The best pianists from all over the world have descended on Warsaw to fight for the 18th International Fryderyk Chopin Competition, which starts tomorrow.
The competition is one of the world’s most prestigious musical events and takes place in what the organizers call the “Piano Capital of the World”.
The stakes are high, as the winners sign contracts with international record companies, release the best-selling albums and sign up for global concert tours.
This year’s event attracted a record number of applicants, with over 500 pianists from around the world sending recordings to the competition’s organizer, the National Fryderyk Chopin Institute.
One hundred and fifty-one of them were invited to Warsaw in July to take part in the eliminations, which brought the final number down to 87.
In addition, nine pianists who have won first prizes in other major competitions in recent years are eligible to compete.
A glance at the finalists shows a dominance of competitors from Asia. The largest group of finalists is 22 Chinese, followed by 16 Poles, 14 Japanese, seven from South Korea and six from Italy.
Only five pianists will compete from Russia, which has traditionally provided the lead group. Dmitry Shostakovich took part in the inaugural competition in 1927.
The others come from Canada, North and South America, a Spaniard, a Cuban, a British, a Latvian and a Thai.
Two finalists from the previous competition will perform: the Latvian Georgijs Osokins and the Polish Szymon Nehring, as well as the Russian Nikolay Khozyainov, who reached the final in 2010. He was 18 at the time and one of the favorites.
Dating from 1927, the competition is only scheduled every five years. However, due to restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the competition has been postponed from 2020 to 2021.
Concerned that the ep coronavirusidemic would end the competition were rejected by Culture Minister Piotr Gliński at the pre-competition press conference at the Royal Castle in Warsaw yesterday.
He said: “The competition has to take place, because it is a celebration of Poland and the whole world. Chopin is a great showpiece for Poland in the world, the most expensive Polish brand, which has been valued at PLN 3 billion.
“At the same time, it is an important part of Polish identity.
The competition will begin with an inaugural concert on Saturday at the Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra, with pieces by Robert Schumann, Johann Sebastian Bach and Ludwig van Beethoven.
Then there will be three stages leading up to the finals from October 18-20.
Tickets for the event are already sold out, but organizers have prepared a wide array of cutting-edge technology options for chair fans.
These include live broadcasts on the chopin2020.pl website, a dedicated app, and even the ability to be present using VR technology.
The interest in Poland and the world is expected to be huge. The July eliminations were watched by a record number of viewers online.
Artur Szklener, Director of the Fryderyk Chopin Institute said: “They have been watched and listened to four million times, so already at the elimination stage we have reached the level of the previous competition in terms of viewers.”
Competitors’ performances will be judged by a jury composed of leading musical authorities and outstanding teachers, led by Katarzyna Popowa-Zydroń.