Czech pianist wins low-key Queen Elisabeth

Czech pianist wins low-key Queen Elisabeth


norman lebrecht

May 29, 2016

The competition, one of the most distinguished, had very little media coverage this year outside of Belgium and the online profile was exceptionally thin.

The results, announced after midnight, are:

lukas vondracek
First Prize : Lukas Vondracek (Cz)
Second Prize : Henry Kramer (US)
Third Prize : Alexander Beyer (US)
Fourth Prize : Chi Ho Han (S Korea)
Fifth Prize : Aljosa Jurinic (Croatia)
Sixth Prize : Alberto Ferro (Italy)

The audience prize went to the pianist placed sixth, which suggests a considerable gulf between the judges’ markings and the public perception.

You can watch video here.



  • Arto says:

    There’s a mistake in your message. The Klara public price was also for Vondracek.
    He played an breathtaking Rach3.
    All the performances of the 12 finalists can be seen here:

    • norman lebrecht says:

      Alberto Ferro has announced that he won ‘Sixth Prize and Audience Prize at the Queen Elisabeth International Piano Competition’

    • someone says:

      Don’t be upset.
      Vondracek deserved 1st prize and the audience’s response after his rach 3 was also very enthusiastic.
      I think Norman is talking about Alberto Ferro’s place as he got 6th.

  • Arto says:

    Your remarks about the public price is not true. Vondracek won also the Klara public price and got an standing ovation after his breathtaking Rach 3.
    All performances of the 12 finalists can be seen here.

  • someone says:

    I said that there would be another piece of good news for the Czeck Republic soon.

    Agree that there was a considerable gulf between the judges’ markings and the public perception.
    However, Vondracek deserves 1st prize.

    Just, I had some question marks about the overall placing but don’t really have complaints about the results.
    Perhaps, it’s because I wasn’t very interested in this year’s competition?

  • Belgian says:

    Seeing as there are both the Flemish and French-speaking broadcasting networks in Belgium, there are two Audience prizes. The Canvas-Klara audience prize (Flemish) went to Vondracek and the RTBF audience prize (French-speaking) went to Ferro.

  • Lazy Mike says:

    Lukas Vondracek absolutely stood over everyone and well deserved the first place. Alberto Ferro should have absolutely been placed higher and personally I felt it was a shame that the jury ignored Kana Okada’s beautiful playing.

  • Daniel Evans says:

    Without having had time to watch the other finalists yet, Vondracek’s Rach 3 is exceptional playing and some particular things he does (recap of cadenza material in finale – never heard that one before…) are gobsmacking. Not yet sure how his colleagues played, but certainly that standard of playing is worthy of a first prize of a great competition. Chapeau. Hope he plays this piece a great deal more.

  • Assimilate This says:

    The online shop gives 968 hits for the search term “Rachmaninoff 3rd piano concerto” (all audio and video media, excluding sheet music), so I suppose that we can look forward to a 969th, boundary-breaking recording out of this competition.

  • Tim Walton says:

    Congratulations to Lucas. I first heard him play at Symphony Hall, Birmingham when he was a teenager (2003, 2004 & 2006).

    I knew then that he would go far.

  • Respect says:

    I found Vondracek a solid and musical pianist in the Van Cliburn competition some years back and thought he should have placed higher, but was appalled when he went onto the Cliburn and Dallas newspaper websites and got into nasty and embarrassing name calling fights with people who had uttered critical ( mild) remarks about his playing. I lost all respect for him after this.

    • Mr. says:

      Got a link to the name calling fights you referred to? I must say that I’m curious to see how the QE winner expresses himself in print, in a situation like that. But couldn’t find anything after a bit of searching on google.

  • Robert Hairgrove says:

    While I greatly admired Mr. Vondracek’s playing in the final round (the only one I have heard so far) for its clarity, precision, stamina, secure technique and memory work, and excellent communication with the orchestra, I was not greatly touched by his playing. For me, the opening theme of the 1st mvt. suffered from a total understatement of the phrasing and dynamics, as well as the recaps of it. At rehearsal number 7 in the 1st movement, for example, this could be such a “magical moment”, yet it somehow escaped him. The playing in the second movement suffered a great deal from “stop and go” playing in the melodic line (e.g. “Meno mosso”, reh. no. 26 and similar places). His third movement worked the best for me, and his playing here was imbued with an excitement which led to his deserved and inevitable audience frenzy.

    All in all, it was totally professional playing, and judging from the other clips from the competition finals I was able to hear, his playing stood head and shoulders above the rest — except perhaps for that of Henry Kramer, the 2nd prize winner, which I liked better. But I was surprised that some of the other players were even advanced to the finals. None of those others I got to hear up until now were awarded prizes, however.

    We know that many times some “dirty work” is done at competitions by sending superior players home after the 1st or 2nd rounds, so I shall now make it my job to listen to all of the rest as long as it is still online. Only then can I make my decision (for what it is worth).

  • Cyril Blair says:

    This time the 1st, 3rd, and 4th place winners played Rach 3. In 2013, the last competition, the 1st and 2nd place winners played Rach 3.

    Also of note, the 5th place finisher studied with a member of the jury. Not always obvious from the bios whether this is the case or not, though…

    • Robert Hairgrove says:

      There were some others … Ms. Okada, for example, lists Frank Braley as her current teacher.

    • Lazy Mike says:

      ….and not only that the 5th’s prize teacher was on the jury, but also another former pupil of hers. It might explain how better pianists (Okada, Suh, Shishkin) didn’t get a prize they might have otherwise deserved.

      • Arto says:

        The competition rules are clear. If a candidate got more than 5 lessons of a jury member, then he or she can not vote for this candidate.

  • Dave T says:

    Would someone please explain to me why a musician in his thirties, who has been touring for more than a decade, who has played in major halls and with major orchestras, is entering competitions? Doesn’t seem very sporting. Maybe I just don’t understand the piano competition world (or the music business or musicians’ egos, for that matter).

    Now that Argerich’s festival has crashed, she now has the time to enter some of these. Just an idea.

    • Robert Hairgrove says:

      Most international competitions have a cutoff age of about 30 or 32. For those who don’t yet have a steady flow of concert engagements, it is an “easy” way of ramping up immediately once you have a prize (that is, if the competition is reputable enough and the prize is either 1st or 2nd … other prizes usually don’t have much “pull”, as they say).

      And for those who do have a career started, it can be the same. Or if you are good enough to win 2nd or 3rd at many different competitions, the prize money itself can be a very attractive motivation.

    • Cyril Blair says:

      A musician at the upper age limit may, or may not have an advantage in the competition. Very often they don’t, or at least that is revealed once the prizes are handed out. My personal preference is I like to see/hear some older pianists in the mix; when all the finalists are between 17-23 it can be a bit too youthful.

      • someone says:

        The harsh reality for classical musicians.
        Anyway, in competition, till 25, the age doesn’t seem to matter, but Vondracek is 29, I think.

  • ohglorioso says:

    This fellow has been out and about for a long time. The career must be on the downswing if he’s entering competitions again. Anyway, he’s always been a perfectly fine pianist. Lots of those.

  • Robert Hairgrove says:

    I wonder how much influence the recent terrorist attacks in Brussels had on the “low key” nature of the publicity here? Anyone in the music business certainly didn’t need any extra publicity since it is one of the most prestigious competitions of all.