Questions in Brussels as resident pianist wins Queen Elisabeth competition

Questions in Brussels as resident pianist wins Queen Elisabeth competition


norman lebrecht

May 30, 2021

The winner of the underreported Queen Elisabeth competition is a Frenchman Jonathan Fournel.

Fournel is 27 and has been resident pianist of the Queen Elisabeth Chapel in Belgium since 2016.

He also won the audience prize.

The jury was chaired by Gilles Ledure, general manager of the Brussels cultural house Flagey


  • Pierre says:

    And where exactly are the questions? Haven’t heard any as of yet.

  • Jonathan Fournel’s performance in the finals was the best, but he didn’t have much competition in the final round. I commented about it already in one of the older threads here:

    So, a lot of questions remain about why certain eminently qualified contestants were eliminated in previous rounds, and why some obviously unqualified finalists were allowed to pass.

    • 2cthought says:

      I agree completely with you Mr Hairgrove. One forgets that not only Mr Fournel but also Mr Mukawa have worked previously and for many years with the conductor Frank Braley and some participants were even his students. The other six semi-finalists who did not make it to the final were clearly in disadvantage since they didn’t play with the conductor before. This is a fact. I highly recommend to Google all the six finalists to see how well connected they are with some of the jury members and the Chapel. In addition I wish the jury members would disclose their marks in all the rounds publicly. This is already the case at the Chopin competition. At least we would know how they rated the pianists. For all 58 pianists this is an important event in their life. All of them deserve to be judged fairly and at least to know how they were judged by this ’eminent’ jury.
      Of course I congratulate the winner. He was the best of the six finalists.

  • ElCantor de la Plata says:

    Apart from Belgium, where the competition is a favorite social event for grandmothers, it has been a long time since the level has been there….Who are the last pianists to have had a little career in the last 10 years? The fact that a “resident” of the Queen Elisabeth Chapel won this sad edition of the QE raises questions about the links between this school and this competition.

    • BP says:

      Previous winners in the piano competition are Anna Vinnitskaya, Boris Giltburg, Denis Kozhukhin and Lukáš Vondráček. Not a bad list.

      • Nick says:

        “…not a bad list”? A rather unrepresentative list I must add!! Kozhukhin might have somewhat of a personality, but others? Hardly much.

        • Ory Shihor says:

          It’s easy to trash others. I suggest you try to play at that level. All 4 are wonderful. GIltburg is truly an amazing artist in my book at least.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      Ageist comment. Add this category, if you please, to the list of victims in that never-ending identity tick-box. They’re probably the ones with the money anyway!!

  • multitasker says:

    What questions? After hearing the first 5 finalists, it was clear to me that this competition was Mr. Fournel’s to lose. He came through with an excellent and involved performance of Brahms and the Mantovani work, both he and Mr. Redkin were a head above the other finalists, so the 1-2 result here was no surprise to me.
    Questions, however, abound in the preliminary round where some outstanding and interesting pianists did not advance. In a system, though, where 58 pianists are slashed to 12 in one go, some bad stuff is bound to happen – and it did.

    • I would be interested to hear exactly why you think Sergei Redkin’s performance was a “head above” that of Keigo Mukawa’s?

      As I stated in a different post, the only other finalist I thought should have been in the finals at all was Keigo Mukawa. His playing is on a much higher level than that of any of the other finalists, except for Jonathan Fournel.

      I also believe that Frank Braley was not voting with the jury, although there may have been other communications we don’t know about. If the competition would publish the jury votes, we might know more.

      • multitasker says:

        The short answer is because I found the Rachmaninoff 3rd of Redkin a good deal better than the Prokofiev 2nd of Mukawa. Both had outstanding moments in the earlier rounds. In the end it becomes a matter of personal taste, and I do applaud you for verbally standing up for a competitor in whom you believe. Musical debate is always enriching.

        • I suppose many people might agree with your standpoint that it is, in the end, a matter of “personal taste”. But then without objective criteria, any competition degenerates into a kind of beauty pageant, doesn’t it? And we might as well then ask Donald Trump to sit in the jury of the next one…

          Most serious musicians would disagree, though — especially the young contestants who spend years preparing for these events, only to discover that their playing caters to the wrong “personal tastes” of the jury.

          Is this what music competitions have become?

          • multitasker says:

            I was referring to the personal taste of you and me, not that of the jury. Of course there are objective criteria. These, too, have individual variations and gradations. And in the next competition, with another jury, the result could very well be the other way around, as often happens.

  • Moissinac says:

    It is not just the winner. The recipient of the second prize is also an artist diploma student at the Queen Elisabeth Music Chapel. And this pianist missed a bunch of notes in the first section of Schubert’s Wanderer Fantasie in the the semi-final. He should not have been in the final. The third prize winner is a student of the conductor who led the orchestra for the Mozart concertos of the semifinal. The optics are very bad. It looks like an inside job!

  • Nick says:

    Well, Jonathan Fournel is indeed a brilliant pianist. What can one say? Maybe this time the QEC hit the right spot!!

  • Wow says:

    One way the QE Music chapel tries to scan it for many years : organising for their candidates some concerts with the orchestras who will accompany them in the competition later. It s not even a secret as the school even streamed them on its website. They did so for Fournel with Wallonia orchestra (for the Mozart later played in semi final) and Belgian National for his Brahms 2 which he played in the final round. Not really a scam.. but a very welcome help! Who knows if there is more questions to raise…