Breaking: China offers record $150,000 piano prize

Breaking: China offers record $150,000 piano prize


norman lebrecht

January 08, 2019

China has just upped the ante in music contests with an unprecedented first prize for a piano contest winner.

The First China International Music Competition will be held in Beijing from May 4 to 21, 2019. Entry is by invitation only.

The competition president is Li-guang Wang, head of the China Conservatory of Music. The jury will consist mostly of professors, chaired by Juilliard’s influential Yoheved Kaplinsky.

UPDATE: we understand that no student of any jury member has been invited.

The final round will be accompanied by the Philadelphia Orchestra, with it music director, Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

The general director is Richard Rodzinski, former head of the Van Cliburn and the Tchaikovsky competitions.



  • Langlabong says:

    First prize goes to whoever can gyrate the most, outlanging Lang Lang.

  • Withheld says:

    Invitation only??? So Kaplinsky invites only her own students and her favourite jury members…….is it only me that thinks there’s something wrong with this dodgy echo chamber?

    • Richard Rodzinski says:

      Please know that the press release clearly states that no student of any member of the jury is invited to the competition. We have had to forgo some excellent candidates because of this very, very strict rule. Furthermore, it is I who assembled the jury many of whom I have worked with for years at the Van Cliburn and Tchaikovsky competitions

      • Harrumph says:


      • Robert von Bahr says:

        In that case, may I suggest Alexandre Kantorow, 20, one of the most amazing pianists and musicians I have heard – ever – and I have heard a lot in my 46 professional years. Yes, he is contracted to my company, but that doesn’t make him any less good.

  • aj says:

    And so the lunacy continues……..
    How people will debase themselves for a buck never
    ceases to amaze.

  • Barnaby Ballstrangler says:

    Yawn. This event is as superfluous as a fifth string on a viola.

  • Byrwec Ellison says:

    Historical footnote: There was a comparable precedent 25 years ago at the first and last Ivo Pogorelich International Competition held in Pasadena, California in December, 1993. The first prize was to have been $100,000. At the final round, however, pianists Michael Kieran Harvey and Edith Chien were awarded a split first price, each winning $75,000.

    • Harrumph says:

      *Chen (now Gwhyneth Chen) — though on her website she doesn’t mention the split and makes it sound as if she was awarded the full $100,000 prize. Hilarious.

    • Peter Cz. says:

      …And the competition wasn’t repeated because the organizers couldn’t do arithmetic?

      • Harrumph says:

        There were some ruffled feathers when Ms. Chen allegedly donated her prize money to a Buddhist temple. The foundation probably didn’t intend for that money to go to her favorite charity.

  • Nick2 says:

    “China has just upped the ante in music contests . . .”

    It was actually announced in mid-September last year! Only 20 pianists “invited from all over the world” will take part. Who, I wonder, will wade through all the qualified pianists and issue the invitations? Will the names of those pianists be kept from the jury? Or will the jury be able to influence who is chosen?

    The various rounds will see the number whittled down from 20 to 12 to 6 to 3. Apart from the ridiculous amount of the cash prize, the media release adds “An international artists management company has been secured to arrange for three years of managed international tours for the Gold Medalist.”

    I just wonder how much of that cash prize will find its way into the pockets of the agency!