Busoni International Piano Competition 2021

Grand Final of the Busoni International Piano Competition
1st prize Jae Hong Park
2nd Do-Hyun Kim
3rd Lukas Sternath


Should music be put on the Olympic stage and have musicians competing against each other for a medal?
For what ?
For playing faster,slower,louder or quieter something that can be anyway very subjective.
In every competition there is always a winner and that is the Circus element that can creep in.

Louis Lortie,President of the jury


But as both Louis Lortie,president of the jury and Peter Paul Kainrath,Artistic director pointed out,a competition must be a global platform for the great young talent that come with programmes that demonstrate their interpretative skills.
It is exactly for this reason that Louis Lortie praised the Italian public television for their live relay of the final of the competition.
Of course the media usually look at the number of spectators that can be captivated as this in turn is what interests the sponsors who contribute to the all important financial aspect.
Quantity rather than quality is often the guiding light.
So it is very refreshing when enlightenment raises its head and a cultural event can be given the same attention as a football match!

Peter Paul Kainrath,Artistic director


Dott. Kainrath has for some years been convinced of the world platform that a competition should offer to young musicians.It is,in fact,via the superb streaming of the Busoni that every note from the first to the last day can be listened to worldwide.

I had written earlier in the week listening from the comfort of my own home :
‘To put pianists trained in the east from birth with ours in the west who are trained too late means that they play better because they are better pianists not better musicians.Look at many great pianists on the world stage like Paul Lewis,Angela Hewitt or Imogen Cooper with their definitive performances but can you compare their sound to a Richter or a Gilels?
I think each performance should be judged for what it is in that moment and not placed side by side with others.
This of course is the bad thing of competitions…..how fast is your Feux Follets and all that nonsense’

I had also written after the selection of the final 7 to a very fine young pianist who at this point had be excluded :
‘…your performances were superb and will be remembered by many.I did not hear many of the other contestants,a refined Liszt Sonata,a monumental Hammerklavier or astonishing Petroushka but find it hard to imagine more beautiful performances than yours.’

Teatro Comunale Bolzano

And so the Busoni competition via its inspired use of streaming and information on social media is helping to launch so many young musicians.
During the lockdown, streaming was the only way forward when live performances were not possible when suddenly the presence of public augmented as a great void had been opened.
I know of one small but distinguished music society which usually have a public of at most a few hundred but can now boast via streaming of thousands worldwide.
This was one of the very few good things to come out of the pandemic.
But now the worst seems to be over and public is being allowed back to live performances ,streaming should not be considered an optional but a necessity.
Live performances with public but also streamed seems a logical conclusion.
Of course nothing can take the place of a live performance and the atmosphere created in the concert hall can be vibrant and stimulating for both performer and public.
And so it was that I left home at four in the morning to be able to be present at the final concerto round of the Busoni Competition.
Having listened to many of the contestants from the comfort of my home I wanted to be part of the atmosphere that had been created by these young artists over the past couple of weeks.
The excitement of a competition can also stimulate young musicians into giving performances that inspire them to even greater heights.
And so it was to the final chosen three to do the honours for the 31 young musicians who had given some memorable performances during their stay in Bolzano.

Some of the contestants present


Of course it is not easy for these young artists when they come to the competition not knowing how much of their prepared repertoire they will actually be called on to perform.
Pacing themselves becomes another hurdle they have to face as they advance through the rounds.
So hats off to the valiant final three that were called on at a days notice to perform their chosen concerti.
And what concerti they were: Rachmaninov 3,Prokofiev 2 and Beethoven Emperor.With the superb Haydn Orchester under Arvo Volmer they gave very professional performances but on this occasion did not create that electric atmosphere that we were all hoping for.

Jae Hong Park First prize winner and the Keyboard Trust Career Development Prize with a concert at Steinway Hall London on the 12th October 2022


Jae Hong Park,who was awarded first prize, is from the school of Daejin Kim in South Korea.He had given a monumental performance of Beethoven’s Hammerklavier and had been given the Schumann Quartet’s own prize for his Brahms Quintet.He will perform his ‘ Hammerklavier’ in London at Steinway Hall on the 12th October 2022 as winner of the Keyboard Trust Career Development Prize.So it was no surprise that the Rachmaninov concerto was missing some of the colour and excitement that will come in later more considered performances.

Do-Hyun Kim


Do-Hyun Kim,his fellow countryman,was awarded second prize for his performance of Prokofiev’s second piano concerto.He threw himself into the enormous difficulties with animal like participation that was greatly appreciated by an audience who gave him an ovation.
He is a young virtuoso who seems to know no difficulties as we had seen from his performances of Schumann Toccata,Stravinsky Petrouchka and Chopin studies op 25.
Rachmaninov 3rd and Prokofiev 2 were both works that were considered insuperable hurdles when I was a student.That is until Vladimir Ashkenazy appeared on the scene and made his London debut playing both on the same night!
It has now become part of the standard repertoire of young pianists.

Lukas Sternath


The young Austrian Lukas Sternath was given third prize for his musicianly performance of Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto.
A youthful performance that will grow in weight as this twenty year old musician grows in stature.
It must be said that the orchestra was an exhilarating partner playing with real weight and fervour under the superb baton of Arvo Volmer.


Vladimir Petrov was voted the favourite of the audience on line and he was awarded fifth prize by the jury too.


Serena Valluzzi was awarded fourth prize having given some fine musicianly performances of Ravel’s Gaspard de la nuit and Rachmaninov second sonata.


Iliia Ovcharenko was awarded 6th prize,together with Francesco Granata, with Illia’s refined performances of Les Adieux and Liszt Sonata and Francesco’s irresistible jazz studies by Kapustin

Michael Lifits 2008 winner with Do-Hyun Kim
Me with Illia Ovcharenko mentored by our mutual friend Janina Fialkowska
The distinguished jury of the final

A recent article of 2014 winner Chloe Jiyeong Mun including articles about past competitions

https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.wordpress.com/2021/08/31/the-sublime-perfection-of-chloe-jiyeong-mun-in-warsaw/

https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.wordpress.com/2019/09/07/viva-busoni-the-final-parts-1-2-3-with-interlude/

https://christopheraxworthymusiccommentary.wordpress.com/2017/09/02/the-busoni-competition-all-the-fun-of-the-circus/

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