Tuning up for imaginative new piano competition programme


The Leeds International Piano Competition, supported by the University, today reveals its hugely expanded programme for this year’s event.

From a wide range of concerts and events to the world’s smallest concert hall, the imaginative line-up aims to celebrate the instrument like never before.

Running from 17 August to 15 September – with many events taking place on campus – ‘The Leeds’ hopes to reach new audiences in the build-up to and during the triennial event, with a host of talks, masterclasses, exhibitions, free family events, concerts and other opportunities providing chances for people from Leeds and beyond to get involved with the competition.

Tickets are now on sale for the events, as well as for the competition’s final rounds, which take place from 6-15 September.

Dubbed Piano +, the new programme includes masterclasses and talks with world-famous pianists who make up the competition jury, such as Paul Lewis, Lars Vogt and Imogen Cooper.

Other events will feature eminent musicians and piano-loving celebrities, including musician Alfred Brendel, former politician Ed Balls and actor and University of Leeds alumnus Alistair McGowan.

All Piano + events are hosted by the University, which is the competition’s principal partner, with masterclasses and talks taking place in the Clothworkers Centenary Concert Hall. The University’s Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery will host an exhibition of remarkable historic pianos – including those owned and played by Chopin and Haydn – from the Cobbe Collection, brought to Leeds especially for the competition.

We are thrilled to be finding such exciting new ways of connecting the competition to the city of Leeds, its residents and visitors as well as the wider Yorkshire community.

Adam Gatehouse, Leeds International Piano Competition

Elsewhere in the city The Leeds, working with Leeds Business Improvement District (LeedsBID), is preparing the Leeds Piano Trail: twelve beautifully decorated pianos stationed in iconic locations across the city centre from 17 August.

These will be available for the public to play and will host 'mini recitals' by local music students and pianists, as well as pop-up performances by competition alumni, competitors and celebrity guests to spark the imagination of the millions of visitors, residents and workers who will visit, hear and play the pianos this summer. Leeds firm Besbrode Pianos is supplying all of the instruments for the trail.

Classic FM, as media partner for the Leeds Piano Trail, will broadcast its popular More Music Breakfast show, presented by Tim Lihoreau – another University alumnus – from Leeds on Friday 14 September.

The world's smallest concert hall will be installed in Leeds city centre – a customised shipping container, strikingly decorated and located in Victoria Gardens in front of Leeds Arts Gallery from 10-14 September.

It will play host to an engaging daily programme of free events including 10-minute recitals by competitors and jury members, taster piano lessons, talks and educational activities for local community groups.

The installation, provided by LeedsBID, will also enable passers-by to learn more about the competition, pick up Leeds Piano Trail maps, watch footage from competitions past and present, and generally engage with the world-famous event in a new way.

Adam Gatehouse, The Leeds’ Co-Artistic Director, said: “We are thrilled to be finding such exciting new ways of connecting the competition to the city of Leeds, its residents and visitors as well as the wider Yorkshire community.

“We want to celebrate and champion the piano by creating accessible and innovative piano-centred activities, events and programmes and share our passion for the piano engagingly and imaginatively with the widest possible audience. We also want everyone to have fun in the process.

“In so doing we are providing a much-enhanced experience for audiences and competitors in Leeds, as well as reaching out to the world with a global First Round on three continents, international broadcasting and worldwide concert engagements. And last but not least we are also looking forward to sharing this great city with the world.” 

The addition of this imaginative programming around the competition is among the striking innovations introduced by Adam Gatehouse and Paul Lewis since their appointment as co-artistic directors in 2015 to transform the Leeds International Piano Competition.

Other developments include creating an unrivalled post-competition prize package, designed with young pianists’ long-term career strategy in mind; a new annual Leeds Piano Festival based in London and Leeds; new global centres for its first round, the introduction of a learning and engagement programme, and worldwide live-streaming of all rounds on medici.tv.

A range of powerful new partnerships has also been forged which, with the other enhancements, have invigorated the competition and consolidated its position as among the most coveted prizes in the musical world.

  • A list of events and activities is published today as the ticketed public events go on sale at leedspiano.com. Details of free events as part of the Piano Trail and in the World’s Smallest Concert Hall will be announced in due course.

Further information

The above photo shows Lang Lang Young Scholar Eden Chen performing for students at St Nicholas Catholic Primary School, credit: Robling Photography.