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Competitions / PIANO 1956 / Candidates / Candidates
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First prize - Queen Elisabeth International Grand Prize
One of the few artists who has combined a successful career as a pianist and conductor, Russian born Vladimir Ashkenazy inherited his musical gift from both sides of his family: his father David Ashkenazy was a professional light music pianist and his mother Evstolia (née Plotnova) was daughter of a chorus master in the Russian Orthodox church. He first came to prominence on the world stage in the 1955 Chopin Competition in Warsaw and as first prize winner of the Queen Elisabeth Competition in 1956; since then he has built an extraordinary career, not only as one of the most outstanding pianists of the 20th century, but as an artist whose creative life encompasses a vast range of activities and continues to offer inspiration to music-lovers across the world. Conducting has formed the largest part of his activities for the past 20 years. He took up the new position of Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor to the Sydney Symphony in January 2009 and collaborates with them on extensive recording projects and international touring activities each year. He has previously held posts as Chief Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and Music Director of NHK Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo. Alongside these positions, Vladimir Ashkenazy continues his longstanding relationship with the Philharmonia Orchestra of which he was appointed Conductor Laureate in ­­2000. In addition to his performances with the orchestra in London and around the UK each season, he tours with them worldwide - most recently to China and Korea - and has developed landmark projects such as ‘Prokofiev and Shostakovich Under Stalin’ in 2003 (a project which he also took to Cologne, New York, Vienna and Moscow) and ‘Rachmaninoff Revisited’ (which was reprised in Paris in October 2010). Vladimir Ashkenazy also holds the position of Music Director of the European Union Youth Orchestra, with whom he tours each year, and Conductor Laureate of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra and the NHK Symphony Orchestra. He maintains strong links with a number of other major orchestras with whom he has built special relationships over the years, including The Cleveland Orchestra (of whom he was formerly Principal Guest Conductor) and Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin (Chief Conductor and Music Director 1988-96), as well as making guest appearances with many other major orchestras around the world. While conducting takes up a significant portion of his time each season, Vladimir Ashkenazy maintains his devotion to the piano - these days mostly in the recording studio - where he continues to build his extraordinarily comprehensive recording catalogue with releases such as the 1999 Grammy award-winning Shostakovich Preludes and Fugues, Rautavaara’s Piano Concerto No. 3 (a work which he commissioned), Bach's Wohltemperierte Klavier, Rachmaninov’s Transcriptions and Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations. His most recent solo release is a disc of Bach Partitas. A recording of French works for piano duo with Vovka Ashkenazy was released in August 2009 to great critical acclaim, and the duo has given concerts in Japan and South Korea in autumn 2011. Beyond his performing schedule, Vladimir Ashkenazy continues to be involved in some fascinating TV projects, often inspired by his passionate drive to ensure that serious music continues to have a platform in the mainstream media and is made available to as broad an audience as possible. Among these are his programmes with director Christopher Nupen, as well as 1979’s Music After Mao, filmed in Shanghai, and the acclaimed Ashkenazy in Moscow programmes which marked his first visit in 1989 to the country of his birth since leaving the USSR in the 1960s. More recently he has developed educational programmes with NHK TV including the 1999 Superteachers working with inner-city London school children, and in 2003-4 a documentary based around his ‘Prokofiev and Shostakovich Under Stalin’ project
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Second Prize
In the tradition of the great Romantic pianists, John Browning (1933-2003) earned a distinguished reputation for his exceptional interpretive gifts, technical mastery of keyboard color and sonority, and deep commitment to music. He was considered one of the most important and extraordinarily compelling virtuoso performers of his time. He was an American luminary of musical greatness, impressing audiences and critics with his passion, integrity, and probing musical imagination in an extensive repertoire that ranges from Bach and Scarlatti to 20th-century composers. His highly acclaimed recordings, which garnered three Grammy nominations and two Grammy awards, along with a number of significant compositions that were written for and expressly dedicated to him by renowned composers, further illustrate the superlative breath of his artistic scope. Since his triumphant debut in 1956 with the New York Philharmonic, John Browning appeared in virtually every music capital of the world, amassing accolades for his solo recitals, concerto appearances and recordings. He performed and recorded a broad spectrum of works spanning three centuries from Mozart to the grand virtuoso masterpieces of Beethoven, Brahms, Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff, Ravel and Tchaikovsky -- including 43 concertos. In addition to championing the works of Samuel Barber, with whom he had long been associated, he premiered and recorded works by the contemporary American composer, Richard Cumming. John Browning concertized regularly in the United States, Canada, Europe, Japan, South America, New Zealand, and Australia, and toured the Soviet Union on four occasions. In North America, he appeared regularly with the symphonies of Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Houston, Los Angeles, New Jersey, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Toronto, and the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C. Performances abroad with European orchestras included the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam, London Philharmonic, London and Scottish National Symphony Orchestras, and most recently, the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic with Andrew Davis. He collaborated with Leonard Slatkin at both the Wolf Trap and Blossom Music Festivals, Pinchas Zukerman at the Ravinia Festival, the Tokyo String Quartet at Lincoln Center's Mostly Mozart Festival, and Robert Spano and the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood. He was also a favorite at other American music festivals and was frequently heard at the Hollywood Bowl, Caramoor International, Grant Park, Saratoga, Newport, Rockport, Seattle International, St. Charles Art & Music, Minnesota Orchestra Summerfest, and the Peninsula Music Festival. Born in Denver, Colorado, in 1933 to a violinist father and a pianist mother, John Browning began piano studies at age five and gave his first public appearance as soloist with the Denver Symphony at age ten. He subsequently moved to New York City to pursue his musical studies on scholarship with Rosina Lhevinne at The Juilliard School. He rapidly gained prominence by winning the Steinway Centennial Award in 1954, the Leventritt Competition in 1955, and placing second the following year in the Queen Elisabeth Competition. Widespread attention continued when he made his professional orchestral debut in 1956 in a critically acclaimed performance with the New York Philharmonic and Dimitri Mitropoulos, which not only launched his career internationally, but also inspired Samuel Barber to write a piano concerto for him. Six years later, in 1962, John Browning was chosen to give the world-premiere of Samuel Barber's Concerto for Piano and Orchestra with Erich Leinsdorf and the Boston Symphony at the inaugural celebration of New York's Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. Written especially for John Browning, the piece was awarded a Pulitzer Prize and has since become the most frequently performed American piano concerto in the past half-century -- no other has been so firmly ensconced in the literature. He first recorded the work in 1964 with George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra for the CBS Masterworks label. A new recording with Leonard Slatkin conducting the St. Louis Symphony was released in 1991 by BMG Classics/RCA Victor Red Seal. This earned him his first Grammy Award for "Best Instrumental Soloist With Orchestra" and a Grammy nomination for "Best Classical Album." John Browning also recorded for MusicMasters, and a disc of the complete Barber solo piano repertoire, released in 1993, earned him a second Grammy Award for "Best Classical Instrumental Soloist Without Orchestra." Additional releases for that label included an all-Scarlatti disc in 1994, followed by a recording of two Mozart Concerti with the Orchestra of St. Luke's and Julius Rudel the next year, and a recording of the Brahms Piano Quintet and Horn Trio with John Browning and members of the St. Luke's Chamber Ensemble. In 1994, Deutsche Grammophone released John Browning's recording of the complete Barber songs with soprano Cheryl Studer and baritone Thomas Hampson. A highly acclaimed recording of the Beethoven "Triple" Concerto with violinist Pinchas Zukerman, cellist Ralph Kirshbaum, and Christoph Eschenbach conducting the London Symphony Orchestra was released in 1998 by BMG Classics/RCA Victor Red Seal. Additional listings in John Browning's discography include three recordings on the Delos label devoted to the music of Liszt, Mussorgsky and Rachmaninoff. He can also be heard on the Capital, RCA, Phoenix and Seraphim labels, which include the complete Chopin Etudes, all five of the Prokofiev piano concerti, and the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1. Recordings of Richard Cumming's Twenty-Four Preludes and Silhouettes, written for and dedicated to John Browning, were released on the CRI label.
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Third Prize
The pianist and composer the world knew as Andrzej Czajkowski was born Robert Andrzej Krauthammer in Warsaw, Poland. He began his piano studies at the age of 4 with his mother, an amateur pianist, but with the onset of World War II, the family was forced into the Warsaw Ghetto and the lessons ended. Smuggled out of the ghetto in 1942 and given false identity papers with the name Andrzej Czajkowski, he went into hiding with his grandmother until the end of the war. At the age of 9, Andrzej Czajkowski began formal piano studies at the State School in Lodz where his teacher was Emma Altberg. An extraordinary talent, he continued to the Paris Conservatory in 1948 becoming the youngest student ever admitted to the higher class of Lazar Lévy. His first public performance was in Paris in 1948 where he played Chopin and his own compositions. He graduated from the Paris Conservatory in 1950 with Gold Medals in sight-reading and piano performance at the age of 14. Returning to Poland in 1950, Andrzej Czajkowski studied at the State Music Academy in Sopot under Olga Iliwicka-Dabrowska, and starting in 1951 at the State Music Academy in Warsaw under Stanislaw Szpinalski for piano and Kazimierz Sikorski for composition. He was awarded membership in the Polish Composers Union at the age of 15 after submitting his Suite for Piano. Of the Suite, Membership Committee Chairman Zygmunt Mycielski wrote, "Andrzej Czajkowski shows considerable composing talent through his musical inventiveness, which is remarkable for such a young boy. I can state the Czajkowski undoubtedly possesses a great talent, musicality, and originality." In 1955, Andrzej Czajkowski won 8th prize in the Chopin Competition in Warsaw, and the next year, he took part in the 1956 Queen Elisabeth Competition, winning third prize, which launched his international career. Under the auspices of impresario, Sol Hurok, and with the considerable assistance of Arthur Rubinstein, huge concert tours followed. Starting in 1956, he continued his piano studies in Brussels with the Polish pianist Stefan Askenase, and in 1957, composition with Nadia Boulanger at the American Conservatory in Fontainebleau. It was at Fontainebleau that he completed a piano concerto dedicated to the American pianist John Browning. In some recital programs, Andrzej Czajkowski slyly programmed his own compositions, including a Sonata (1958) by Uyu Dal. He also played with the major world orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic Orchestra under Dimitri Mitropoulos, Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Fritz Reiner and the Los Angeles Symphony under Jean Martinon, to name just a few. Several recordings were completed for RCA Victor and Pathé Columbia Records, adding to his busy schedule. In 1960, he moved from Paris to London and started to divide his time between concert dates and composing. While this effectively ended his career as an international virtuoso, his remaining recital and concert dates provided a living and allowed him the time he wanted for composing and other interests such as Shakespeare's plays, playing bridge, and correspondence. This pattern of playing and composing continued until 1982, when his life was claimed by colon cancer. His opera, The Merchant of Venice, was finished less the last 24 measures of orchestration, which were completed by composer Alan Boustead.
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Fourth Prize
Born in Tarbes, France, Cécile Ousset studied under Marcel Ciampi at the Paris Conservatoire, where she won the First Piano Prize at the age of 14. She was a prize-winner at several major international piano competitions, including the Van Cliburn, Queen Elisabeth, Long-Thibaud, and Ferruccio Busoni competitions, before undertaking an international performing career that has taken her to all five continents. She has recorded a vast repertoire, including concertos by Johannes Brahms, Edvard Grieg, Franz Liszt, Felix Mendelssohn, Robert Schumann, Piotr Tchaikovsky, Sergey Rachmaninov, Sergey Prokofiev, Maurice Ravel, and Francis Poulenc, under conductors such as Kurt Masur, Simon Rattle, Günther Herbig, and Neville Marriner. Cécile Ousset gives master classes in the USA, Canada, Europe (including at Puycelsi, France, since 1984), Australia, and the Far East. She frequently serves as a jury member at major competitions such as the Van Cliburn, Rubinstein, Leeds, and Long-Thibaud. In 2011, she was made a Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite.
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Fifth Prize
A child prodigy from the age of four, Lazar Berman (1930-2005) was a student at the Moscow Conservatory and a prizewinner at the Queen Elisabeth and Franz Liszt Competitions in 1956, but was not authorized to perform outside the Soviet Union for more than twenty years. It was not until 1976 that he was 're-discovered' when he performed a memorable concert at the United Nations Organization with the National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Antal Dorati. Since that time Lazar Berman pursued an international career, performing with the very greatest orchestras under conductors such as Abbado, Karajan, Bernstein, Leinsdorf, ... and with whom he made more than a hundred recordings. In 1990 he moved to Italy. As a professor at Imola, he was regularly invited to sit on juries at international competitions and presided over the jury of the 1995 Long-Thibaud Competition in Paris.
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Sixth Prize
The Hungarian pianist and conductor Tamás Vásáry gave his first public performances at the age of eight. He studied with Ernst von Dohnányi and Józef Gát at the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest and later served as assistant to Zoltán Kodály. He won first prize in the Franz Liszt Competition in Budapest in 1948 and was also a laureate of the Chopin Competition in Warsaw (1955), the Long-Thibaud Competition in Paris (1955), the Queen Elisabeth Competition (1956), and the Rio de Janeiro Competition (1957). His international career took off after 1960, in the wake of his immensely successful debut in the Royal Festival Hall in London. He has performed with the world’s leading orchestras and most eminent conductors. He has made twenty recordings, mostly for Deutsche Grammophon. He has conducted over 100 orchestras. In England he was music director of the Northern Sinfonia (1979-1982) and principal conductor of the Bournemouth Sinfonietta (1989-1997). He was music director of the Hungarian Radio Symphony Orchestra from 1993 to 2004. Tamás Vásáry has been awarded many prizes and distinctions, including the Bach and Paderewsky medals, the Kossuth Prize, the Millennial Kölcsey Prize, the Gold Medal of the President of the Republic of Hungary, and the Hungarian Heritage Prize. In 2012 he received UNESCO’s Mozart Medal. He is an honorary member of the Royal Academy of Music and of the Royal College of Music in London and is also a Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres (France).
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Seventh Prize
Stanislav Knor studied with Frantisek Maxian at the Music Academy of his native town Prague. He taught at the Malmö Music Academy. He made several recordings with the Prague Symphony Orchestra.
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Eighth Prize
Claude Coppens studeerde bij Marcel Maas aan het Koninklijk Conservatorium van Brussel, waar hij onder meer het hoger diploma piano behaalde. Daarna studeerde hij verder in Parijs bij Marguerite Long en Jacques Février. In 1960 behaalde hij het diploma van doctor in de rechten aan de Vrije Universiteit van Brussel. Hij is laureaat van het Internationale Pianoconcours van Parijs (1955), de Koningin Elisabethwedstrijd (1956) en de Internationale Pianowedstrijd van Rio de Janeiro (1957). Claude Coppens creëerde het eerste pianoconcerto van Villa Lobos onder leiding van de componist. Als uitvoerend musicus heeft hij zich gespecialiseerd in het hedendaagse pianorepertoire. Tijdens de 14-daagse van de hedendaagse muziek op de Heizel ter gelegenheid van Expo '58 maakte hij kennis met de protagonisten van de muzikale avant-garde, en dit zorgde in zijn muzikale carrière voor een ommekeer. Als componist is hij autodidact. Coppens was als docent verbonden aan het Koninklijk Muziekconservatorium te Gent, en staat bekend als eigenzinnig musicus en pedagoog.
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Ninth Prize
Concert pianist, composer and teacher György Banhalmi (1926-1985) was born in Budapest and studied with Bela Ambrozy at the Ferenc Liszt Academy of his hometown. He was an official state soloist with the Hungarian Philharmonic Institute and Budapest Radio and gave many concerts in Europe and the Far East. In 1957 he emigrated to the United States and performed there with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He was the recipient of five international piano awards, including the Talman Award of the Society of American Musicians. He taught at the Music Center of the North Shore (currently the Music Institute of Chicago).
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Tenth Prize
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