The Russian pianist Yulianna Avdeeva has become the first woman in 45 years to win the International Chopin Piano Competition, held in Warsaw in Poland.
Now resident in Switzerland, Avdeeva has been the veteran of several piano competitions since 1997, but the Chopin Piano Competition is by far her most prestigious win. Receiving the top prize of £26,506, she said she had been working towards winning the competition her ‘whole life’.
The last female pianist to win was the Argentine Martha Argerich, who competed in 1965. She was on this year’s jury, describing Avdeeva as a ‘harmonious artist’. Argerich added that she was ‘extremely happy’ that Avdeeva had won, ‘particularly because she is the first woman after 45 years.’
The International Chopin Piano Competition was founded in 1927, and – after the interruption of World War II – has been held regularly every five years since 1955. The last winner, in 2005, was the Polish pianist Rafał Blechacz, and previous high-profile winners – apart from Martha Argerich – have included Maurizio Pollini, Krystian Zimerman, Garrick Ohlsson and Yundi Li. Contestants – this year 81 pianists from 23 countries – spend three weeks playing works by Frédéric Chopin in a series of concerts.
‘Chopin’s music is so very special,’ says Avdeeva; ‘I was enjoying every performance because I was not thinking about the competition, but was thinking about the music only.’
The runner-up prize was shared between Ingolf Wunder, a 25-year-old Austrian and Moscow-born Lithuanian Lukas Geniusas, 20.