Kazakh pianist Alim Beisembayev wins 2021 Leeds International Piano Competition
The 23-year-old pianist is the first winner from Kazakhstan in the competition's history
23-year-old Alim Beisembayev from Kazakhstan has won the 2021 Leeds International Piano Competition, beating four other finalists from around the globe this weekend at a series of thrilling finals at Leeds Town Hall. He becomes the very first winner from Kazakhstan in Leeds history.
As well as winning the First Prize, Beisembayev also took home the medici.tv Audience Prize, voted for by the viewing public at home. The competition's coverage was watched over 1.3 million times from more than 140 countries around the world. Beisembayev also received the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Society Prize for a performance of a contemporary work. Pianist Imogen Cooper, who chaired this year's Leeds jury, praised his performance of Ligeti studies in the semi-final. 'They are some of the hardest ones out there and he played without any scores at all,' she says. 'It was breathtaking.'
Beisembayev was a popular performer in the hall on the night of his final, thanks to the fact that he has studied in the UK for many years – as was also the case for two of the other finalists, Thomas Kelly and Ariel Lanyi. He won several prizes during his time at the Purcell School in Hertfordshire, before he went on to study at the Royal Academy of Music with Tessa Nicholson. He is now studying for a master's degree at the Royal College of Music.
The second prize of the weekend was awarded to Japanese pianist Kaito Kobayashi, with Ariel Lanyi from Israel coming in third place. They were awarded £15,000 and £10,000 cash prizes respectfully, and will host recitals at the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra's Music Room next week. Kobayashi was also awarded the Yalta Menuhin Award for chamber music, which grants him the opportunity to perform with the Leeds International Chamber Series.
Fourth prize was awarded to Dymtro Choni from Ukraine, and fifth prize to Thomas Kelly, the first UK finalist in over 20 years.
The most recent winner Eric Lu, who won the competition in 2018, has gone on to be included in the BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist Scheme and has gone on to release an EP and debut album on Warner Classics.
As well as the £25,000 cash prize and The Waterman Gold Medal, Beisembayev has been awarded a management deal with Askonas Holt, a European tour managed by Steinway & Sons and a recording contract with Warner Classics. An EP recording of several of Beisembayev's performances from the competition will be released next week by the label.
The top three performers will also receive coaching and mentoring from members of the jury, which included pianists Imogen Cooper, Inon Barnatan and Steven Osborne. There will also be concert opportunities at Wigmore Hall and Southbank Centre, as well as coaching in PR and social media by Premier PR.
Beisembayev's first appointment as the winner of The Leeds will be a performance with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, with whom all the finalists performed their concerts this weekend.
The next Leeds International Piano Competition will take place from 4-14 September 2024.
Freya Parr is BBC Music Magazine's Digital Editor and Staff Writer. She has also written for titles including the Guardian, Circus Journal, Frankie and Suitcase Magazine, and runs The Noiseletter, a fortnightly arts and culture publication. Freya's main areas of interest and research lie in 20th-century and contemporary music.