Canadian wins prestigious Chopin piano competition

Warsaw (AFP) – 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, had told AFP.

But one of the 17 jury members, Argentinian concert pianist Nelson Goerner, said that pandemic-related lockdowns helped raise the standard of this year's competition.

"The level this year is remarkable," Goerner told AFP 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.

'Sleep and party'

Born in Paris, Liu graduated from Montreal Conservatoire.

He has performed with the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra and has been on two tours in China.

"The pandemic actually made this kind of meeting for me more special," Liu said after his victory.

Liu said he had to be "really careful all the time" during the coronavirus crisis, so as to be able to keep up his competition and concert schedule, and as a result had "not met many people" in the past two years.

He also said he hoped the competition would be "just a start" in his musical journey.

"It's hard to keep the freshness, to continuously find new ideas so I hope this is not the last point," he told reporters.

He added that he was looking forward "to be finally able to sleep and party".

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.