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History / 1951: a new departure
1951: a new departure
Marcel Cuvelier with composer Joseph Leroy (1955)
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In the spring of 1950, nonetheless, it was decided to relaunch the Ysaÿe Competition. Marcel Cuvelier, director of the Brussels Philharmonic Society and founder in 1940 of the youth-music organisation known as the Jeunesses Musicales de Belqique and in 1945, with René Nicoly, of the International Federation of Jeunesses Musicales, persuaded Queen Elisabeth to lend her name to the competition. Paul de Launoit loyally gave his total support to the venture, of which he became president. Alongside them, Jean van Straelen, administrator-secretary of the Royal Brussels Conservatory, played a more discreet - but no less essential - role; the competition was in good hands. 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. These buildings, indeed, were very quickly to become one of the competition’s symbols, to the extent of overshadowing their original function, which was only revived in 1956.

H.M. Queen Elisabeth and count Paul de Launoit (1959)
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The Competition developed rapidly. A founder member of the Geneva-based World Federation of International Music Competitions in 1957, ever since its foundation it has been considered the world over to be one of the most prestigious, but also one of the most demanding, in existence. It is restricted to the violin (since 1951), the piano (since 1952), composition (from 1953 to 2012), voice (since 1988), and the cello (starting in 2017). Today, the competition takes place annually and has returned to a four-year cycle. Need we go into more detail here? The history of the Competition, after all, is one of images, sounds, and memories, and while memories can be transmitted after a fashion from generation to generation, today images and sounds are available thanks to sound recordings, video, and archives - on which considerable effort has been expended in recent years, thanks to the support of our benefactors and sponsors. The commitment displayed at the time by Jacques Vaerewyck, who was then director general of the Philharmonic Society, vice-president of the WFIMC, and a member of the Competition’s board, deserves recognition. Following the death of Queen Elisabeth in 1965, Queen Fabiola, as Patron, and Count Jean-Pierre de Launoit - who would serve as President of the Competition from 1978 to 2014 - brought the Competition into the modern era, achieving financial independence and establishing solid foundations in society through sponsorship and via the media.
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