The Queen Elisabeth Competition was founded in 1937 at the instigation of Her Majesty Queen Elisabeth of Belgium and the Belgian violinist Eugène Ysaÿe. Originally called the Eugène Ysaÿe Competition, it adopted its current name in 1951, thus paying tribute to its Honorary President and initiator.


The disciplines

The event soon established itself as one of the key international competitions for violinists and pianists. In 1988, those competitions were joined by the Voice competition; the cello competition launched in 2017 rapidly became a major feature of the international competition landscape from its very first edition. Until 2012, a composition competition was also held.

A Belgian event with an international reach

The public rounds of the Queen Elisabeth Competition take place in Brussels every year in May. The reputation of the Competition is based to a great extent on its extremely demanding rules, as well as on its jury, which is made up of internationally renowned figures from the world of music. The Competition’s goal is to offer young musicians an opportunity to develop their careers at an international level by performing before a large audience of music-lovers and music professionals. The extraordinary media coverage that the Competition has enjoyed from the start has also been a key factor in its success. The presence of Belgian radio and television, broadcasting live on the Internet since more than a decade already, and the interest taken by the press - both at home and abroad - create considerable public interest in the candidates’ performances, what makes it possible for them to make connections and develop contacts worldwide.

The compulsory works

The Competition has always placed grat emphasis on creation. One of its distinctive features is the preparation by the 12 finalists for one whole week, without any external assistance, of a specially composed work to be performed with an orchestra. Over the history of the Competition, these works have sometimes emerged from a composition competition and have sometimes been specially commissioned.

The laureates

Many outstanding musicians have been laureates of the Competition, as a glance at its impressive roll of honour shows. Many laureates have maintained close links with Belgium, thanks to the warmth of the hospitality of the host families who provided them with accommodation and of local audiences. Take the time to visit the page entirely devoted to our laureates or to leaf through the palmares from 1937 to 2023 (pdf).

A royal competition

The Queen Elisabeth Competition owes its existence and its development to the unfailing support of the Royal Family and to the generosity of a community keen to support talented young musicians. It is to a great extent thanks to the contribution made by host families, volunteers, private donors, donors of prizes, and enterprises (public and private) that it has been able to pursue its mission.

The history of the Competition in pictures, sound, and video

You can relive the history of the Competition via the extensive audio and video archives that can be accessed via the ‘Watch & Listen’ link. There you will find a number of playlists relevant to the Competition’s past and present, as well as recordings of the last four editions. You can search the archives on the basis of a series of search criteria (year, discipline, round and laureate).


Want to know more about the history of the Queen Elisabeth Competition?

A number of publications were produced to mark the Competition’s jubilees in 2001 (50th anniversary of the Queen Elisabeth Competition) and in 2012 (75th anniversary of the Concours Eugène Ysaÿe) :

Relive the performances of Violin 2024
The Competition's CD's
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