New era, stronger partnership with piano contest


The global reach of one of the world’s leading piano competitions is being significantly extended thanks to a renewed partnership with the University of Leeds.

The Leeds International Piano Competition and the University have worked together since the earliest days of the competition, with heats and events hosted on campus since the inaugural contest in 1963.

Now, as ‘The Leeds’ enters a new and dynamic phase in its history under the artistic directorship of Paul Lewis and Adam Gatehouse, the University has extended its financial support for the competition, to ensure international audiences can experience performances live and on-demand via, the world’s leading online classical music channel.

More people will see the 2018 competition than any other in its long and illustrious history.

The first ever overseas round of the competition takes place during April in New York, Berlin and Singapore. Sixty-eight young pianists from 28 countries have been selected for these initial stages. Those who successfully progress from the first round will gather in Leeds in September to participate in the second round and for places in the semi-finals and finals of the triennial event.

The University and The Leeds also have ambitious collaboration plans to harness their shared passion for educating, inspiring and motivating the next generation of musicians and music lovers across Yorkshire and beyond.

We are honoured to build on our longstanding relationship with The Leeds to help it reach the screens of new international audiences.

Professor Hai-Sui Yu

Professor Hai-Sui Yu, Pro-Vice-Chancellor: International at the University of Leeds, said: “Leeds is a truly global University which welcomes students and staff from around the world and we are honoured to build on our longstanding relationship with The Leeds to help it reach the screens of new international audiences as it moves to the next stage in its evolution.

“The innovations of streaming and heats across three continents resonate with the University’s own view of the role and potential of culture: that it should be accessible, democratic and enriching. The Leeds encompasses all three of these attributes, and those who are enhancing it for the modern era are doing so with a respect for its illustrious past while setting an innovative and ambitious course for its future.”

The support offered by the University of Leeds over the past five decades has made it one of our most significant partners. Its unstinting provision has played an integral role in the global success of the competition.

Mark Wingate

Mark Wingate, Chief Executive of Leeds International Piano Competition, said: “The support offered by the University of Leeds over the past five decades has made it one of our most significant partners. Its unstinting provision has played an integral role in the global success of the competition.

“Our shared belief in the value of the transformative power of culture will be much enhanced by our collaboration both in Yorkshire and through global streaming of the competition, and we are grateful to the University for enabling us to take the great city of Leeds to the world in a new way.”

With the University’s School of Music, the competition will connect with a wide range of audiences through educational activities and events, such as projects to reach school pupils who might otherwise not get to enjoy classical music. Students will also be able to take advantage of formal work placements, paid internships and mentoring opportunities, as well as support for course work and career advice from competition staff and alumni.

Next month will see The Leeds represented at the University’s annual research open day – Be Curious – highlighting the partnership and providing opportunities for children and families to play, experience, and be inspired by the piano.

As well as making possible the online streaming of the competition, the University will provide accommodation to all 24 pianists from around the world during its later stages, from 6 to 15 September. This includes access to the University’s world-class facilities, such as the 27 new Steinway pianos in the School of Music, which recently joined such prestigious international institutions as New York’s Juilliard School when it became the first member of the UK’s Russell Group of universities to secure All-Steinway School status.

All competitors will stay in one place for the first time, increasing opportunities for meaningful cultural exchange – something that is core to both the University and the new vision for the competition.

The University’s magnificent Great Hall will provide the backdrop for the Second Round and Semi-Final performances, while the beautifully-restored Clothmakers’ Centenary Concert Hall will host numerous masterclasses and talks with competitors and competition alumni.

The University of Leeds’s relationship with The Leeds has been further strengthened by the gift of the personal archive of competition co-founder Dame Fanny Waterman, as well as the competition’s archive. Both now form part of the University Library’s Special Collections.

  • The Leeds is hosting a new celebration of the piano in Leeds and London, in May. Leeds Piano Festival will feature distinguished past winners and alumni of the competition Lars Vogt, Alessio Bax and Sunwook Kim. There will also be appearances by the brilliant young scholars of the Lang Lang International Music Foundation.

Further information

For further press information about The Leeds, please contact Victoria Bevan via or +44(0)20 3077 4947. For press information about the University of Leeds, please contact Gareth Dant at or +44(0)113 3433996

The first Leeds International Piano Competition took place in 1963; the idea of local piano teacher and former concert pianist, Fanny Waterman. In bringing the competition to fruition, Dame Fanny, as she was to become in 2005, was assisted by her husband Geoffrey de Keyser and by Marion Thorpe, then Countess of Harewood. The first competition was won by Michael Roll before a jury chaired by Sir Arthur Bliss. In 1981 Dame Fanny Waterman chaired the jury for the first time, continuing to do so until her retirement as artistic director in 2015, when she was succeeded by Paul Lewis (chair of the jury) and Adam Gatehouse as Co-Artistic Directors.

The concerto finals have been supported by a number of major UK orchestras over the years including the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and the Hallé. Sir Mark Elder has conducted the Hallé at all the finals between 2003 and 2015. Other conductors with long associations with the competition include Sir Charles Groves and Sir Simon Rattle. In 2018 Edward Gardner will conduct at the finals for the first time. The BBC has broadcast all competitions since 1966 and in 2018 there will be coverage on BBC Radio 3 and BBC Four TV, as well as worldwide streaming by

The list of eminent past winners and alumni includes Radu Lupu and Murray Perahia. More recent winners with growing professional careers include Alessio Bax, Sunwook Kim and Federico Colli. The roll call of other competition finalists is equally illustrious as that of the winners and includes Dame Mitsuko Uchida and Sir András Schiff (1975), Peter Donohoe (1981), Louis Lortie (1984), Lars Vogt (1990), Denis Kozhukhin (2006) and Louis Schwizgebel (2012).

The competition’s 1972 winner Murray Perahia became Patron in June 2017. Lang Lang is Global Ambassador and Dame Fanny Waterman was appointed Life President and Founder Director Emeritus in 2015.