Breaking: DG signs the *next* Chopin winner

Breaking: DG signs the *next* Chopin winner


norman lebrecht

August 12, 2015

The yellow label has taken a leap of faith in this October’s Chopin competition, committing to record the winner whoever he or she may be. It’s a boost for the competition, which has been overshadowed in recent years by the revitalised Tchaikovsky contest in Russia.

Press release below:



Deutsche Grammophon and the Fryderyk Chopin Institute launch a bold strategic partnership to connect global audiences with Chopin’s music and the best of the International Chopin Piano Competition. An album of the winner’s performances at the 2015 International Chopin Piano Competition to be released on 6 November Deutsche Grammophon (DG) believes that the world’s next great classical pianist could be discovered in October in Warsaw. It has committed to releasing an album of his or her recital performances on 6 November, just two weeks after the recording of those piano recitals. That the repertoire will be virtuoso Chopin is known, because the artist will have been judged winner of the Fryderyk Chopin Institute’s prestigious International Chopin Piano Competition, following a four-stage series of recitals which begins on 3 October. The unique arrangement to release a recording from an as yet unidentified artist is part of a new creative partnership between DG and the Fryderyk Chopin Institute.

The partnership also encompasses a high-profile international PR and marketing campaign for the 2015 winner’s album. This initiative marks a strategic collaboration between the Chopin Institute, organiser of one of the world’s most prestigious classical music competitions, and DG, the leading label for classical music, aimed at promoting the Polish composer and highly talented interpreters of his works. Announced at a press conference in Warsaw on Wednesday 12 August, the partnership will be officially launched in October at the 17th International Chopin Piano Competition.

Founded in 1927, the Chopin Competition has been held every five years since 1955. It stands for the highest values in musicianship and artistry and is widely acknowledged to be the foremost competition for classical pianists, with an uncontested reputation for discovering the world’s most talented artists. The list of past winners reads like a Who’s Who of piano legends, including DG artists Maurizio Pollini, Martha Argerich, Krystian Zimerman, Yundi Li and Rafał Blechacz. Runners-up have included Vladimir Ashkenazy and Mitsuko Uchida, both signed to DG’s sister label Decca.

“This is a collaboration between two partners who are already closely associated,” notes Costa Pilavachi, Universal Music Group International’s Senior Vice President of Classical A&R. “No other contest has discovered so many top artists with such consistency over so many years and a substantial number of these world-renowned pianists have chosen to entrust their recording careers to DG. Every five years, music lovers around the world await the judgement of the Chopin Competition jury with keen anticipation and one of our goals is to present this year’s prize-winning pianist to the largest possible global audience as soon as possible after the event.”

Artur Szklener of the Chopin Institute sees the arrangement with DG as a major development for the Warsaw-based organisation and its mission to promote Poland’s music heritage. “Chopin’s art speaks to the highest aspirations of human creativity. Our aim is to share his legacy with both new audiences and existing music-lovers by presenting them with fresh, insightful interpretations of his work. Through this partnership Chopin’s timeless music is certain to attract even greater attention, and this first release will provide a wonderful artistic and professional showcase for the eventual winner of the 2015 competition.”

This year’s Chopin Competition opens on 1 October with a gala concert featuring Martha Argerich. Of the over 450 performers aged 16 to 30, from 45 countries, who originally entered the Competition, 160 were selected by the Qualifying Commission to contest the Preliminary Round in Warsaw in April. The judges then advanced a total of 84 pianists to the three final recital stages which will run from 3 to 16 October. China and Poland have the largest number of contestants with 15 each, while there are also 12 from Japan, nine from South Korea, seven from Russia, five from the United States, and three each from Canada, Italy and the United Kingdom. The top 10 pianists will qualify for the Grand Finale, to be held on 18-20 October.

DG has collaborated with the Chopin Institute on important events in the past, notably ‘Chopin Year’ in 2010 and the acclaimed ‘Chopin and his Europe’ festivals, artistically directed by Stanisław Leszczyński. The renewed partnership will also yield a commemorative, 11-CD box set, Great Chopin Pianists, slated for release in late 2015. Drawing on the riches of the DG catalogue and the Chopin Institute’s extensive archive, the box set will contain performances of Chopin works from the top-prize-winning pianists of every Chopin Competition between 1927 and 2010.


  • CDH says:

    Wonder who will step in when Martha Argerich cancels.

  • Rob van der Hilst says:

    Martha Argerich is like Russian roulette: one never knows if she comes

  • Keepingitreal says:

    ITS TO SAVE MONEY! This is hilarious.

    The same way they no longer do studio recordings of orchestras for almost 10 years, why not simply tape up the performances, print the CD’s and sell them while the buzz is high? Its not a bad proposition actually.

    All the Chopin winners or not have busted in the last 15 years. DG is approaching a NAXOS strategy: they are not ready to make an investment in the artist, but on the buzz of the competition.

    Yundi? Now he’s back, but he bust and left. Rafal? nowhere to be seen, Wunder? I WUNDER where he is/what is he doing these days? 😛

    Artists are commodities:

    “EXTRA! EXTRA! buy Chopin winner, whatever his/her name, nationality, anything, buy Chopin before its gone and see you in 5 years!”

    • anon says:

      Wunder is just coming out with some incredibly traditional Chopin and Liszt concertos album. No, I don’t need to hear this.

      The reason the Chopin winners are “going bust” is that the competition seems to have a particular “sound,” which was hot for Rubinstein and Zimerman, but it just so old hat now I can’t even…..

      zzzz not looking forward to the most interesting pianists placing lower in the pack again this October.

      • varsovie says:

        You’re wrong.
        Ingolf Wunder is just coming out with some very different stuff.

        Chopin’s Allegro de Concert in his own orchestration
        Chopin’s F-minor Concerto in Alfred Cortot’s orchestration
        Chopin’s Andante Spianato et Grande Polonaise for piano and orchestra
        Liszt’s Hexameron for piano and orchestra

        Inform yourself before you have an opinion 😉

  • Vocalise says:

    DGG can just sign George Li now, and get it over with! No question – he will win.

  • Paul Wells says:

    DG got a good artist out of the last Chopin competition, but it was on their second try. The winner, Avdeeva, recognized she wasn’t ready for an aggressive performing and recording career. (Declining to cash in quickly suggested a wisdom that may serve her well over the long term.) So DG heavily promoted second-place winner Ingolf Wunder, who sounded great in Warsaw but has underwhelmed in recordings. Finally they signed Daniil Trifonov, the youngest of the 2010 standouts, who tied for third place and who divided the audiences in Warsaw. He’s turning out to be a serious pianist.

    But a policy of rushing out a CD of the winning performances from the competition would have resulted, in 2010, in more people wondering why the winning pianist won.

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    DG’s strategy is potentially good for the Company, good for the artist, and good for the public.

  • Corina Roman says:

    George Li will be the winner.

  • Sum Ting-Wong says:

    So we anticipate the 145th recording of the piano concertos and the 333rd recording of all the other pieces- hackneyed to death. What purpose does a competition with a single composer serve? Wears out performers and listeners alike, akin to having to eat Brussel sprouts 3 times a day for a month.