Montrealer Bruce (Xiaoyu) Liu Takes Gold in Warsaw

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The Paris-born and Montreal-bred Canadian pianist Bruce (Xiaoyu) Liu has won the 40,000-euro first prize of the International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw, one of the most prestigious contests in the world.

The 24-year-old graduate of the Montreal Conservatoire prevailed in dramatic fashion Wednesday evening with an emotionally refined and technically burnished performance of Chopin’s Piano Concerto in E Minor Op. 11.

Results came in later than expected, a little after 8 p.m. EST – 2 a.m. in Warsaw. Possibly the delay was caused by an abundance of ex-aequo finishes – ties – that expanded the roster of main prizewinners from six to eight.

In a preliminary interview, Liu credited the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, which kept him out of public view for more than a year, with fostering “a more inner, peaceful” state of mind.

“We couldn’t do much outside,” the pianist said. “I found more details in my music.”

He was the last of 12 finalists to play over three days in the Warsaw Philharmonic Concert Hall with the National Philharmonic Orchestra under Andrey (Andrzej in Polish) Boreyko.

The process of elimination started in July with a preliminary cohort of 151 pianists from an application pool of more than 500.

 

A former student of Conservatoire teacher Richard Raymond, Liu is familiar to Montrealers for having won the grand prize of the OSM Standard Life Competition in 2012 at the prodigiously tender age of 15. He was also a finalist in the Concours musical international de Montréal in 2014 and won the 2015 Prix d’Europe, an annual award given to a young Quebec musician or singer of promise.

“Bruce’s special signature is an incredible sense of focus combined with the ability to sculpt the music with great inner subtlety,” Raymond wrote in an email. “He also has powerful stamina, supported by one of the most perfect piano techniques on earth.”

Raymond noted that Liu has added “Bruce” to his Chinese given name because many have remarked on his resemblance to the late martial-arts icon Bruce Lee.

Liu has also studied with Dang Thai Son, himself a former Montrealer and Gold Medal winner of the 1980 edition of the Chopin Competition. Normally held every five years, the contest was postposed in 2020 because of the pandemic.

Another Quebec connection to Warsaw should be noted: Charles Richard-Hamelin, a native of the Lanaudière region, took second prize in the 2015 edition of the contest. His career has accelerated accordingly.

Liu was competing against another Canadian finalist, J J Jun Li Bui of Toronto, who finished with the sixth prize.

While the competition is over, three gala concerts were scheduled for Thursday, Friday and Saturday, each starting at 1 p.m. EST. Thursday was billed as the first-prize winner’s concert, while Friday and Saturday were to be devoted to the second- and third-prize winners respectively. Competition performances are archived for later viewing. One accessible platform is the Chopin Institute’s YouTube channel.

Social media were rife with comments and huzzahs after the announcement. “Told you so,” said one high-profile Liu fan on Facebook, the London-based Canadian pianist Angela Hewitt, who noted that Liu chose a Fazioli piano, her preferred make, for his concerto performance.

“Deserves a medal,” she said of the conductor Boreyko, a former music director of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, who led repeated performances of the same two Chopin concertos. “As do the musicians,” Hewitt added.

Other Chopin Competition prizewinners are: Alexander Gadjiev (Italy/Slovenia) second prize ex aequo; Kyohei Sorita (Japan), second prize ex aequo; Martin Garcia Garcia (Spain), third prize; Aimi Kobayashi (Japan), fourth prize ex aequo; Jakub Kuszlik (Poland), fourth prize ex aequo; Leonora Armellini (Italy), fifth prize; J J Jun Li Bui (Canada), sixth prize.

For more information on the competition: https://chopin2020.pl/en.

Keywords: Bruce Liu, Bruce Xiaoyu Liu, Xiaoyu Liu

Below is the official press release.


The winner of the 18th Chopin Competition!

The final auditions of the 18th International Fryderyk Chopin Competition are over. The jury composed of 17 international personalities of the piano world chaired by Professor Katarzyna Popowa-Zydroń awarded the following prizes.

MAIN PRIZES:

  • 1st   Prize –  Mr Bruce (Xiaoyu) Liu, Canada
  • 2nd  Prize ex aequo – Mr Alexander Gadjiev, Italy/Slovenia 2nd Prize ex aequo – Mr Kyohei Sorita, Japan
  • 3rd  Prize – Mr Martin Garcia Garcia, Spain
  • 4th Prize ex aequo – Ms Aimi Kobayashi, Japan 4th  Prize ex aequo –  Mr Jakub Kuszlik, Poland 5th  Prize –  Ms Leonora Armellini, Italy
  • 6th Prize – Mr J J Jun Li Bui, Canada

SPECIAL PRIZES:

The Polish Radio Prize for the best performance of mazurkas – Mr Jakub Kuszlik, Poland

The Warsaw Philharmonic Prize for the best performance of a concerto – Mr Martin Garcia Garcia, Spain The Krystian Zimerman Prize for the best performance of a sonata – Mr Alexander Gadjiev, Italy/Slovenia

 

The 18th Competition and its participants

The auditions of the 18th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition began on 2 October 2021.

Twelve best of the original number of 87 participants representing 17 countries qualified to the Finals to perform one of Fryderyk Chopin’s two piano concertos, accompanied by the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Andrzej Boreyko. Nine pianist selected the Concerto in E minor Op. 11, and the remaining three – the Concerto in F minor Op. 21

According to the Rules and Regulations of the Competition, only pianists born in 1990–2004 were eligible to participate. To do so, contestants were required to send their applications with a video recording of the 1st Stage programme by 1 December 2019. Having opened the call for applications, the Chopin Institute obtained a record number of over 500 entries from the most distant corners of the world.

The recordings submitted were used to winnow the artists and admit 164 of them to the Preliminaries. Finally, 151 pianists presented programmes set in the rules and regulations competing for admission to the competition proper before the Jury and the Warsaw audience. Of their number, the Jury admitted 87 to the main competition.

Nine winners of major piano competitions worldwide secured themselves places in the October competition without the need to go through the Preliminaries. The most numerous group of participants were the Chinese,

as the country was represented by no fewer than 22 artists. With 11 out of 16 pianists selected by the Preliminary Round Jury and five more qualified on the grounds of their achievements in other competitions, the second most numerous group were Poles. The Warsaw Philharmonic stage was also graced by 14 pianists from Japan, seven from South Korea, six from Italy, as well as representatives of Canada, Armenia, Chinese Taipei, Cuba, Latvia, Russia, Spain, Thailand, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam.

Live streams

Live streams from the 18th Chopin Competition reached the most distant corners of the world. Most music lovers followed the performances on the Chopin Institute’s YouTube channel, and the largest audiences gathered in Japan, South Korea, Poland, and the United States.

Auditions of the Chopin Competition were also streamed live on Chopin Competition mobile app for iOS

and Android. You could also follow the contestants on the 18th Competition’s official website Chopin2020.pl and in SmartTV app for Samsung televisions. The high quality of transmission made it possible for hundreds of thousands of people to participate in this musical festivity wherever in the world they reside.

The Chopin Competition also found extensive resonance in the social media: content related to the event was published on Chopin Institute’s Facebook profi in six languages, and the Chinese Weibo attracted a record number of followers. Materials from the competition were also available on Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok.

During the total of 15 days of auditions of the 18th Chopin Competition, the pianists presented nearly 2000 interpretations of Chopin’s works altogether. If you were to combine all that music into a single recital, it would last for nearly 100 hours without a single intermission. There is no other monographic competition of that rank anywhere in the world.

Partners and sponsors

The organiser of the 18th Chopin Competition is the Fryderyk Chopin Institute, and the Competition is held under the National Patronage of the President of the Republic of Poland, Andrzej Duda.

The main co-founder of the Competition is the Ministry of Culture, National Heritage, and Sport, and the Patron of the Event is PKN ORLEN.

Main Partner of the Competition: Totalizator Sportowy lottery, owner of LOTTO brand Co-Organiser: Polish Radio 2, TVP, and the City of Warsaw

Commercial Partners: PZU, Lexus, Kopernik, Emitel, Regent, Risk, Błonie, Miraculum, Phonak Technological Partner: YouTube

Partner of the Chopin Institute: Yamaha Official Airline: LOT

Partners: Warsaw Philharmonic, Teatr Wielki – Polish National Opera, Fryderyk Chopin University of Music, National Centre for Culture Poland, Adam Mickiewicz Institute, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Media Partners of the Chopin Competition: Polish Radio, Polish Radio Chopin, Culture.pl

This page is also available in / Cette page est également disponible en: Francais (French)

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About Author

Arthur Kaptainis has been a classical music critic since 1986. His articles have appeared in Classical Voice North America and La Scena Musicale as well as Musical Toronto. Arthur holds an MA in musicology from the University of Toronto. Since 2019, Arthur is co-editor of La Scena Musicale.

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