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Leeds Piano Festival 2018

As part of our programme of expanding activities, we presented the first of what is to be an annual Leeds Piano Festival in May 2018 in Leeds and London. It featured distinguished past winners and alumni of the competition Lars Vogt, Alessio Bax and Sunwook Kim, as well as appearances by the brilliant Young Scholars of the Lang Lang International Music Foundation.

Scholars Amir Siraj, Eden Chen and Chelsea Guo took part in a masterclass with Alessio Bax, visited schools and care homes, and performed in the ‘Piano Fantasia’ – a magical large-scale show in Leeds Town Hall which saw 1200 school children be inspired by the piano!

With the 2018 Festival behind us, we look forward to telling you more about the 2019 Festival in the near future.

Lars Vogt

Lars Vogt has established himself as one of the leading musicians of his generation.

Born in the German town of Düren in 1970, he first came to public attention when he won second prize at the 1990 Leeds International Piano Competition and has enjoyed a varied career for nearly twenty-five years. His versatility as an artist ranges from the core classical repertoire of Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann and Brahms to the romantics Grieg, Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov through to the dazzling Lutoslawski concerto. Lars Vogt is now increasingly working with orchestras as a conductor and in September 2015 took up his post as Music Director of Royal Northern Sinfonia at Sage, Gateshead.


During his prestigious career Lars Vogt has performed with many of the world’s great orchestras including the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Berlin Philharmonic, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Dresden Staatskapelle, Vienna Philharmonic, London Philharmonic, London Symphony Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, NHK Symphony and Orchestre de Paris. He has collaborated with some of the world’s most renowned conductors including Claudio Abbado, Daniel Harding, Mariss Jansons, Paavo Järvo, Andris Nelsons, Sir Simon Rattle and Robin Ticciati. His special relationship with the Berlin Philharmonic has continued with regular collaborations following his appointment as their first ever “pianist in Residence” in 2003/4.

Lars will be joining our Jury for the 2018 Competition.

Alessio Bax

Pianist Alessio Bax’s quintessential lyricism, insightful interpretations, and dazzling facility create “a ravishing listening experience,” with playing that “quivers with an almost hypnotic intensity” (Gramophone), leading to what Dallas Morning News calls “an out-of-body experience.” First Prize winner at the Leeds and Hamamatsu International Piano Competitions and a 2009 Avery Fisher Career Grant recipient, he has appeared as soloist with more than 100 orchestras, including the London and Royal Philharmonic Orchestras, Dallas and Houston Symphonies, NHK Symphony in Japan, St. Petersburg Philharmonic with Yuri Temirkanov, and the City of Birmingham Symphony with Sir Simon Rattle.



This summer, Bax looks forward to performing at the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival, Mimir Chamber Music Festival, Minnesota’s Beethoven Festival, Seattle Chamber Music Festival, Music@Menlo, Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival, Switzerland’s Verbier Festival, Kentucky’s Chamber Music Festival of Lexington, and Italy’s Incontri in Terra di Siena Festival, where he was recently appointed Artistic Director for a three-year term starting in 2017. Next season he makes his solo recital debut at London’s Wigmore Hall with a program of Schubert, Scriabin and Ravel; gives solo recitals in Spain, Italy and California; and performs with his wife, pianist Lucille Chung, in Guatemala, the U.S., and, in fall 2017, at the Fundación Beethoven in Santiago, Chile. He also gives six performances at Japan’s Le Pont Music Festival with Berlin Philharmonic concertmaster Daishin Kashimoto, flutist Emmanuel Pahud, and others; tours Japan with Kashimoto before giving a summer recital together at Wigmore Hall; and tours the U.S., both with his frequent recital partner, violinist Joshua Bell, and with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (CMS), culminating with a performance at New York’s Alice Tully Hall. Later in the spring, he participates in CMS performances at both Alice Tully Hall and Wigmore Hall.

Hailed by International Piano as “a pianist of refreshing depth,” Bax boasts an extensive concerto repertoire, which he puts to work this season playing Beethoven in Italy, Alabama, and Virginia; Brahms in Santa Rosa, California; Schumann in Santa Barbara; and returning to the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra for MacDowell’s Concerto No. 2 under Bramwell Tovey. Finally, he collaborates twice with Miguel Harth-Bedoya: on Mozart with the Norwegian Radio Orchestra, where Harth-Bedoya is principal conductor, and on Tchaikovsky with the Orquesta Nacional de España in Madrid. The two reunite once again in summer 2017 with Harth-Bedoya’s Fort Worth Symphony.

Performances have been broadcast live on the BBC (UK); CBC (Canada); RAI (Italy); RTVE (Spain); NHK (Japan); WDR, NDR, and Bayerischer Rundfunk (Germany); American Public Media’s “Performance Today”; WQXR (New York); WGBH (Boston); WETA (Washington, DC); and SiriusXM satellite radio, among many others.

In Summer 2015, Bax played 14 festivals on three continents, including his Minnesota Orchestra debut under Andrew Litton and return to Bravo! Vail with the Dallas Symphony and Jaap van Zweden. He opened the Colorado Symphony’s 2015-16 season, and undertook a recital tour of South America, crowned by two concerts at the famed Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, where he and Chung also played Mozart’s Concerto for Two Pianos with the Filarmónica de Buenos Aires. He toured Asia twice, first with Joshua Bell and then with Daishin Kashimoto; collaborated for the first time with the Emerson String Quartet; played four-hand piano concerts with Lucille Chung in Canada; returned to the CMS for engagements in New York and on tour; and played a solo recital at the Cliburn Concerts series in Fort Worth. He released a solo album of Mussorgsky and Scriabin, joined Chung on her new disc of Poulenc piano works, and released Lullabies for Mila, a collection dedicated to their baby daughter, all on the Signum Classics label.

Other highlights of recent seasons include Mozart with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra under Hans Graf; Mozart and Rachmaninov with London’s Southbank Sinfonia led by Simon Over and Vladimir Ashkenazy, respectively; and concerts at L.A.’s Disney Hall, Washington’s Kennedy Center, and New York’s Carnegie Hall. He opened – with a pair of Mozart piano concertos – and closed the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s 2014-15 season, partnered with Joshua Bell, for more than 35 concerts in Europe, North and South America, and Asia, and with Lucille Chung in the U.S., Canada, France, and Hong Kong. In 2013, he received the Andrew Wolf Chamber Music Award and Lincoln Center’s Martin E. Segal Award, which recognizes young artists of exceptional accomplishment.

The pianist is a staple on the international summer festival circuit, and has performed at England’s International Piano Series and Aldeburgh and Bath festivals; the Verbier Festival in Switzerland; the Risør Festival in Norway; and the Ruhr Klavier-Festival and Beethovenfest Bonn in Germany. He has also appeared multiple times at the Bard Music Festival in upstate New York, and has given recitals at New York’s Lincoln Center and other major music halls around the world, including those of Rome, Milan, Bilbao, Madrid, Paris, London, Tel Aviv, Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong, Mexico City, and Washington, DC. As a chamber musician, Bax has collaborated with Emanuel Ax, Sol Gabetta, Steven Isserlis, Nicholas Phan, Paul Watkins, and Jörg Widmann, among many others.

Bax’s celebrated discography for Signum Classics includes Beethoven’s “Hammerklavier” and “Moonlight” Sonatas (a Gramophone “Editor’s Choice”); Bax & Chung, a duo disc with Lucille Chung that includes Stravinsky’s original four-hand version of the ballet Pétrouchka as well as music by Brahms and Piazzolla; Alessio Bax plays Mozart, comprising Piano Concertos K. 491 and K. 595 with London’s Southbank Sinfonia and Simon Over; Alessio Bax plays Brahms (a Gramophone “Critics’ Choice”); Bach Transcribed; and Rachmaninov: Preludes & Melodies (an American Record Guide “Critics’ Choice 2011”). Recorded for Warner Classics, his Baroque Reflections album was also a Gramophone “Editor’s Choice.” He performed Beethoven’s “Hammerklavier” Sonata for maestro Daniel Barenboim in the PBS-TV documentary Barenboim on Beethoven: Masterclass, available as a DVD boxed set on the EMI label.

Alessio Bax graduated with top honors at the record age of 14 from the conservatory of Bari, his hometown in Italy, where his teacher was Angela Montemurro. He studied in France with Francois-Joël Thiollier and attended the Chigiana Academy in Siena under Joaquín Achúcarro. In 1994 he moved to Dallas to continue his studies with Achúcarro at SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts, where, with Lucille Chung, he is now the Johnson-Prothro Artist-in-Residence. He also serves with Chung as co-artistic director of Dallas’ Joaquín Achúcarro Foundation, created to cultivate the legacy of the Basque pianist and to support young pianists’ careers. A Steinway artist, Bax resides in New York City with Chung and their two-year-old daughter, Mila. Outside the concert hall he is known for his longtime obsession with fine food; as a 2013 New York Times profile noted, he is not only notorious for hosting “epic” multi-course dinner parties, but often spends his intermissions dreaming of meals to come.

Sunwook Kim

London-based Sunwook Kim came to international recognition when he won the prestigious Leeds International Piano Competition in 2006, aged just 18, becoming the competition’s youngest winner for 40 years, as well as its first Asian winner. His performance of Brahms’s Concerto No.1 with the Hallé Orchestra and Sir Mark Elder in the competition’s finals attracted unanimous praise from the press.

Future highlights include recitals at the International Piano Series in London (Queen Elizabeth Hall), at the Roque d’Antheron International Piano Festival, at the Salle Pleyel’s prestigious “Piano 4 Etoiles” series in Paris, in Aix-en-Provence, and at the Seoul Arts Centre. As a concerto soloist, he returns to the Philharmonia Orchestra (Mozart K491 with Edward Gardner), the Hallé Orchestra (Chopin 2, Prokofiev 3 and Brahms 2 with Sir Mark Elder), the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (Beethoven Triple and Rachmaninov 3 with Kiril Karabits), the RTSI Orchestra in Lugano (Beethoven 3 with Vladimir Ashkenazy), the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio-France (Unsuk Chin piano concerto), as well as a debut project with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen on tour in Korea (Schumann with Paavo Järvi) and extensive touring in Europe and the United States with the Seoul Philharmonic and Myung-Whun Chung.



Sunwook Kim’s second recording for Deutsche Grammophon, featuring Unsuk Chin’s Piano Concerto with the Seoul Philharmonic and Myung-Whun Chung, was released in May 2014. In 13/14, Sunwook also gave the world premiere performance of the work at a festival dedicated to Unsuk Chin at the Konserthuset in Stockholm, and the German premiere with the NDR Sinfonieorchester Hamburg.

The past two years were packed with many other exciting developments for Sunwook, including an acclaimed debut at the BBC Proms (Beethoven 3 with Bournemouth Symphony / Kiril Karabits), return projects with the London Symphony Orchestra (Prokofiev 2 with Daniel Harding), Helsinki Radio Symphony (Beethoven 4 with Andrew Manze), Philharmonia Orchestra (Beethoven 4 with Juraj Valcuha) and the Seoul Philharmonic (Beethoven 5 with Myung-Whun Chung), as well as recitals at Salle Pleyel in Paris, to a sold-out house at Teatro Colon Buenos Aires, at the Beethoven-Haus in Bonn and on tour in Japan. He also completed a widely praised complete Beethoven sonata cycle at the LG Arts Centre in Seoul, and his debut recording, featuring Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto, was released on Deutsche Grammophon.

Sunwook Kim is a keen chamber musician: chamber music highlights in his 13/14 season included two Schubert concerts at Salle Pleyel with members of the Berliner Philharmoniker, and several concerts at Guy Braunstein’s Rolandseck Festival in Germany. Next season will feature a trio tour in Asia with Jian Wang and Mayuko Kamio, a piano quartet project with Nobuko Imai, and a duo recital tour with cellist Isang Enders.

Over the years, Sunwook Kim has appeared as a concerto soloist in the subscription series of some of the world’s most prestigious orchestras: the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (Chung), London Symphony Orchestra (Gardiner), Philharmonia Orchestra (Ashkenazy), Berlin Radio Symphony (Janowski), London Philharmonic (Sinaisky), Radio-France Philharmonic (Chung), Tokyo Philharmonic (Chung), NHK Symphony (Steffens), BBC National Orchestra of Wales, BBC Philharmonic, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Lausanne Chamber Orchestra, and the Aspen Festival Orchestra.

Recitals to date include the Wigmore Hall in London, regular appearances in the “Piano 4 Etoiles” series at Salle Pleyel in Paris, Kioi Hall in Tokyo, Symphony Hall Osaka, Brussels Klara Festival, Brussels Summer Festival, Beethoven-Haus and Beethovenfest in Bonn, Klavier-Festival Ruhr and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Festspiele, the Dinard Festival in France, the London and Vancouver Chopin Societies, New York’s International Keyboard Institute, the New Ross International Piano Festival in Ireland, the Duszniki Zdrój International Chopin Festival in Poland as well as the Tongyeong International Music Festival and Kumho Rising Stars Series in Korea.

Born in Seoul in 1988, Sunwook Kim began the piano at the age of 3. He gave his debut recital aged just 10 at the Kumho Prodigy Series in Seoul, and this was followed by his concerto debut two years later.

Sunwook Kim graduated from the Korean National University of Arts in February 2008, and then completed an MA in conducting at the Royal Academy of Music. Besides Leeds, international awards include the first prize at the 2004 Ettlingen Competition (Germany) and the 2005 Clara Haskil Competition (Switzerland).

In 2013, Sunwook was selected by the Beethoven-Haus Bonn to become the first beneficiary of its new Mentoring Programme, a status which grants him exclusive access to the house’s unique collections and resources.

Lang Lang International Music Foundation Young Scholars 

The Young Scholars Program has been in place since the Lang Lang Foundation’s launch in 2008, making it their longest running initiative. Applications are accepted every two years. After reviewing hundreds of applicants, Lang Lang personally selects a limited number of exceptionally talented young pianists from around the world, offering them mentorship, tutelage, and unique opportunities for performance. The Competition has recently agreed a partnership with the Lang Lang Foundation, which will include an annual visit by three of the programme’s Scholars. During their time in Leeds and London in May 2018, they will have performances at the Howard Assembly Room and Wigmore Hall, as well as take part in a number of learning and engagement activities with LIPC and the Wigmore Hall’s Education department. The Young Scholars joining us in 2018 are Eden Chen, Chelsea Guo, and Amir Siraj.


Eden Chen

Eden Chen, age 19, is a Lang Lang International Music Foundation Young Scholar, a Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist, and a freshman in the Exchange between Columbia University and The Juilliard School. He has been featured on NPR’s From the Top radio show. He has recently received the McGaughey Platinum Prize in the Glendale Piano Competition, and is a two-time recipient of the David Weiss Scholarship of the Young Musicians Foundation. Eden is currently studying with Rufus Choi.  Additionally, he has participated in master classes given by Lang Lang, Daniel Pollack, Seymour Bernstein, Hung-Kuan Chen, and John Perry.


Chelsea Guo

Lang Lang Young Scholar Chelsea Guo is a 17-year-old double major in the Pre-College Division of The Juilliard School. She studies piano with Hung-Kuan Chen and Tema Blackstone, and classical voice with Lorraine Nubar. Chelsea is a two-year US Chopin Foundation Scholarship recipient and a young artist of the Artemisia Akademie at Yale. Her performances have been broadcasted on WQXR’s “Young Artists Showcase” and NPR’s “From the Top”. Chelsea won the prestigious Nordmann Scholarship in Juilliard Pre-College and the Young Artists Concerto Competition in PianoTexas, after which she performed with the Fort Worth Symphony under the baton of Maestro Barry Douglas.


Amir Siraj

Eighteen-year-old American pianist Amir Siraj is a 2017 U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts. In the past year, he has performed at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., and Millennium Park’s Pritzker Pavilion in Chicago. He received the Grand Prize at the Fidelity Investments Young Artist Competition, and First Prize at the Harvard Musical Association. Siraj has also been honored as a guest of NPR’s “From The Top” at Jordan Hall and selected as a winner of the National Young Arts Competition. Siraj is currently studying piano with Wha Kyung Byun and studying astrophysics at Harvard, where he also sings with the Krokodiloes, Harvard’s oldest a cappella group.