‘The Leeds’ has attracted the world’s finest young pianists and prize-winners include the Competition’s Patron Murray Perahia KBE, Radu Lupu, Mitsuko Uchida, András Schiff, Lars Vogt, Anna Tsybuleva, Federico Colli and Eric Lu.
Since the first edition held in 1963, The Leeds International Piano Competition has become one of the world’s foremost music competitions.
An International Trailblazer
Since its inception in 1963, the Leeds International Piano Competition has been a trailblazer among international music competitions and has shaped the world of classical piano.
With the BBC broadcasting the competition since 1966 on television and radio, its impact has reached far and wide. Historical footage of piano legends in their formative years can be found in The Leeds archive, which has attracted over 2.4 million views in the first half of 2023 alone.
More to the Leeds than a competition
The Leeds Piano Trail, brings the spirit of the competition to every corner of the city centre every three years. These pianos are available to play all year-round and are set to be experienced by over 1.8 million people in 2023 during Leeds’ Year of Culture. The Leeds Piano Trail was awarded a prestigious Royal Philharmonic Society Award in 2023.
The competition’s schools programme, in partnership with Artforms Leeds and the Lang Lang International Music Foundation, plays a central role in engaging local children and young people with the piano, while also providing support for teachers and resources in music education for schools.
The first Leeds International Piano Competition took place in 1963.
Co-founded by Fanny Waterman, a local piano teacher and Marion Thorpe, Countess of Harewood, over the past 60 years the competition has launched the careers of some of the greatest pianists of our time.
Previous winners include Radu Lupu, Murray Perahia, Dmitri Alexeev, Alessio Bax, Sunwook Kim, Sofya Gulyak, Federico Colli, Anna Tsybuleva, Eric Lu and Alim Beisembayev.
Equally illustrious are the names of finalists, including Mitsuko Uchida and Sir Andras Schiff, Kathryn Stott, Peter Donohoe, Louis Lortie, Lars Vogt, Leon MacCawley, Sa Chen, Denis Kozhukhin, Louis Schwizgebel. Their exceptional talent continues to inspire generations of pianists.
Dame Fanny Waterman (1920-2020) chaired the jury from 1981 until her retirement in 2015 at the age of 95. She was succeeded by pianist Paul Lewis (2018) and current Artistic Director, Adam Gatehouse, and the competition is honoured to have the support of Murray Perahia as Patron and Lang Lang as Global Ambassador.
The historic Leeds Town Hall has served as the iconic venue for the competition's finals, with exceptions in 1975 and 2024 due to renovations. In 2024, the finals will take place in St. George's Hall, Bradford, before returning to the majestic backdrop of the Town Hall in 2027, accompanied by the installation of a Blue Plaque commemorating Dame Fanny Waterman's life.
Esteemed UK orchestras, including the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, and the Hallé, have played a crucial role in supporting the concerto finals. These performances have brought emerging talents together with renowned conductors such as Sir Charles Groves, Sir Simon Rattle, and Sir Mark Elder, often sparking enduring relationships.