-one predicted the temperature of the debate that flared up once the name of the winner had been announced.”

Marcin Majchrowski, “Dwutygodnik”

Lukas Geniušas (Russia/Lithuania),
joint 2nd-prize winner in the 16th Competition (2010)

Paweł Wakarecy (Poland),
distinction in the 16th Competition (2010)

Ingolf Wunder (Austria),
joint 2nd-prize winner in the 16th Competition (2010)

Credits: Story

The Fryderyk Chopin Institute (Narodowy Instytut Fryderyka Chopina)

Exhibition scenario: Agata Mierzejewska
Design: Alina Rybacka-Gruszczyńska
Translations of notes on the Competition history: John Comber, edited by: Tomasz Zymer
English translations of quotations and captions: Tomasz Zymer

The photographs come from the collection of the Fryderyk Chopin Institute.

Notes on the Competition history come from a website (also available as a mobile app) developed by the Fryderyk Chopin Institute and dedicated to the successive editions of the International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition.

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