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Arts & Culture 21 September 2015 13 2019

The International Tchaikovsky Competition: Battle of the Keys

The players who enter see the ‪Tchaikovsky‬ Competition as music’s Olympic Games. Held every four years, the prestigious contest can make or break a musician's career. There are just four categories: piano, violin, cello and solo singing. Their different languages may divide the participants but the universal language of ‪music unites them‬. ‬‬‬‬‬‬


2015 marks the 175th anniversary of famous Russian composer, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s birth. He composed many of the world’s best-known and loved musical scores, including The Nutcracker Suite, Swan Lake, Eugene Onegin and The Queen of Spades opera. The same year sees the eponymous International competition being held for the 15th time and welcoming no less than 623 musicians from 45 countries with ages ranging from 16 to 32. The road to victory is a demanding one, the entrants must pass each of the gruelling stages with flying colours. Just qualifying is an achievement in itself, then there’s the preliminary audition which is followed by three competition rounds.

The very first International ‪Tchaikovsky‬‬‬‬ Competition was held in 1958 and was won by American pianist, Van Cliburn. The Soviet audience fell in love with his performance, as did the judges. His victory brought him worldwide fame. It was a sensation: nobody had expected that at the height of the Cold War, an American could win a Soviet competition. When Van Cliburn returned home, he was welcomed with a parade in New York. The musician loved and respected the USSR and he visited many times to play in concerts. The recording of his performance at the Tchaikovsky competition has now sold over one million copies.


Victory in the ‪Tchaikovsky‬ Competition is a guarantee of success for the winning musician: last year's Daniil Trifonov, achieved money, fame and contracts for more than 100 concerts a year, all over the world! Among this year’s hopefuls are the 16-year-old Daniil Kharitonov and established Lithuanian musician, Lukas Geniušas. Then there’s former child prodigy, Aleksandr Lyubyantsev and Frenchman, Lucas Debargue, who has only been able to read music for four years and, George Li from America who, in the run-up to the competition, trained for 8-10 hours a day for a month while Russia’s, Dmitry Masleev trained 7 hours a day for six months. They have given their all to the contest and each is determined to win. Whom will you root for? ‬‬‬


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