Chairman of the jury
Marcel Poot
Belgium, °1901 - 1988
Marcel Poot (1901-1988), the son of Jan Poot, director of the Royal Flemish Theatre, grew up in an artistic milieu. He took his first music lessons with the organist Gerard Nauwelaerts and subsequently studied solfège, piano and harmony from 1916 to 1919 at the Royal Conservatory in Brussels with Arthur De Greef, José Sevenans and Martin Lunssens. His first prizes in counterpoint (1922) and fugue (1924) were earned at the Royal Conservatory in Antwerp with Lodewijk Mortelmans. He also studied composition and orchestration privately with Paul Gilson.

Together, Poot and Gilson published La Revue Musicale Belge, a periodical that appeared starting in 1925. In that same year, he and seven other of Gilson’s students set up the group known as Les Synthétistes, which aimed to create a synthesis of the achievements of current musical evolutions, without sacrificing their individuality. In 1930, he won the Rubens Prize, which allowed him to study for three years with Paul Dukas at the Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris.

Marcel Poot began his career at the State Secondary School in Vilvoorde and also taught piano, solfège and music history at the music academy in that city. He taught practical harmony (1939) and counterpoint (1940-1949) at the Royal Conservatory in Brussels before becoming director of that school (1949-1966). Besides this, he was a lecturer at the Institut Supérieur des Arts Décoratifs, headmaster of the Queen Elisabeth Music Chapel (1970-1976), a member of the Royal Flemish Academy for Sciences, Letters and Fine Arts, a jury member for the Queen Elisabeth Competition (1963-1981), chairman of SABAM (composers’ rights organisation), the Union of Belgian Composers and CISAC (the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers), and he was a jury member for various composition competitions.
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Stefan Askenase
Poland, Belgium, °1896 - 1985
Stefan Askenase (1896-1985) began playing the piano at the age of five with his mother, a pianist and pupil of Karol Mikuli. Two years later he commenced lessons with Ksawera Zacharyasiewicz, Franz Xaver Mozart’s pupil, and next with Theodor Pollak, a professor and director of the Ludwik Marek School of Music in Lemberg (L'viv). In 1913, he left for Vienna to continue his piano studies under Emil von Sauer, a pupil of Franz Liszt's, and soon made his pianist debut there. In 1920 he debuted at the Warsaw Philharmonic Hall where on 1 February he played the Schumann Piano Concerto in A minor, and on 6 February he played the Brahms Concerto in B flat major and the Chopin Concerto in F minor. The performances were received with outstanding critical acclaim.

After his successes in Vienna and Warsaw, Stefan Askenase commenced concert touring in Austria, Germany and France. From 1922 to 1925 he lived in Cairo, where he worked as a piano professor at the conservatory. In 1927 he moved to Brussels taking up the position of a professor at the Conservatoire royal, where he taught for forty years. In 1950 he became a Belgian citizen.

Apart from teaching, he continued to perform in almost all European countries, North America, Africa, and elsewhere. His first concert in Poland after World War II took place on 17 May 1946. In 1965, he founded The Arts und Musik Society, whose aim was to preserve the historical railway station in Rolandseck upon the river Rhine. After its restoration the building became a venue for the studios of such artists as Pierre Fournier, Henryk Szeryng, Salvador Dali and Askenase himself.

Stefan Askenase also taught in summer master classes for pianists in Cologne and Bonn. He sat on the jury of the 1955 and 1960 International Chopin Competitions in Warsaw. In 1981, to celebrate his 85th birthday, he gave eighty-five performances in Europe. He was noted for his interpretations of Scarlatti, Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Brahms Schubert, Schumann and Albéniz. His pupils included Martha Argerich, Andrzej Czajkowski and Mitsuko Uchida.
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Joseph Benvenuti
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Alexandre Brailowsky
Russian Federation, France, °1896 - 1976
Alexander Brailowsky (1896-1976) was a Russian pianist who studied with Busoni and Francis Planté, and made his debut in Paris in 1919. In 1926 he became a French citizen. He was a Chopin specialist and gave recital series of the complete Chopin works in cities all over the world. His recording career began in the acoustical era and continued well past the introduction of stereo.
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Frans Brouw
Belgium, Canada, °1929
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Chan-teh Ting
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Marcel Ciampi
France, °1891 - 1980
French pianist and teacher Marcel Ciampi (1891-1980) studied from an early age with Marie Perez de Brambilla, a former student of Anton Rubinstein, and in 1909 he received a premier prix in the class of Louis Diémer at the Paris Conservatoire. He performed throughout Europe as a soloist, as the pianist in a trio with Maurice Hayot and André Hekking, and as the frequent partner of Casals, Enescu and Thibaud. From 1941 to 1961 he taught at the Paris Conservatoire, where his students included Yvonne Loriod, Cécile Ousset and Eric Heidsieck. He also taught at the Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris and at the Yehudi Menuhin School in Surrey. His few recordings, which include Franck's Quintet (with the Capet Quartet) and works by Chopin and Liszt, reveal a broad, free style and a subtle approach to sound that seem to reflect the Russian influence of his first teacher. Marcel Ciampi was also a noted interpreter of Debussy, for whom he once played.
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Harriet Cohen
Great Britain, °1895 - 1967
English pianist Harriet Cohen studied at the Royal Academy of Music (1912-17) and at the Matthay School, where she also taught. Small hands limited her repertory, but she quickly made a reputation as a Bach player and as a persuasive advocate for the English music of her time. She played at the Salzburg Contemporary Music Festival in 1924, at the Coolidge Festival, Chicago, in 1930 and gave the first performance of Vaughan Williams's Concerto, dedicated to her, in 1933. She injured her right hand in 1948 and played one-handed until 1951, but her injury was never completely cured and in 1960 she reluctantly retired. She was made a Commander of the British Empire in 1938, a Freeman of the City of London in 1954, and received many honours from other countries. The Harriet Cohen International Music Prizes were founded by Sir Arnold Bax among others in 1951.

Harriet Cohen was chosen by Edward Elgar to record his Piano Quintet, and she made many first recordings of music by Arnold Bax, most of whose piano works, including a left-hand Concertante, were composed for her. In 1932 twelve leading British composers published transcriptions in A Bach Book for Harriet Cohen. She herself published some Bach transcriptions and a small book on interpretation, Music's Handmaid (1936, 2/1950), while her memoirs, A Bundle of Time (1969), are valuable for letters from friends eminent in all walks of live.
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Reimar Dahlgrun
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Eduardo del Pueyo
°1905 - 1986
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Zbigniew Drzewiecki
Poland, °1890 - 1971
Zbigniew Drzewiecki studied at the Wiener Akademie für Musik with K. Prohaski and privately in Vienna with M. Prentner. He made his debut as a pianist in 1916 in Warsaw, giving a recital consisting of the works of Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Schumann, Chopin and Liszt. He was one of the first Polish pianists to perform the works of Scriabin, Debussy, Ravel and Prokofiev; in the eyes of conservative critics he gained a reputation of an enthusiast and propagator of ‘modernism’ and ‘dadaism.’

The music of Szymanowski found a special place in his repertoire. The composer and the pianist were friends, they also shared a passion for bridge. Szymanowski dedicated to him two Mazurkas Op. 50: No.7 and 8. Zbigniew Drzewiecki also propagated the works of other Polish contemporary composers: Szałowski, Palester, Kondracki, Szabelski. He mastered his musical technique with Paderewski in Morges.

As music critic, he published articles in Muzyka of M. Gliński and Muzyka Polska of K. Regamey, after the World War II - in Ruch Muzyczny. He wrote particularly about the piano music of the 20th century, including the works of Bartok, Berg, Szymanowski, Koffler or Palester, and about the performances of Chopin’s music. He recommended simplicity and moderation as well as equilibrium between the expression and form in the interpretation of Chopin’s music. In 1930 he became Prorector of the Warsaw Music School renamed later into the Academy. In 1931 he took over the function of its rector after Karol Szymanowski. Among his students were: F. Blumental, J. Ekier, R. Etkinówna, B. Kon, H. Czerny Stefańska, Fu-Tsung, L. Grychtołówna, A. Harasiewicz, R. Smendzianka, J. Olejniczak, among the present faculty members of the Krakow Academy: M. Szmyd-Dormus and E. Wolak-Moszyńska.

In the spring of 1945, with a circle of collaborators, Zbigniew Drzewiecki began to organize the Higher School of Music (the present Academy of Music). Among the faculty members of the Krakow school were: R. Palester, S. Wiechowicz, A. Malawski, J. Hoffman, A. Rieger, H. Sztompka, E. Umińska, B. Rutkowski, B. Romaniszyn, H. Zboińska-Ruszkowska, W. Kaczmar, M. Dziewulska, S. Kisielewski.

In recognition of his accomplishments, he received National Prizes of the 1st degree (1950, 1952), and in 1955 he was honoured with the Polonia Restituta Cross.
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Leon Fleisher
United States of America, °1928 - 2020
Leon Fleisher, whose career as an acclaimed US concert pianist continued despite losing the use of his right hand, has died aged 92 in Baltimore on 2 August 2020.

Born to eastern European Jewish immigrants in San Francisco in 1928, Fleisher was a child prodigy who, aged four, would repeat the piano phrases his older brother had been learning, without teaching. He played his first public concert aged eight, and began being taught by star pianist Artur Schnabel the following year. He made his debut with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, at the city’s Carnegie Hall, when he was 16.

As a young man, he signed a contract with Columbia Masterworks, and earned acclaim for his performances of piano concertos by Brahms, Liszt and Beethoven, with conductors including Leonard Bernstein and George Szell.

By 1949, however, though he had played with many of the major American orchestras and had given recitals across the country, engagements began to dry up for Mr. Fleisher. The next year he moved to Paris and remained in Europe until 1958, relocating first to the Netherlands and then to Italy.

As an expatriate, Mr. Fleisher became the first American to win the gold medal at the Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels, in 1952. The victory led to a long list of engagements in Europe and revived interest in him among American orchestras, managers and concert promoters.

He developed a condition called focal dystonia, which he later attributed to over-practising, that led to numbness in his right hand and two of his fingers curling inward. Aged 36, he could no longer play with both hands, causing him a “deep funk and despair”, he later said.

After two years of inactivity, he refocused on repertoire for the left hand, including works by Ravel, Prokofiev and Britten, as well as music newly composed for him, and began a successful conducting career with orchestras in Baltimore and Annapolis.

He attempted a return to two-handed playing in the mid-80s but didn’t feel he had enough facility with his right hand. However, after further treatment in the 90s, with a combination of Botox injections and deep tissue massage, he regained the use of his afflicted fingers and recorded new albums of two-handed work.

A documentary about his life, Two Hands, was nominated for best documentary short at the 2006 Academy awards.

Articles from The NY Times and The Guardian
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Emil Gilels
Russian Federation, °1916 - 1985
Emil Gilels was born in Odessa. He did not come from a musical family: his father worked as a clerk in the sugar refinery and his mother looked after the large family. At the age of five and a half he was taken to Yakov Tkach, a famous piano pedagogue in Odessa. He completed his first period of studies with unprecedented ease. In 1929 aged twelve, he gave his first public concert. In 1930 he was accepted to the conservatory in Odessa into the class of Berta Reingbald. Her main goal was his participation in the First All-Union Competition of Performers which was announced to take place in 1933 in Moscow. Gilels’ playing created a sensation - when he finished his programme the auditorium rose up in tumultuous ovation and even the jury stood to applaud. The question of first prize was not even discussed: in a unanimous decision Gilels was announced the winner. The competition changed Emil’s life - he was suddenly famous throughout the land. Following the competition, Gilels embarked on an extensive concert tour around the USSR.

Gilels graduated from the Odessa Conservatory in the autumn of 1935. Subsequently, he was accepted into the class of Heinrich Neuhaus as a postgraduate student at the Moscow Conservatory, and Gilels renewed his commitment to giving concerts. The phenomenon, ‘Gilels’, found its recognition from the outside. Upon arriving to Moscow at the start of 1936, the conductor Otto Klemperer performed Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor Opus 37 with none other than Gilels as the soloist. In 1936 he participated in his first international competition - the International Vienna Music Academy Competition. Despite attracting the attention of Europe and the unquestionable prestige of being a finalist, he looked upon the second place awarded to him as a failure. First place was awarded to his friend Jacob Flier - an intensely Romantic pianist.

In 1938 Gilels and Flier set off to the Queen Elisabeth Competition. They were expected to uphold the victories of the Soviet violinists, lead by David Oistrakh a year earlier, and to return in triumph. Gilels was awarded the first prize and Flier took the third. The whole musical world began to talk about Emil Gilels. Following the competition he was meant to embark on a lengthy concert tour, including a tour of the USA. These plans were abruptly interrupted by the Second World War. On home soil Gilels became a hero: he received a medal for his achievements, was greeted by a welcome party upon his return and in the Soviet consciousness his name sounded in equal rank with the names of famous explorers, pilots and film stars.

Emil Gilels completed his postgraduate studies in 1938 and began teaching at the Moscow Conservatory (from 1952 becoming a professor). His pedagogical work continued sporadically until 1976, but because of the huge demands of his concerts he could not devote much time to teaching. Nevertheless his class numbered important pianists such as Marina Mdivani, Valery Afanassiev, Igor Zhukov and the pianist-composer Vladimir Blok.

When the war broke out he was not evacuated with the conservatory. Instead he joined the civilian resistance and following an order for his return, he began to perform on the Front and in hospitals. At the start of 1943 he performed Stravinsky’s bravura piece Petrushka to the weary inhabitants of besieged Leningrad.

When the war ended Emil Gilels was to undertake a special mission. He was to represent the Art of a victorious country. He took to the stage amongst the ruins of Eastern Europe, and soon after the war he went on concert tours of Italy, the United Kingdom, France, Austria, Scandinavia and numerous other countries. Every European country considered it a great privilege to invite Gilels to perform or record. He was decorated with medals and honours - the public worshiped him.

In 1955 Emil Gilels became the first Soviet Artist, since the Second World War, to travel on a concert tour of the USA. The years between the 1950s and 1970s saw him at the height of his powers in all aspects of his playing. He performed under the baton of many of the finest conductors: Mravinsky, Melik-Pashayev, Svetlanov, Ivanov, Rakhlin, Gauk, Ginsburg, Eliasberg, Niyazi, Jarvi, Kitayenko, Dudarova, Barshai. Gilels’ collaboration with Sanderling and Kondrashin were particularly important and longstanding. Within the USSR he had further collaborations with Gusman, Paverman, Maluntsyan, Gokieli, Kolomiytseva, Shaposhnikov, Gurtovoy, Rabinovich, Katz, Feldman, Vigners, Sherman, Stasevich, Sokolov, Tiulin, Kravchenko, Karapetyan, Dubrovsky, Tolba, Provatorov, Katayev, Aranovich, Chunikhin, Yadikh, Nikolayevsky and many others. Through his collaborations he also was able to find new, talented conductors such as Verbintsky and Ovchinikov.

Emil Gilels also played in ensembles: with pianists Flier and Zak, and later with his daughter Elena Gilels; violinists Elisabeth Gilels (his sister), Tziganov, Kogan; with the Beethoven Quartet; in a trio with Tziganov and Shirinsky, as well as his own trio (Gilels, Kogan, Rostropovich); with flautist Korneiv; and the French horn player Shapiro. Abroad he collaborated with the Amadeus Quartet and the Sibelius Academy Quartet.

Emil Gilels’ commitment to the recording studio was as intensive as his commitment to his concert tours : he recorded with many record companies, including Melodiya, Angel, Ariola, EMI, Eterna and Deutsche Grammophon. His earliest recordings are from the 1930s and include Loeillet-Godowsky’s Gigue, the Fantasia on Two Themes from The Marriage of Figaro by Mozart-Liszt-Busoni, Chopin’s Ballade No. 1 in G minor Opus 23, Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 9, Schumann’s Toccata and Mendelssohn’s Duetto from the Songs without Words. All in all Gilels committed to record over five hundred works (not counting the multiple versions that exist for many of the cycles and individual pieces): the exact number however may never become known because of the numerous amateur audio and video recordings made from Gilels’ recitals.

Between the 1950s and 1970s Gilels continued to teach at the Moscow Conservatory whilst maintaining an active profile as an important public figure. He could not however refuse the invitation to preside over the jury at the International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition - a position that he maintained for the first four competitions.

In the middle of the 1970s Emil Gilels started to limit any activities that were not directly related to his performing. He retired as a jury member of international piano competitions and stopped teaching.

Emil Gilels had to his name the Peoples’ Artist of the USSR, was a recipient of the Lenin Prize (1962), and in 1976 in honour of his sixtieth birthday was bestowed the highest possible governmental award - Hero of Socialist Labour.
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Naum Sluszny
°1914 - 1979
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Grace Ward Lankford
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Yakov Zak
Ukraine, °1913 - 1976
Ukrainian pianist and teacher Yakov Zak (1913-1976) graduated from Maria Starkova's piano class at Odessa Conservatory in 1932 and from Heinrich Neuhaus' class in the master school at Moscow Conservatory in 1935. He made his concert debut in 1935, and became widely known when he won first prize at the Warsaw International Chopin Competition in 1937. He was made People's Artist of the USSR in 1966.

Yakov Zak's playing was characterized by virtuosity, delicate lyricism and depth of artistic imagination. He was the foremost interpreter of much Soviet music, and gave the first performances of the concertos of Golubev and Levitin, Kabalevsky's Third Sonata, Bely's Third Sonata, Chulaki's sonatas and Koval's suites. He recorded Aleksandrov's Second Sonata, as well as Prokofiev's Second Concerto, Rachmaninoff's Fourth Concerto and Vasilenko's F sharp minor Concerto.

Yakov Zak began to teach at Moscow Conservatory in 1935 and became a professor in 1947, with a chair from 1965. His pupils included Eugene Moguilevsky, Nikolai Petrov, Eliso Virsaladze and L. Timofeyeva. He wrote a number of articles, including the essay Some questions of the education of young performers (1968) and Meetings and reflections (1979).
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Carlo Zecchi
°1903 - 1984
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