Liszt is to piano playing what Euclid is to geometry.

Alan Walker

Bartók World Competition starts with free open-air festival

6 September 2019

On 8 September, a free open-air festival will usher in the Bartók World Competition, organized by the Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music for pianists this time. 

On 8 September, a free open-air festival will usher in the Bartók World Competition, organized by the Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music for pianists this time. Young instrumentalists from all over the world will compete in the one-week event. Tickets are still available for each round, and the events can be viewed live on the Liszt Academy online platforms.


This year’s Bartók World Competition begins in Budapest on 8 September with a “special edition” from the Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music focusing on Bartók’s music, two free sightseeing bus tours calling at venues that were so important to the composer, and an open-air festival on Liszt Ferenc Square starting at 4 PM. A stage outside the main building will be a site for young talents of the University playing folk music, jazz and piano pieces by Bartók. A public drawing to be held in the late afternoon will decide the order of appearance for competitors in each round. Although the compulsory repertoire is rather difficult even by international standards, applications were received from all corners of the world, from which the preliminary jury finally invited 38 pianists to compete.


Photo: Liszt Academy/Zoltán Adrián


Dr Andrea Vigh, President of the Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music and initiator of the competition, remarked that the exceptional and unusual repertoire as well as the number of applicants indicate that although Bartók’s music is a major challenge for young pianists, they are still ready to take it on. While the various rounds beginning on 9 September will predominantly feature pieces by Bartók, the repertoires will include pieces by Liszt, Dohnányi and Brahms. Competitors reaching the semi-finals will have to play a piece by Bartók, a piano sonata from the era of Viennese Classicism, and one of two winning entries from the composers’ round in the 2018 competition: Drumul Dracului by Dániel Dobos or Toccata by János Mátyás Stark. Competitors have access to printed versions of both pieces through a partnership project with publisher EMB. Finalists in the solo competition will have to choose from pieces by the great French and Russian composers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as well as the Romantic period. The three competitors in the orchestral finals will play a piano concerto by either Bartók or Liszt in front of an audience and the prestigious international jury in the Grand Hall. The Hungarian National Philharmonic conducted by Zsolt Hamar will be accompanying the competitors both in the finals and during the awards gala on 15 September.


Photo: Liszt Academy /Gábor Ancsin

The events can be viewed live on the Academy’s online platforms, while further information, brief descriptions of the careers and chosen repertoires of the competitors can be found on

The preliminary jury was composed of Liszt Prize-winning pianist Prof Kálmán Dráfi, Head of the Keyboard and Harp Department, and pianists Gábor Eckhardt and Katalin Falvai. The nine-member jury in each round of the competition will be headed by Kenji Watanabe, the Japanese pianist known for his authentic interpretations of Liszt and Bartók, and consisting of: Kálmán Dráfi; Tamás Vásáry, Kossuth Prize-winning pianist and conductor; Tibor Tallián, Erkel Prize-winning historian and a major researcher of Bartók’s oeuvre; Andrei Korobeinikov, the popular young Russian pianist; Klara Min, the world-renowned South Korean-born Steinway artist and lecturer at the Manhattan School of Music; the American-Russian Alexandre Moutouzkine, well-known interpreter of Cuba’s brilliant piano oeuvre; Einar Steen-Nøkleberg, the outstanding Norwegian pianist; and Mūza Rubackytė, the Lithuanian pianist and music educator.