It’s about to be announced that Dame Fanny Waterman will retire as chairman and artistic director of the Leeds Piano Competition after next year’s round in September. Dame Fanny will be 95 in March 2015.
photo: Andy Manning, 2009
A piano teacher, she founded the competition in 1961 at a time when no international music contest took place in the UK. Her partners were her husband, Geoffrey De Keyser, a respected GP, the pianist Marion Harewood (later Thorpe) and the investor Jack Lyons. The first winner was a local sixth-former, Michael Roll. The next three were Rafael Orozco, Radu Lupu and Murray Perahia.
Dame Fanny set the standards, raised the funding, picked the judges and drove the media. The competition is entirely her creation. When I last saw her, she was planning to go on past 100.
Dame Janet Baker, her close friend and the competition’s patron, writes: ‘It has been a privilege to watch this courageous, indomitable lady hold on to the values on which she built this competition. They are the reason it is held in such respect, and why she has been able to count on the financial support of its benefactors for so many years. She has helped young musicians fulfil their promise, something dear to her heart and has guided “The Leeds” to its present international reputation because of her integrity, her passion, her personal charisma and infinite capacity for hard work.’