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All personalities
Download the complete prize list of the Queen Elisabeth Competition from 1937 until 2019.
Personalities
2333 items | 234 Pages | Page
In October 1900, Elisabeth, duchess of Bavaria, married Prince Albert I, who became King of the Belgians on 23 December 1909. It was the first time a Belgian King had married for love rather than out of diplomatic considerations. Although they had very different personalities, Albert and Elisabeth had the same interests and complemented each other perfectly. They had three children: heir apparent Prince Leopold (1901-1983), Prince Charles (1903-1983) and Princess Marie-José (1906-2001). King Albert was a keen traveler. The King was also a mountaineer, a passion that would ultimately cost him his life. On 17 February 1934, after his daily duties, the King went for a quick climb in the Ardennes, but fell to his death from the rocks at Marche-les-Dames. Albert’s widow, Queen Elisabeth, was to outlive her husband by 31 years. A year after the King’s death, a fatal accident claimed the life of her daughter-in-law, Queen Astrid. This course of events left Elisabeth in a state of depression, but it was not too long before she recovered her strong personality of old. Indeed, she was a great support to her son Leopold and his three children who had lost their mother at such an early age. Queen Elisabeth would go down in history as the artistically minded and strong-willed Queen who had contact with all sections of the population. Despite her German origins, she resolutely sided with her new Belgian countrymen and women during the First World War. Behind the Yser she supported initiatives to help wounded soldiers, one of which was the creation of L’Océan, an extremely modem hospital for the time. Here she paid numerous visits to soldiers and continued to devote herself to the disabled veterans’ cause even after the war. Never before had a royal couple enjoyed such great popularity in Belgium. Elisabeth was an intellectual and extremely enthusiastic Queen. In the context of her interest in Egyptology and her contacts with the Egyptologist Jean Capart, she travelled to Egypt, where she was present at the opening of the tomb of Tutankhamen. In 1925 she travelled to India, after which she became engrossed in yoga. Legendary scientists Albert Einstein and Albert Schweitzer and the Catalan cellist Pablo Casals were among her close circle of friends. Later she would be labeled the "Red Queen" because she refused to be lectured to by the political establishment. During the Cold War she travelled to countries such as the Soviet Union and China. Conventions and protocol were anathema to her. Queen Elisabeth was an excellent painter and sculptor and a gifted violinist. Indeed, she was not afraid to play alongside the very greatest musicians of her time. Already in 1900 she met Eugène Ysaÿe, the Belgian violin virtuoso who was just reaching the pinnacle of an exceptional career. In 1912 he was appointed Royal Music Director. Together they would establish an international competition for violin. What Ysaÿe had in mind was a competition for young virtuosos, with extremely broad-ranging programmes, including contemporary music. Queen Elisabeth could not set up such a competition overnight. Ysaÿe died in 1931, shortly after the establishment of the Queen Elisabeth Music Foundation. Subsequently, the economic crisis and the accidental death of King Albert, followed by that of his daughter-in-law Queen Astrid, temporarily put into abeyance any large-scale artistic projects. It was only in 1937 that the first Ysaÿe Competition took place. An international jury of exceptionally high standing eagerly accepted the invitation. The prestige of Ysaÿe’s name, coupled with that of the Belgian, brought the elite of the violin world to Brussels. Before war broke out, thanks to the support of an enlightened and generous patron, Baron Paul de Launoit, Queen Elisabeth inaugurated a boldly conceived musical institution, based on the Soviet model and intended to make a noticeable improvement in the training conditions of young Belgian artists: this was the Queen Elisabeth Music Chapel. After the 1938 piano edition, circumstances led to its suspension for the time being. Times were uncomfortable and unpredictable for the Belgian royal family shortly after the Second World War : two of Queen Elisabeth’s children - Léopold III and Marie-José, an ephemeral Queen of Italy - lost their thrones. A third, Charles, held the Regency of Belgium for five years, but, though he was a princely artist, this period was unavoidably marked by one overriding priority: the economic and social reconstruction of the country. In the spring of 1950 it was decided to relaunch the Ysaÿe Competition. Marcel Cuvelier, director of the Brussels Philharmonic Society, persuaded Queen Elisabeth to lend her name to the competition. The first qualifiers took place in the spring of 1951, in accordance with the principles directly inherited from the Ysaÿe Competition. From now on, the prestigious buildings of the Queen Elisabeth Music Chapel would host the finalists for the period of seclusion.
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Honorary President of the Queen Elisabeth Competition Music is the most universal language of all. So it is very much at home in the heart of Europe, where languages and cultures meet and where opinions and people constantly interact. Music builds links across borders, but it is also about ceaseless creation and re-creation. Every performance is a reinvention, in which old melodies and harmonies ring out as if they have just been composed. The Competition sees tomorrow’s talent bring yesterday’s to life once more. My heartfelt best wishes go to all the young candidates. They give us the very best of themselves.
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Honorary President of the Queen Elisabeth Competition from 1965 until 2013.
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Unranked laureate
VIOLIN 2012
After studying in his homeland and later at the Conservatorio G.F. Ghedini in Cuneo (Italy), Ermir Abeshi pursued his studies under Salvatore Accardo at the Accademia Walter Stauffer in Cremona and at the New England Conservatory in Boston under Dora Schwarzberg. As concertmaster of the Cuneo Conservatory Orchestra from 2001 to 2005, he gave a number of concerts in Europe. He has also appeared in recitals as a soloist and in chamber music in Italy, the Czech Republic, Germany and in Boston. In 2004 he made his debut as a soloist with the Ghedini Symphony Orchestra. He has also played with the New England Conservatory Chamber Orchestra, the Bacau Philharmonic (Romania), and the Piedmont Symphony (Virginia).
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Sixth Prize
VIOLIN 1993
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First prize - Queen Elisabeth International Grand Prize
COMPOSITION 1960
Jean Absil was, first, a pupil of Alphonse Oeyen, organist at the basilica of Bonsecours. From 1913 he attended classes at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels, where he completed his musical studies. After learning orchestration and composition with Paul Gilson, he was awarded the Rome Prize and the Rubens Prize. He also sought the advice of Florent Schmitt. He was a professor at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels and at the Queen Elisabeth Music Chapel and, for more than forty years, he was director of the Music Academy in Etterbeek, which has borne his name since 1963. He was also a member of the Royal Academy of Belgium. Two activities dominated Jean Absil’s life and career: education and composition. An undisputed educator, he trained generations of composers for more than forty years. A leader who allowed his disciples to discover the music of their time, Absil synthetized the French School, Stravinsky, Bartok, polytonal, atonal and serial music (J. Stehman). His extensive works encompass all genres. His first distinguishing work was La mort de Tintagiles. His research on polytonality and atonality led to a brief study: Postulat de la musique contemporaine, prefaced by Darius Milhaud. Between 1929 and 1936 Absil applied the principles of his style mainly to numerous chamber music works. In 1936 he returned to large orchestral works with a second Symphony and Concertos for various instruments, including a Concerto for piano which, as a compulsory piece at the Ysaÿe Competition of 1938, definitely established his reputation. He produced large-scale works such as Les Bénédictions, Pierre Breughel l’Ancien, Les Voix de la Mer, and many choral works, whether religious or secular. Moreover, he often drew his inspiration from the folklore and rhythmic subtleties of Central Europe. When characterizing the Absilian language, Joseph Dopp notes that the ear never suffers from an impression of tonal insecurity when listening to Absil’s music: while it is no longer possible to find a reference to the classical major or minor tonalities, the composer invents new modes, which he replaces for each piece. From these modes emerge chords which, even if they are different from the classical ones, also have an expressive sense (tension or resolution). Absil never practised a real atonality: the apparent tonal independence of the voices always resolves itself into a unique tonality.
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