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Guide to the Ferruccio Busoni International Piano Competition

Glocal Piano Project

Instead of skipping its upcoming edition, the Busoni Competition has developed an innovative way of holding this year’s preliminaries: The Glocal Piano Project, taking place in 23 cities worldwide. Steinway & Sons are providing excellent conditions for 98 young pianists seeking to qualify for the 2021 finals in Bolzano, Italy. 

The performances are open to a live audience (where possible due to Health Protection Regulations).The recordings of the auditions will be available online on various platforms with a 24-48 hour delay. Not only will the individual performances be judged by the international jury composed of seven members headed by Elmar Weingarten but also by an online audience that is invited to experience the Glocal Piano Project as one large online piano festival and is given its own, significant vote.

The recorded performances of all 100 participants will remain accessible until the final stages in August 2021. A selection of the selected finalists’ performance will also be broadcast by the Foundation’s media partners. By launching the Glocal Piano Project, the International Ferruccio Busoni Piano Competition emphasizes its strong belief in defending diversity, artistic individuality and freedom, an idea best summed by Ferruccio Busoni himself: “Music was born free; to win freedom is its destiny”.

For more information visit The Glocal Piano Project website. 

Fact file
DeadlineApr 2020
Finals25 Aug - 03 Sep 2021
WhereBolzano, Italy
Age groups16 to 30 years old
Competition prizes

1st prize: € 22,000; 2nd prize: € 10,000; 3rd prize: € 5,000; 4th prize: € 4,000; 5th prize: € 3,000; 6th prize: € 2,500
Special prizes: the competition arranges various prize winner concerts in the 2 years following the competition. 

Looking back at the competition in 2019

The Ferruccio Busoni International Piano Competition was launched on September 12th, 1949. It immediately captured the attention of the contemporary music scene, due in part to the presence of an extraordinary Honorary Committee, which included Claudio Arrau, Wilhelm Backhaus, Alfred Cortot, Walther Gieseking, Dinu Lipatti, Arthur Rubinstein and Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, who made a considerable sum of money available for the second prize. From a one-off competition, it would soon become an indispensable annual event.

In that first competition of 1949, the just-18 Alfred Brendel earned an honorable fourth prize. In 1952 the Busoni Prize (which at the time consisted of a sum of 500,000 lire, 15 concerts and a Schulze & Pollmann grand piano) was awarded to the Roman pianist Sergio Perticaroli. In 1956, First Prize was awarded to Jörg Demus; the following year it went the extraordinary sixteen-year-old Martha Argerich. A piano-composition competition also took place in some years: the performance of fourteen-year-old Maurizio Pollini aroused amazement in 1956, when he replaced Giorgio Vidusso in the difficult task of performing the works chosen by the jury at the very last moment.

In the 1960s, European pianism opened up to the U.S. school with First Prize going to Jerome Rose (1961), Michael Ponti (1964), Garrick Ohlsson and Richard Goode (First and Second Prize, respectively, in 1966), Ursula Oppens (1969). In the 1970s the First Prize of Brazilian Arnaldo Cohen (1972) stands out, while in the eighties Louis Lortie (1984) and Lilja Zilbernstein (1987) were unanimously awarded First Prizes, which launched great careers. The Russian school dominated the 1990s, with wins by Anna Kravtchenko (1992), Alexander Shtarkman (1995) and Alexander Kobrin (1999). In 2002 the competition changed structure, inaugurating its biennial structure. With the last Busoni Prize awarded to Emanuil Ivanov (2018/2019) the next Grand Prize that will enrich our Hall of Fame is awaited with baited breath.

Today, the Busoni Competition is much more than a piano competition. Building on its history the competition aims, through its many special projects and its festival, to create and develop a real platform for contact between teachers and young people, continuing its role as seismograph of contemporary musical life.

For full application details, please visit the Ferruccio Busoni International Piano Competition website.