Six-fold growth in registrations for the Iturbi Prize with 178 pianists competing from 41 countries

The competition organised by the Valencia Provincial Government (Diputació de València) has received applications from performers from Europe (53%), Asia (35%), America (11%) and as far as Oceania (1%).

Glòria Tello, the councillor responsible for the Iturbi Prize: “The organisational team sees the great number of applications as a success, since it shows the contest’s extraordinary resilience in the face of COVID-19 as well as the competition from other contests”

Tello affirms that it was a “wise choice to introduce an excellent, reliable team of prestigious pianists such as Joaquín Achúcarro, Josu de Solaun, Carles Marín and Óscar Oliver, as well as the jury, the awards, the conditions and more”

Achúcarro, the artistic director: “I’m astounded and overjoyed with the success of the call for applications. Attracting pianists from 41 countries in the midst of a pandemic while competing with five significant international awards says a great deal about the huge effort the team has made to spread news of the contest around the world”

Valencia, 8 March 2021.  The Iturbi Prize has registered 178 pianists from 41 countries wishing to take part in the 21st International Piano Competition of Valencia, which will take place from 23rd June to 2nd July. Those responsible in the Valencia Provincial Government, which organises the award, have expressed their satisfaction for the superb response to attend this biennial musical event as it celebrates its 40th anniversary. This exemplary project has seen performers from around the world in its 20 editions held since 1981.

There has been a spectacular rise in registrations compared to the previous call: there were 31 applications for the contest held in 2017 (there was no contest in 2019), which have now multiplied by six for the current one (178). Previous editions have also been amply eclipsed in 2021: in 2010 there were 31 applications, in 2013 there were 39 and in 2015 they came to 70. This will have positive repercussions on creating a high level of competition, making it difficult for the jury to choose the 22 pianists who will be shortlisted for the first phase.

The increase has been seen despite the crisis brought about by COVID-19 and the fact that in 2021 the Iturbi Prize clashes with five international contests of great relevance from Israel, Belgium, Switzerland, Canada and the United Kingdom, including the Arthur Rubinstein Competition in Tel Aviv and the Queen Elizabeth Competition in Brussels. This coincidence with other contests, which did not occur in previous editions, has come about due to postponements caused by the coronavirus, which forced them to reschedule to this year.

The artists registered this year are mostly from China (22), South Korea (22), Italy (20), Spain (18), Russia (15), Japan (10), Canada (6), the UK (6), the USA (5), Taiwan (4), Ukraine (4), France (3), Brazil (3), Germany (3) and Belarus (3). In addition, other nations represented are Serbia, Iceland, Cuba, Belgium, Sweden, Azerbaijan, Mexico, Israel, Switzerland, Greece, Kazakhstan, Cyprus, Chile, Peru, Bulgaria, Estonia, Georgia, Poland, Austria, Romania, Portugal, Argentina, Denmark, Armenia and Australia. By continents, 53% of the pianists come from Europe, whereas 35% are from Asia, 11% from America and 1% from Oceania. There are a greater percentage of Asian and American musicians in this year’s competition, and the big contingent from Spain is especially noteworthy.

The Valencia Provincial Government (Diputació) received a large proportion of the applications in the last few days and even hours before the deadline for registration, along with the videos, documents and forms the participants had to send, which caused some surprise. Beforehand, the institution had decided to extend the deadline from 31st October to 14th January in order to encourage the utmost participation in times of great uncertainty due to COVID-19 with its effects on the pianists’ health and mobility.

Festival Iturbi, 10 Pianos Photo: Eva Ripoll

Success and resilience

Glòria Tello, the councillor in charge of the Iturbi Prize, head of Valencia City Council’s Culture Department and president of the Palau de la Música concert hall, stated that “the organisational team sees the great number of applications as a success, since it shows the contest’s extraordinary resilience in the face of COVID-19 and the competition from other contests”.

Tello considers that “some factors the participants may have appreciated include the introduction of an excellent, reliable team of prestigious pianists such as Joaquín Achúcarro (artistic director and president of the jury), Josu de Solaun, Carles Marín and Óscar Oliver (artistic committee), as well as the jury itself, and the prizes and conditions for the competition itself, which will include different activities to help boost the dissemination and foster the artists’ careers”.

For his part, Achúcarro said “I’m astounded and overjoyed at the success of the call for applications. Having pianists from 41 countries in the midst of a pandemic while competing with five significant international awards says a great deal about the huge effort the team has made to spread news of the contest around the world.” The prestigious Basque concertist enthused that “everything indicates that it is going to be a spectacular event,” and he gave his “congratulations to everyone and the city of Valencia.”

Bigger prizes

The cash prizes will be bigger for the 40th anniversary, with a 70% increase compared to the previous contest. First prize will be worth €30,000, a CD recorded by the renowned record label IBS Classical and various recitals and concerts; second prize carries €20,000 and third prize €10,000. In the last edition, the prize winners received €18,000, €12,000 and €6,000 respectively. The other three finalists not selected for the grand final will receive €5,000 each and there will be a special award for the best performer of Spanish music worth €2,000.

Valencia Provincial Council will also hold concerts in Spain and abroad in 2022 with the participants who win the first three prizes. Other special prizes funded by sponsors and partners will also be awarded.

Public appraisal

The pianists registered, born as of 23rd June 1985, have provided documents and an audiovisual recording of 20-30 minutes that the jury will assess in a shortlist selection phase open to the public in Valencia’s Palau de la Música hall. A list of those accepted will be published in the latter’s website (www.pianoiturbi.dival.es).

The competition will consist of five heats featuring a free choice of the following works: a sonata by Ludwig van Beethoven and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, two short pieces by Fryderyck Chopin, one of which must be a nocturne; a piece from Enrique Granados’ Goyescas, or Isaac Albéniz’s Suite Iberia, or Manuel de Falla’s Fantasia Baetica. The twenty-two pianists taking part in the first heat will be whittled down to two final heats with six and three competitors who will play a piano concert with the Orchestra of Valencia.

The Iturbi Prize, created in 1981, is included in the World Federation of International Music Competitions, an umbrella association headquartered in Geneva for competitions in countries on the five continents, including the most prestigious ones in the world. The International Piano Competition of Valencia is also a member of the Alink-Argerich Foundation, which caters to most of the world’s international contests.

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