Canadian pianist Bruce Xiaoyu Liu was awarded first prize in the Chopin piano competition in Warsaw on Thursday, clinching one of the world’s most prestigious music awards.
“Being able to play Chopin in Warsaw is one of the best things you can imagine,” 24-year-old Liu said as the jury announced their decision at the Warsaw Philharmonic Concert Hall.
Previous winners of the Chopin Competition include some of the greatest names in classical music, such as Maurizio Pollini, Martha Argerich and Krystian Zimerman.
Held every five years since 1927, the Chopin competition would normally have been held last year, but was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic – a first since World War II.
“It was challenging to get all the competitors into Poland,” Artur Szklener, director of the National Institute of Frederic Chopin, which organises the competition, said.
But one of the 17 jury members, Argentinian concert pianist Nelson Goerner, believes that pandemic-related lockdowns helped raise the standard of this year’s competition.
“The level this year is remarkable,” Goerner said earlier in the competition.
“The pianists have had more time to prepare and I think the pandemic has awakened in all of us a desire to go further, to surpass ourselves,” he said.
“You can hear it in how these young pianists are playing.”
Japan’s Kyohei Sorita, 27, came joint-second with 26-year-old Italian-Slovenian Alexander Gadjiev.
Spain’s Martin Garcia Garcia, 24, came third.
Born in Paris, Liu graduated from Montreal Conservatoire.
He has performed with the Cleveland Orchestra, Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra, Montreal Symphony Orchestra and Orchestra of the Americas.
This year’s event drew 87 pianists from across the globe, including 22 from China, 16 from Poland and 14 from Japan.
Broadcast live on YouTube and via a bespoke mobile app, the contest attracted record online interest.
Some 70,000 people watched the result streamed online.
All the finalists will now perform in gala concerts until October 23.