Originally due to take place in five cities, the First Round of The Leeds International Piano Competition is now taking place in an additional eleven cities on three continents to ensure all competitors can take part amid extensive travel restrictions

Second Round, Semi-Finals and Finals due to take place in Leeds, 8-18 September 2021

The Leeds International Piano Competition will present its International First Round between 28 March and 8 April in 16 cities worldwide, accommodating all 62 competitors from 28 different countries. Each competitor’s 25-minute recital will be performed under identical conditions with all of them playing a Steinway Model D, and with the same camera and audio set up. There will be no audience or jury present. Instead each recital will be filmed and viewed remotely by the jury, and later online by audiences worldwide.

The 16 venues will accommodate anything between 1 and fourteen competitors, and a detailed production brief for local film crews will ensure the same stage layout, audio-visual equipment, camera angles, microphone positioning and recording/editing style. The Competition is working with London-based producer Classical Media who will coordinate all aspects of the filming remotely. Every venue will be complying with their local COVID-19 regulations, ensuring the utmost safety of everyone taking part.

The First Round jury consists of Adam Gatehouse, Artistic Director of The Leeds; pianists Simone Dinnerstein and Noriko Ogawa; and record producer Martin Sauer. The jury will judge the films remotely from their own homes, with final voting taking place by 18th April. 24 musicians will then be selected to travel to Leeds in September to take part in the Second Round, Semi-Finals and Finals.

Not only will this plan allow the safest possible participation of each of the 62 competitors and four jurors, but a further benefit of the new strategy is a reduction in the Competition’s carbon emissions. The Leeds wishes to play its part in tackling climate change and is happy that by substantially reducing long-distance air travel of both competitors and jury it can aid the reduction of its carbon footprint.

Adam Gatehouse, Artistic Director of The Leeds International Piano Competition, commented:
“In this year which has been so dark and difficult for performing artists everywhere, we are thrilled to provide a beacon of hope to this important group of young aspiring pianists, and enable The Leeds to go ahead as planned for its 20th edition in 2021. We have bent over backwards to ensure that all 62 competitors for this First Round can perform in the best possible conditions, in wonderful halls and on Steinway Model D pianos, and without having to travel more than is absolutely necessary or permitted. In this way they can give of their best as they would in a live situation. We are also delighted to spearhead a new way of approaching this International First Round, dramatically expanding our reach and presence globally, reducing our carbon footprint, and enabling our international jury to view and judge remotely.”

The news of the First Round has become a big story in the little city of Arvika, Sweden (population 14,000) which will be the very first to host the performances. In a ‘Letter from Arvika’ sent to the Competition, a local musical spokesperson said:
“This has become big news in the little city of Arvika and the population here is overjoyed to be in such fine company in this list and mentioned in connection with some of the major metropolitan cities of the world.”

Other venues include the Beijing Central Conservatory of Music, which is the alma mater of the competitions Global Ambassador, Lang Lang, the historic Moscow Conservatoire, the Di Menna Center in downtown Manhattan, the Salle Cortot in Paris, Royal Academy of Music in London, and locations in Milan, Vienna, Warsaw, Cleveland, Tokyo and Seoul.  Only two of the 62 Competitors will need to cross borders at all, and contingencies to manage the impact of changing local restrictions are being reviewed almost daily. 

The Leeds would like to thank the generosity of all the venues taking part in this round of the Competition, enabling young artists to take part in what has been a very tough and challenging year for musicians. The Leeds is also helping facilitate the Montreal International Musical Competition and Cleveland International Piano Competition who will both use a number of the same international venues and film crews to film some of the competitors for their own competitions this year.

The Second Round and Semi-Finals of The Leeds will be hosted live this September by The Leeds’ Principal Partner, the University of Leeds at the Great Hall, and the Finals will take place at Leeds Town Hall. All rounds will be streamed worldwide by medici.tv and the Semi-Finals and Finals will be broadcast by BBC Radio 3 and the Finals on BBC Four. Concerto performances in the Final will see the five finalists perform with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic conducted by Andrew Manze.