Kazak wins Leeds piano competition

Kazak wins Leeds piano competition


norman lebrecht

September 18, 2021

Alim Beisembayev of Kazakhstan has been announced as winner of the Leeds International Piano Competition.

He’s 23, a student at the Royal College of Music in London.

Alim was one of five male finalists in a show barely covered by national media after BBC TV cancelled live coverage.

Kaito Kobayashi from Japan came second. Ariel Lanyi of Israel was third.



  • George says:

    Having seen the pre-final interview, he certainly had the air of someone who is intriguing and self-assured. A touch of je ne sais quoi if you will, glad he won the competition!

  • LivVln says:

    Utterly awful. The orchestra were abominably bad and all the piano readings were gimmicky – the winner marginally less so than the others. What a travesty.

    • John Thompson says:

      The RLPO were not at their best for the Leeds Piano Competition. An air of “let’s get this over with” seemed to affect most of their performance. As for the competitors, my vote went to Thomas Kelly for his interpretation of Beethoven’s 4th concerto. Mature playing especially when he had to control the high notes. Thanks to BBC Radio 3 for their coverage. Enjoyable Friday and Saturday evenings with a glass of wine!

    • will says:

      Hmmm… an orchestra is never ‘abominably bad’ in itself, unless it’s simply an incompetent group of players. On the other hand, who was the conductor?

    • fliszt says:

      Did you hear all the rounds? If not, then shut up!

  • BigSir says:

    He played beautifully! Much deserved.


    Alim Beisembayev of Kazakhstan was brilliant and deservedly won at The Leeds. ♥

  • Mark Mortimer says:

    The Kazak boy was an engaging performer with an endearing personality- his solo playing before the final was apparently excellent- which got him the Gold medal. His concerto final- from what I heard however was a very sloppy Rachmaninov Paganini Rhapsody- littered with mistakes- too fast/ out of control (little awareness of what was going on in the orchestra) & where the composer calls for light fingered filigree virtuosity & melting cantabile (the famous inverted variation)- lacking. No doubt with greater experience under his belt in years to come- he’ll play this piece much better under a less pressured situation. All of the finalists will have some form of career in these increasingly tough times to forge a solo keyboard career- wishing them well. As previous post- the reputation of the Leeds- one of the world’s great piano contests- is very diminished in recent decades. Very few of the recent winners have made much of an impact on the world stage. But this might not be totally the fault of their playing- numerous other factors involved. Danil Trifinov at the 2011 Tchaikovsky is perhaps the only one to do so in recent times- but he is a rare & extraordinary talent. Part of the problem is The Leeds jury at this competition. Only 3 active pianists (Banaton, Cooper & Osborne) the rest- a curious hotchpotch of conductors, oboist, a cellist (admittedly the son of a great pianist) & the dreaded token artist agent. Is this an appropriate judging panel for such a contest- requiring an intricate knowledge of piano lore & to be the ultimate arbiters of raw talent ? Lets contrast this with the jury of the second competition in 1966- the men included Curzon, Firkusny, Magaloff,Oborin & Rosen- the women- Bachauer, Boulanger & Fischer. Some of the most distinguished musicians of the last Century- a sight difference in personnel- need we say more?

  • christopher storey says:

    Yet again, a Leeds winner who will be forgotten almost immediately. He was a banger and a rusher of an all too common modern type. It is perhaps a measure of the way this competition has gradually dwindled to irrelevance that the last first prize winner who is still remembered goes back to 1990 in the shape of Artur Pizarro

    • Mark Mortimer says:

      A very good point Christopher as ever. Yes- Pizarro was the last memorable one- although I quite liked Castro & Bax later- both later controversial top laureates- but poetic/controlled pianists both of them. I wouldn’t go as far to say young Alin was just a ‘banger’- he’s clearly talented & some of his playing in the earlier rounds displayed considerable keyboard colour & a strong musical personality. But it would not take a connoisseur to spot that his performance of the Rach in the final was not up too much & will have to be better if he’s to sustain an international career. This aside- I totally agree the competition is not what it was (probably never will return to its glory days) but the same for The Chopin/Tchaikovsky contests. Strange- because the world’s conservatoires are producing hundreds of brilliant pianists (allbeit often merely technically without the artistry required). Why this should be the case- don’t know. Maybe a problem with modern piano competitions (juries alluded too often as the culprits). I’m no expert in this- perhaps a professional pianist/juror would offer greater insights. I know that the remarkable Peter Donohoe often has on this forum alone.

    • Irving08 says:

      As should be your post: it is a travesty to say that A Pizarro is the last remembered pianist. Have you actually attended many of the competitions in the past 3 decades ?

    • Suzanna Richter-Moet says:

      Do you have ears? A banger? A rusher? Have you heard his second round? He actually understands how to phrase in Scarlatti and very mature playing in Beethoven sonata. Great culture of sound too, knows how to play with warmth. Yes, some rushing in Paganini, but plenty of electricity. Best of luck for his career.

    • Ruth says:

      I would strongly recommend that before accepting this description of Alim Beseimbayev as a “banger” it would be time well spent to like listen to his competition performances. These are available free to view on line on Medici TV. I am not plugging Medici TV. I just think that he is an exceptional pianist. My personal view of course and I appreciate that others may see things differently.

  • Jeremy Wardle says:

    The Jap doing Bartok III was pretty good

  • Rabengeraun says:

    None of these competitions is what it used to be, nor is classical music itself what it used to be – all the greats are gone, more or less. These competitions will still go on and young musicians will still go on taking part in them purely because they are one of the few ways they can get themselves noticed in the insanely competitive world in which they find themselves. Winning such a contest is never a guarantee of a glittering career.

  • esfir ross says:

    Alim B.’s Kazakh-not Kazak, that military horseman from river Don region

  • Irving08 says:

    Well the national media missed out on one of the best Leeds’ of the past two decades or so. Alim Besimbayev, the winner, is a big star in the making. I would have liked to see Elizaveta Kiurecheva in the Final though.

  • Mark.K says:

    Beisembayev’s final Rachmaninov concerto definitely doesn’t deserve first prize. One of those piano players with no character

  • Irving08 says:

    Kazak with a ”h’ after the second k.

  • Anna says:

    Alim B played well – although curious that only 2 years ago in the Tchaikovsky competition, he didn’t even make it past the first round.

  • London Pianist says:

    Bravo, Alim!
    Happy for Leeds, that they did not get an intriguing, arrogant and connected to the jury winner. London people know who am I talking about.

  • Mike McGuire says:

    It’s definitely spelled Kazakh in English.

  • kwok chee hoh says:

    I can only express regret that the BBC TV has once again
    refused live coverage of this competition….the only one
    in the uk

  • kwok chee hoh says:

    its kwok chee hoh again….i meant that the BBC should have
    shown the leeds piano competition fully covered on TV and
    not just on radio three…people want to see not just hear….but
    i do think my point was fairly made…thanks for ur patience everyone…agree with mark mortimer that the jury seem to be
    people not many have heard of…..maybe tendency of many pianists to keep on playing the same old things contributes to overall decline in audience for classical music…..i wasnt there but wouldnt be surprised if u look around at the leeds 2021 competition concert hall and most of the audience is clearly over fifty …..literally dying out….if u can solve this aspect., then more pianists might take up this career with an even more varied repertory and more well known personalities….

    • Geoff Cox says:

      have you seen Tiffany Poon is doing great work to make classical music more interesting to younger (and older!) people?!

      • kwok chee hoh says:

        mr cox., she is doing great work., but unfortunately there arent that many of her…..how many would want to sit and practise at a piano when there is more immediate fun with video games for instance??

    • Irving08 says:

      Actually there were noticeably more younger people at the Finals than I recall from many previous competitions I have attended. Three of my grandchildren attended with their parents, for example.

      • kwok chee hoh says:

        maybe there is some hope for the human race after all!! hopefully this is more widespread and lasts longer to be a trend., but somehow., with all due respect i am not so sure…..thanks

  • kwok chee hoh says:

    Sorry but this WILL be last comment…..found it touching that the first three prizes at the Leeds were named after fanny waterman., marion thorpe., and rosalind lyons …..who were all
    instrumental in getting this great piano competition up and running…..great that their efforts are recognized