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Leeds International Pianoforte Competition

Conceived during a sleepless night in the summer of 1961 by legendary Leeds Piano teacher, Fanny Waterman and her husband, Dr. Geoffrey De Keyser. Waterman and Marion Thorpe (then Countess of Harewood), both of them distinguished concert pianists, became the co-founders of 'The Leeds'. Sceptics who poured cold water on to the idea of a high level international event in a 'provincial' city were soon won over by Waterman's unwavering determination born of true Yorkshire grit and her indefatigable pursuit of excellence.

An army of volunteers
Waterman's secret weapon was the hospitality of Leeds folk who she would call upon to act as stewards, help the competitors with transport and welcome them into homes to practise on their pianos. A committee was formed with Marion Thorpe as Chairman, Fanny Waterman as deputy Chairman and de Keyser effectively as Executive Director. Waterman gained sponsorship from local businesses, Leeds City Council and the Arts Council of Great Britain and support from the University of Leeds. An army of volunteers was enlisted from the University, the Leeds Triennial Festival and other organisations. Waterman, De Keyser, Harewood and their committee formulated the competition rules and selected the pieces to be played by contestants.

The cream of young talent
The objective from the outset was to attract the cream of young talent from around the world and find the most gifted Artist for whom winning the competition would be the launching pad for a world class career. But every contestant would benefit. There would be no losers. A message from eminent Pianist, the late Clifford Curzon, published in the 1966 brochure, admirably sums up the ethos of the competition:

'We may be certain that many highly gifted performers will be heard some who will dazzle by their brilliance; others who will move their hearers by a musicality which can even foreshadow the great Artist, and they will all receive the admiration and the recognition due to them. However, it is in the nature of such a competition that every contestant cannot be a prize winner though each one can enjoy the unique opportunity of getting to know the standards of their contemporaries, both from their own and other countries; and of measuring their own achievements against those standards in a competitive, yet generous spirit.'

Distinguished jurors
Eminent figures from the musical world were persuaded to join the jury (panel of adjudicators) charged with the unenviable responsibility of listening to the entrants and selecting the finest amongst them. Composer Sir Arthur Bliss, Master of the Queen's Music, was the jury Chairman of the 1963 event.

Youngest winner
17 year-old Leeds-born Michael Roll, a student of Fanny Waterman, was the first prize winner. Waterman herself was not a member of the 1963 jury. That did not occur until the 1981 competition when she was appointed jury Chairman a position she has occupied ever since.


Associated Links
Leeds International Pianoforte Competition

Click images to enlarge
Lady Harewood with the finalists, 1963
Lady Harewood with the finalists, 1963
Fanny Waterman and Michael Roll, competition winner, 1963
Fanny Waterman and Michael Roll, competition winner, 1963
Marion Thorpe, Murray Perahia and Fanny Waterman, 1972
Marion Thorpe, Murray Perahia and Fanny Waterman, 1972
Alessio Bax and Sir Simon Rattle, 2000
Alessio Bax and Sir Simon Rattle, 2000
The final of the 2003 competition
The final of the 2003 competition
Antti Siirala, competion winner, 2003, with Mark Elder, Music Director of the Halle
Antti Siirala, competion winner, 2003, with Mark Elder, Music Director of the Halle




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© 2003 Leeds City Council | Site created by: LCC electronic information team | 25 March 2003