The 19th instalment of the Leeds International Piano Competition came to its conclusion on Saturday night, with Boston-based Eric Lu announced as its winner. The 20-year-old American pianist secured the top prize following his confident and vivacious rendition of Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto.
24 pianists began the competition two weeks prior, following initial rounds in Berlin, New York and Singapore. Five then made it through to the final weekend, with each finalist performing a concerto accompanied by the Hallé orchestra under the baton of Edward Gardner.
Lu’s prize includes an invitation to perform the Beethoven concerto at the opening concert of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra’s season this Thursday, an album release on Warner Classics, career management from a leading agency, further concert engagements and performance and recording opportunities on BBC Radio 3.
The runners-up, Mario Häring from Germany and Xinyuan Wang from China, were awarded recital opportunities at Philharmonic Hall in Liverpool and Wigmore Hall in London. Lu, Häring and Wang all received major cash prizes on top of these performance engagements.
The Leeds International Piano Competition was founded in 1963, and has a stellar list of alumni to its name, including Murray Perahi, Radu Lupu, András Schiff and Mitsuka Uchida.
After 95-year-old chairman and artistic director Dame Fanny Waterman stepped down in 2015, newly-appointed joint directors pianist Paul Lewis and conductor and former BBC Radio 3 editor Adam Gatehouse announced major changes for the festival, including a range of outreach activities across Leeds and a greater focus on post-competition mentoring. ‘Many of the world’s greatest pianists have started out at The Leeds and I’m certain all the 2018 finalists have bright futures,’ says Lewis. ‘We look forward to supporting what we believe to be successful and fulfilling careers.’