The Leeds International Piano Competition is one of the top 3 most important and prestigious piano competitions in the world, with previous finalists such as Murray Perahia, Mitsuko Uchida, András Schiff… and dozens more names that anybody familiar with classical pianists will recognise instantly as being in the top row of the best, most important, and most successful artists in the business.
The competition has always owed its strength and international presence to its founder Dame Fanny Waterman- after she recently stepped down from her role as Artistic Director, Adam Gatehouse and the pianist Paul Lewis took over the reigns as joint Artistic Directors (Paul Lewis has unfortunately since resigned from the post due to career commitments).
We already covered aspects of The Leeds (as the competition is more informally known) in episode 5 of the Heart of the Piano Podcast when I interviewed Benjamin Frith, who took part as a competitor in 2 separate years, and whose teacher is Dame Fanny Waterman. So it was a pleasure to be able to chat to Adam who very kindly gave us some of his time in the middle of the Leeds Piano Festival (a new annual offshoot of the competition!) which is currently running in Leeds (Yorkshire) and London.
- Adam’s impact on the world of piano (and beyond!)- The BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artists’ Scheme [3:00]
- How Adam was approached by Dame Fanny Waterman to be on the jury for The Leeds, and subsequently Artistic Director [6:10]
New direction and feel for the competition- less of a competition and more of a celebration but still keeping some of the ‘gladiatorial’ aspect!
- The case for piano competitions as a means of launching careers [9:40]
How The Leeds has been helping Eric Lu’s (2018 winner) career
- About Eric Lu [11:15]
- A supportive atmosphere for the competitors [12:40]
More forgiveness towards memory lapses!
- Competitors all invited to take part in masterclasses, and participants knocked out of the competition valued by being invited to take part in education and outreach events [16:10]
- How to bring high-level classical piano playing to the general public? [18:20]
- Adam’s previous experience as a jury member for The Leeds [26:45]
The things Adam wanted to change after being appointed Artistic Director
- The new annual piano festival to keep interest alive in the years between competitions [34:20]
- Increasing awareness of The Leeds which was previously a well-kept secret! [37:05]
The earlier 2-part podcast episode with pianist Benjamin Frith with much discussion about The Leeds and Dame Fanny Waterman: https://heartofthepiano.com/e05-part-1-interview-with-benjamin-frith/ and https://heartofthepiano.com/e05-part-2-interview-with-benjamin-frith/
Also, available on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/heart-of-the-piano-podcast/id1435254725
The Leeds International Piano Competition: https://www.leedspiano.com
Eric Lu’s new CD recorded at The Leeds: https://www.leedspiano.com/product/eric-lu-new-cd/
Catch all the replays from Medici.tv while they’re available! https://leedspiano2018.medici.tv/
About Adam Gatehouse: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adam_Gatehouse
A must-have book for anybody interested in this competition: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Piano-Competition-Story-Wendy-Thompson/dp/0571160727
The ‘Fiona’ I referred to is Fiona Sinclair, the Chief Executive of The Leeds: https://www.leedspiano.com/leeds-international-piano-competition-appoints-fiona-sinclair-as-chief-executive/
This article: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/4704577/Winning-ways-with-a-rhapsody.html reminded me that it was Armen Babakhanian who was punished in 1996 for his memory lapse in the final!
I’m guessing it’s this article that Adam was referring to, which discusses Bach’s current surge in popularity in under-35s: https://www.yorkpress.co.uk/leisure/showbiz/17540498.bachs-popularity-surges-334-years-after-composer-was-born/
The second-round display of virtuosity (Chopin Etudes op.10) that was rewarded with progression to the semi-finals: https://leedspiano2018.medici.tv/replay/second-round-with-siqian-li/
The 2018 Leeds Pub Piano Competition: http://leedsliving.co.uk/art-culture/the-leeds-pub-piano-competition-is-a-winner/
I spent far too much time hunting for the article which talked about one of The Leeds’ jury members escaping to take part in the Leeds Pub Piano Competition in a previous year- if anybody finds this article please let me know!
(ah, it might be in the book I linked to above about the history of The Leeds! I don’t have it anymore…)
Some of my favourite performances from the 2018 competition:
- https://leedspiano2018.medici.tv/replay/second-round-with-jinhyung-park/ – knocked out of the first round held in Leeds, but one of my personal favourites!
- https://leedspiano2018.medici.tv/replay/second-round-with-mario-h%C3%A4ring/ – an easy performer to warm to, and consistently excellent in every single round I saw him in including the concerto final.
- https://leedspiano2018.medici.tv/replay/second-round-with-evelyne-berezovsky/ – a few memory lapses but easily my favourite performer from the entire competition despite nerves. Her Messiaen in this round was an absolute revelation and amongst one of the most profound musical experiences I’ve had anywhere as an audience member. I was so happy she made it to the next round despite the nerves and memory lapses.
- https://leedspiano2018.medici.tv/replay/semi-final-with-evelyne-berezovsky/ – and the next round from Evelyne Berezovsky that she unfortunately didn’t progress from- possibly as the result of continued nerves and some more memory lapses- but for me personally by a million miles the most expressive and colourful playing. It’s very hard for me to think of any professional pianists who have a better sense of harmonic direction and structure. Her chamber playing was really fantastic with a strong sense of communication with her musical partner. Even her cheeky ‘jazz’ chord when the violinist started to tune showed a subtle sense of fun and enjoyment.
- https://leedspiano2018.medici.tv/replay/final-with-mario-h%C3%A4ring/ – my personal favourite of the concerto finals… warm, responsive, beautiful playing with a real sense of active listening and partnership with the orchestra, obviously enjoying himself for every second of his performance.