22 pianists compete in contest that lost its way

22 pianists compete in contest that lost its way


norman lebrecht

August 16, 2021

The Clara Haskil competition in Vevey, Switzerland, had a brilliant run of early winners – Christoph Eschenbach in 1965 and Richard Goode (1973), then a gap until Steven Osborne in 1991, Till Fellner in 1993 and the tragic Mihaela Ursuleasa (pictured) in 1995.

Since then, the competition has witheld its prize on several occasions. It has failed to produce a blazing talent since the turn of the century.

The competition resumes in Switzerland next week. It has chosen these 22 to compete in person.

Antonin Bonnet, France
Tom Carré, France
Ayumu Ibaraki, Japan
Myunghan Kim, South Korea
Juhee Lim, South Korea
Ionah Maiatsky, France
Vincent Martinet, France
Akihito Maruyama, Japan
Wataru Mashimo, Japan
Marcel Mok, Germany
Yumeka Nakagawa, Japan
Martin Nöbauer, Austria
Oscar Paz-Suaznabar, USA
Antoine Preat, France
Yena Roh, South Korea
Viktor Soos, Germany
Kaoruko Takagi, Japan
Ryohei Tanaka, Japan
Yiheng Wang, China
Maina Yokoi, Japan
Seho Young, USA
Tom Zalmanov, Israel

All participants, candidates, host families, musicians and administrative staff will have been fully vaccinated by August 10, 2021. The jury president is Christian Zacharias. The others are: Catherine d’Argoubet, Finghin Collins, Hisako Kawamura, Eric Lavanchy, Aleksandar Madžar, Hiroko Sakagami.


  • Kairos says:

    Not true. How about at least Martin Helmchen, Sunwook Kim, Inon Barnatan, Francesco Piemontesi, Herbert Schuch, Adam Laloum, Polina Leschenko, Cheng Zhang, Hisako Kawamura?

    • Fliszt says:

      Failed??? It’s not the competition’s fault if it doesn’t produce a world conqueror every time! Especially one that is held every 2 years.

  • Alan says:

    Finghin Collins, who is on the jury this year, won in 99 and is very popular in Ireland and I’m a big fan. But he’s never done much abroad up to now unfortunately. He’s busy enough but it’s a pity he’s not more well known.

  • Astoria says:

    Martin Helmchen, Herbert Schuch and Francesco Piemontesi are all exceptional talents with great careers. Mao Fujita is considered to be one of the most promising artists at the moment. What is a talent in your eyes? Yuja Wang? Lang Lang?

  • Brian says:

    Good to hear they have a vaccine requirement. All festivals and competitions need to take this approach. Make it so the vaccine resistant can no longer participate in society.

    • Nicholas Ennos says:

      For a scientific approach to this, check the online videos of my brother Professor Richard Ennos, who recently retired as Professor of Genetics at Edinburgh University.

  • Ludwig's Van says:

    Actually this competition’s track record is better than average for launching quality talent – Geneva, Busoni, Cliburn, Montreal, Marguerite Long, & Leeds have all had more misses than hits.

  • Nijinsky says:

    Somehow, I think there are enough “blazing” talents around, perhaps too many.

    And it would be a bit against the respect Clara Haskil has acquired, that in contrast to her quietly insightful perspective in music, the infinite patience of how she listened to music in order to produce interpretations devoid of artifice, that a whole host of blazing entertainers ready to pounce on stage and wow the masses would emerge out of a competition exploiting her name.

  • John Humphreys says:

    Leeds – how many 1st prizewinners can one remember from recent years? Can’t think of one who has galvanised the world in the way that Lupu, Schiff, Perahia, Uchida (not all winners) etc did. Different world for sure so have every sympathy for the brilliant players of today who are struggling to establish a reputation in, frankly a hopelessly overcrowded profession.

    • Jeffrey Biegel says:

      Good points, John. The names you mention, however, were able to have a go at a sustainable career because during their younger years, competitions carried more weight in establishing a young career, as well as not winning. Having management that could sell you during a time of their phone calling to orchestras and recital presenters carried significant weight. With the internet, connecting with people and building relationships makes a stronger case for young artists breaking into the business. In the old days, people flocked to competitions to listen to the next star of the keyboard at these events. The repertoire was also more standard, with less flexibility to venture off the main road. As with almost everything, time has had a way of easing restrictions. These days, being more varied in repertoire is more acceptable, and doing new music is not considered a one-way only career. More artists can self-record and release, so big name labels are still wonderful, of course, but the openness of the world through technology affords many more opportunities for artists than before.