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The 18th International Chopin Piano Competition Attracts Unprecedented Numbers in Japan

This year, 2 Japanese pianists have made it through three preliminary stages to the final round on October 18-20.The competition dates back to 1927, and even qualifying for the first stage is a formidable challenge.

JAPAN Forward

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Chopin Piano Competition October 2021

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Finalist Aimi Kobayashi plays in the 3rd stage of the 18th Chopin Competition in Warsaw Philharmonic Concert Hall. Photo by: Darek Golik Warsaw, Poland, October 16, 2021

Update: The Winners of the 18th Chopin Competition have been announced.

RELATED: Kyohei Sorita, Aimi Kobayashi among 8 Winners of 18th International Chopin Competition

  • 1st Prize – Mr Bruce (Xiaoyu) Liu, Canada
  • 2nd Prize ex aequo – Mr Alexander Gadjiev, Italy/Slovenia
  • 2nd Prize ex aequo – Mr Kyohei Sorita, Japan
  • 3rd Prize – Mr Martin Garcia Garcia, Spain
  • 4th Prize ex aequo – Ms Aimi Kobayashi, Japan
  • 4th Prize ex aequo – Mr Jakub Kuszlik, Poland
  • 5th Prize – Ms Leonora Armellini, Italy
  • 6th Prize – Mr J J Jun Li Bui, Canada

Background

Update: October 17, 2021: The 18th International Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw Poland press release announced the names of the finalists who will progress to its fourth and final stage in an October 16, 2021. Among the finalists are two pianists from Japan, Aimi Kobayashi and Kyohei Sorita.

The final stage of the competition takes place from October18-20 in Warsaw. Follow it live at this link.

Kobayashi and Sorita join ten other outstanding artists from host country Poland, along with Italy, Canada, Slovenia, Spain, Armenia, South Korea and China. All twelve finalists made it through three earlier qualifying rounds of stiff competition. Check back on October 20 for the name of the winner.

Finalist Kyohei Sorita plays in the 3rd stage of the 18th Chopin Competition in Warsaw Philharmonic Concert Hall. Photo by: Darek Golik Warsaw, Poland, of October 14, 2021

The first stage results of the 18th International Chopin Piano Competition, currently being held in Warsaw, Poland, were announced on October 7.

Even qualifying for the first stage is a formidable challenge. Of the 151 contestants who qualified for the 12-day preliminary round, a total of 87 contestants qualified for the first stage, including 22 from China, 16 from Poland, 14 from Japan, 7 from South Korea, and 6 from Italy. That number was further narrowed down to 45 after the first stage.

The eight pianists from Japan who advanced to the second stage were Sohgo Sawada, Miyu Shindo, Kyohei Sorita, Hayato Sumino, Tomoharu Ushida, Yasuko Furumi, Shushi Kyomasu, and last year’s finalist Aimi Kobayashi.

Pianist Miyu Shindo (Photo by Wojciech Grzedzinski, Darek Golik for NIFC)
Pianist Hayato Sumino (Photo by Wojciech Grzedzinski, Darek Golik for NIFC)
Pianist Aimi Kobayashi (Photo by Wojciech Grzedzinski, Darek Golik for NIFC)
Pianist Kyohei_Sorita (Photo by Wojciech Grzedzinski, Darek Golik for NIFC)
Pianist Yasuko Furumi (Photo by Wojciech Grzedzinski, Darek Golik for NIFC)

Twenty-three pianists from all over the world surpassed the competition to make it into the third stage, starting October 14. Among them are five Japanese artists,  Yasuko Furumi, Aimi Kobayashi, Miyu Shindo, Kyohei Sorita, and Hayato Sumino.  

Updates on the competition have been available from the qualifying stage from various angles, including the official YouTube channel of the Fryderyk Chopin Institute, many social media platforms, and Twitter feeds of contestants and their fans. The competition seems to be appealing to a wider audience than ever before. 

A popular YouTube pianist with over 838,000 followers, Hayato Sumino’s entry likely raised the profile of the competition in Japan. And the YouTube live-streamings of the competition have also been well-received by the people who study piano for being “more informative and interesting than actually watching the competition at the venue, as you can clearly see the performer’s hands and expressions up close.”

The competition began in 1927, shortly after World War I. Even after a hiatus caused by the outbreak of World War II, the competition continued to uphold its uncontested reputation by birthing many star pianists, including Martha Argerich, Maurizio Pollini, and Stanislav Bunin. It has the longest history of any music competition in existence and is renowned as a gateway to success for young pianists.

Fryderyk Chopin Institute Annual Chopin Piano Competition

The competition, although usually held every five years, was pushed back in 2020 by a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

After the second and third stages on October 9-12 and October 14-16, respectively, and a memorial mass at the Holy Cross Church on October 17 — the anniversary of Chopin’s death — only about 10 contestants will advance to the finals on October 18-20. 

The finals will be a powerful testament to their passion and love for Chopin, the sheer effort it took to come so far, and their youthful brilliance. 

The highest prize ever awarded to a Japanese pianist was 2nd place in 1970 (8th competition) to Mitsuko Uchida. The winner of the previous competition was Seong-Jin Cho, the first Korean pianist to win first place. With the recent remarkable successes of Asian pianists, hopes are high for a first-ever Japanese winner.

By JAPAN Forward

(Click here to read the article in Japanese.)