Queen Elisabeth Competition

Official logo, English version.

The Queen Elisabeth Competition (Dutch: Koningin Elisabethwedstrijd, French: Concours Musical International Reine Elisabeth) is a competition for career-starting musicians held in Brussels. The competition is named after Queen Elisabeth of Belgium. It is a competition for classical violinists (from 1937), pianists (from 1938), singers (from 1988) and cellists (from 2017).[1] It also held international competitions for composers from 1953 to 2012.[2]

Since its foundation it is considered one of the most challenging and prestigious competitions for instrumentalists. In 1957 the Queen Elisabeth Competition was one of the founding members of the World Federation of International Music Competitions.[3]


Eugène Ysaÿe, Belgian concert-violinist, wanted to set up an international music competition for young virtuosi showcasing their all-round skill, but died before he could do so. Queen Elisabeth, patroness of the arts and good friend of Ysaÿe, set up the competition in his memory in 1937. The prestige of Ysaÿe and Belgium's Royal Court (King Albert and Queen Elisabeth were admired heroes of the First World War) assured that the first competition would draw great entrants.[4]


The first two editions of the competition, in 1937 for violin and in 1938 for piano, were named after Ysaÿe. World War II and other impediments prevented the competition from taking place from 1940 to 1950.[4]

1937 1938
Violin X
Piano X


In 1951, the competition was renamed for its patroness, Queen Elisabeth, and has taken place under that name since then. Entrants are expected to learn a compulsory work written especially for the competition. (The work is picked during the composition competition.) Usually there is also a section where contestants are expected to perform a work by a Belgian composer. From 1963 to 1980, Marcel Poot of the Brussels Conservatory chaired the jury of the competition and wrote several commissioned works to mark the occasion, that were used as competition-required pieces.[5]

The competition restarted with four-year cycles, starting with two consecutive years for violin and piano respectively, followed by a year for international composition competitions. The fourth year of each cycle had no competition. The years 1973 to 1974 were a transition to cycles with instrument competitions in even years, and the internationional composition competition in the year between the violin and the piano competitions, until the early 1980s when the cycles were re-arranged again.[2]

Year Violin Piano Composition
1951 X For Belgian composers
1952 X For Belgian composers
1953 International
1955 X For Belgian composers
1956 X For Belgian composers
1957 International
1959 X For Belgian composers
1960 X For Belgian composers
1961 International
1963 X For Belgian composers
1964 X For Belgian composers
1965 International
1967 X For Belgian composers
1968 X For Belgian composers
1969 International
1971 X For Belgian composers
1972 X For Belgian composers
1975 X For Belgian composers
1976 X For Belgian composers
1977 International
1978 X For Belgian composers
1980 X For Belgian composers
1982 International
1983 X For Belgian composers
1985 X For Belgian composers


With the competition for voice (singing) introduced in 1988 the four-year cycles were piano voice violin year without performer competition. Before 2002 there were no composition competitions in even years.[2]

1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996
Piano X X X
Voice/singing X X X
Violin X X
Composition X X X X X
1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006
Piano X X
Voice/singing X X
Violin X X X
Composition X X X X X X X X


From 2007 there were no longer years without competition for performers: with three disciplines (piano, voice, violin), each of these returned in a three-year cycle.[2]

There were competitions for composition in 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2012, each of these for the performance piece of the instrumentalist finale of the next year.[2]

2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Piano X X X
Voice X X X
Violin X X
Composition X X X X

2015 and beyond

From 2015 there are again four-year cycles, with, for the first time in 2017, a cello competition added after the year with the piano competition.[6] The public composition competitions stopped.[2]

2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Violin X X
Piano X
Cello X
Voice X

Patronage and prizes

The Queen Elisabeth Competition generates income from its own activities, from private patronage and from sponsoring. Resources are varied: part of the funding for the prizes laureates receive is provided by public authorities and patrons, corporate sponsors, donors contributions, ticket and programme sales, advertising in the programmes and the sale of recordings. The Competition also benefits from the volunteer assistance of families who open their homes to candidates for the duration of the competition.

Prizes for the finalist performing musicians (amounts as awarded in the 2015 violin competition):[7]

Finalists, laureates and winners

Competitions for performing musicians have 12 finalists performing as a soloist before a full symphonic orchestra. Originally all finalists became ranked laureates, later only the first six laureates were ranked. The first editions of the competition were dominated by candidates from the USSR: the 1937 violin competition was won by David Oistrakh and the next year Emil Gilels won the piano competition. The piano competition of 1952 and the violin competition of 1955 were the first to see winners from the United States. By the time of the 50th competition in 2012 an increasing number of Asian contestants reached the finals. In the 21st century the top 5 prize winners have received prizes between 10,000 and 25,000 euro, other laureates receiving amounts below 10,000 euro.[2]

Year 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
1937 Soviet Union David Oistrakh Austria Ricardo Odnoposoff Soviet Union Elizabeth Gilels Soviet Union Boris Goldstein Soviet Union Marina Kozolupova
1951 Soviet Union Leonid Kogan Soviet Union Mikhail Vayman Elise Cserfalvi Netherlands Theo Olof Soviet Union Alexei Gorokhov[8]
1955 United States Berl Senofsky Soviet Union Julian Sitkovetsky France Pierre Doukan France Francine Dorfeuille-Boussinot Soviet Union Victor Picaizen
1959 Bolivia Jaime Laredo Soviet Union Albert Markov United States Joseph Silverstein Soviet Union Vladimir Malinin Soviet Union Boris Kouniev
1963 Soviet Union Alexei Mikhlin Soviet Union Semyon Snitkovsky United States Arnold Steinhardt Soviet Union Zarius Shikhmurzayeva United States Charles Castleman
1967 Soviet Union Philippe Hirschhorn Bulgaria Stoïka Milanova Soviet Union Gidon Kremer Soviet Union Roman Nodel Japan Hidetaro Suzuki
1971 Israel Miriam Fried Soviet Union Andreï Korsakov Japan Hamao Fujiwara Argentina / Germany Ana Chumachenco Belgium Edith Volckaert
1976 Soviet Union Mikhaïl Bezverkhny Soviet Union Irina Medvedeva South Korea Dong-Suk Kang Soviet Union Grigori Zhislin Japan Shizuka Ishikawa
1980 Japan Yuzuko Horigome United States Peter Zazofsky Japan Takashi Shimizu Japan Ruriko Tsukahara Romania Mihaela Martin
1985 Taiwan Hu Nai-yuan South Korea Ik-Hwan Bae Guatemala Henry Raudales China Hu Kun South Korea Mi Kyung Lee
1989 Soviet Union Vadim Repin Japan Akiko Suwanai Soviet Union Evgeny Bushkov Israel Erez Ofer GermanyUlrike-Anima Mathé
1993 Japan Yayoi Toda Romania Liviu Prunaru Taiwan Keng-Yuen Tseng Canada Martin Beaver Russia Natalia Prischepenko
1997 Denmark Nikolaj Znaider Germany Albrecht Breuninger Hungary Kristóf Baráti United Kingdom Andrew Haveron Japan Natsumi Tamai
2001 Latvia Baiba Skride Singapore Kam Ning Hungary Barnabás Kelemen Russia Alina Pogostkin China Feng Ning
2005 Armenia Sergey Khachatryan Belgium Yossif Ivanov Germany Sophia Jaffé Japan Saeka Matsuyama United States Mikhail Ovrutsky
2009 Australia Ray Chen Belgium Lorenzo Gatto Moldova Ilian Garnet South Korea Suyoen Kim Russia Nikita Borisoglebsky
2012 Russia Andrey Baranov Japan Tatsuki Narita South Korea Hyun Su Shin United States Esther Yoo Taiwan Tseng Yu-Chien
2015[7] South Korea Ji Young Lim Ukraine Oleksii Semenenko United States William Hagen Germany Tobias Feldmann United States/Netherlands Stephen Waarts
Year 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
1938 Soviet Union Emil Gilels United Kingdom Mary Johnstone (Moura Lympany) Soviet Union Jakov Flier United Kingdom Lance Dossor Uruguay Nibya Mariño Bellini
1952 United States Leon Fleisher Switzerland Karl Engel Italy Maria Tipo Belgium Frans Brouw Australia Lawrence Davis
1956 Soviet Union Vladimir Ashkenazy United States John Browning Poland Andrzej Czajkowski France Cécile Ousset Soviet Union Lazar Berman
1960 United States Malcolm Frager Canada Ronald Turini United States Lee Luvisi Soviet Union Alice Mitchenko Hungary Gábor Gabos
1964 Soviet Union Evgeny Mogilevsky Soviet Union Nikolai Petrov Belgium Jean-Claude Vanden Eynden Canada Anton Kuerti United States Richard Syracuse
1968 Soviet Union Ekaterina Novitskaya Soviet Union Valère Kamychov United States Jeffrey Siegel Soviet Union Semion Kroutchine Belgium André De Groote
1972 Soviet Union Valery Afanassiev United States Jeffrey Swann United States Joseph Alfidi United States David Lively Soviet Union Svetlana Navasardyan
1975 Soviet Union Mikhaïl Faerman Soviet Union Stanislav Igolinsky Soviet Union Youri Egorov United States Larry Michael Graham Soviet Union Sergueï Iuchkevitch
1978 Lebanon Abdel Rahman El Bacha United States Gregory Allen France Brigitte Engerer United States Alan Weiss Canada Douglas Finch
1983 France Pierre-Alain Volondat Germany Wolfgang Manz Bulgaria Boyan Vodenitcharov United States Daniel Blumenthal Brazil Eliane Rodrigues
1987 Soviet Union Andrei Nikolsky Japan Akira Wakabayashi Germany Rolf Plagge Belgium Johan Schmidt Japan Ikuyo Nakamichi
1991 France Frank Braley United States Stephen Prutsman United States Brian Ganz South Korea Hae-sun Paik Soviet Union Alexander Melnikov
1995 Germany Markus Groh Finland Laura Mikkola Italy Giovanni Bellucci United States Yuliya Gorenman South Korea Jong Hwa Park
1999 Ukraine Vitaly Samoshko Russia Alexander Ghindin China Ning An Israel Shai Wosner Italy Roberto Cominati
2003 Germany Severin von Eckardstein China Wen-Yu Shen Unawarded after Dong-Hyek Lim refused it[9] Italy Roberto Giordano Japan Kazumasa Matsumoto
2007 Russia Anna Vinnitskaya Bulgaria Plamena Mangova Switzerland Francesco Piemontesi Russia Ilya Rashkovsky South Korea Lim Hyo-Sun
2010 Russia Denis Kozhukhin Bulgaria Evgeni Bozhanov Netherlands Hannes Minnaar Russia Yury Favorin South Korea Kim Tae-Hyung
2013 Israel Boris Giltburg France Rémi Geniet Poland Mateusz Borowiak Russia Stanislav Khristenko Hong Kong Zhang Zuo
2016 Czech Republic Lukáš Vondráček United States Henry Kramer United States Alexander Beyer South Korea Chi Ho Han Croatia Aljosa Jurinic
Voice / Singing
Year 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
1988 Poland Aga Winska United States Jeanette Thompson Netherlands Huub Claessens United States Jacob Will Netherlands Yvonne Schiffelers
1992 France Thierry Félix Brazil Reginaldo Pinheiro United States Wendy Hoffman Republic of Ireland Regina Nathan Chile Cristina Gallardo-Domâs
1996 United States Stephen Salters Romania Ana Camelia Stefanescu United States Eleni Matos Bulgaria Mariana Zvetkova United States Ray Wade
2000 Canada Marie-Nicole Lemieux Romania Marius Brenciu Ukraine Olga Pasichnyk France Pierre-Yves Pruvot Syria Lubana Al Quntar
2004 Poland Iwona Sobotka Canada Hélène Guilmette Belgium Shadi Torbey Romania Teodora Gheorghiu Moldova Diana Axentii
2008 Hungary Szabolcs Brickner France Isabelle Druet Poland Bernadetta Grabias Armenia Anna Kasyan Belarus Yury Haradzetski
2011 South Korea Haeran Hong Belgium Thomas Blondelle Russia Elena Galitskaya France Anaïk Morel Russia Konstantin Shushakov
2014 South Korea Sumi Hwang Belgium Jodie Devos France Sarah Laulan China Yu Shao South Korea Hyesang Park

The first international Queen Elisabeth Competition for composition was held in 1953. Composition competitions had less laureates or finalists, with usually only the winners who see their winning piece performed in the final of the competitions for instrumentalists receiving broad media attention.[10]

Year 1st Work
1953 Poland Michal Spisak Serenade
1957 Italy Orazio Fiume Concerto per orchestra
1960 Belgium Marcel Poot Sinfonia burlesca
1963 Belgium Léon Jongen Concerto in D major
1977 Japan Hiroyuki Fujikake Rope Crest
1982 United Kingdom John Weeks Five Litanies for Orchestra
1989 Belgium André Laporte Fantasia Rondino Con Tema Reale
1991 France Tristan-Patrice Challulau Ne la città dolente
1993 Belgium Piet Swerts Zodiac
1995 United Kingdom John Weeks Requiescat
1997 South Africa Hendrik Hofmeyr Raptus
1999 Finland Uljas Voitto Pulkkis Tears of Ludovico
2001 Denmark / Germany Søren Nils Eichberg Qilaatersorneq
2003 Australia Ian Munro Piano Concerto Dreams
2005 Mexico Javier Torres Maldonado Obscuro Etiamtum Lumine
2006 Spain Miguel Gálvez-Taroncher La luna y la muerte
2008 South Korea Cho Eun-Hwa Agens
2009 South Korea Jeon Minje Target
2011 Japan Sakai Kenji Concerto pour violon et orchestre
2012 France Michel Petrossian In the wake of Ea pour piano et orchestre

Media coverage and prizes awarded by audiences

The competition was covered on the Belgian radio from its first edition, the press writing about contestants and their performances. Broadcasting via television expanded in the 1960s. French-language and Dutch-language Belgian broadcasting organizations started to award prizes based on the preferences of their audiences from 1975 and 1991 respectively. Abdel Rahman El Bacha, Pierre-Alain Volondat, Severin von Eckardstein and Denis Kozhukhin were among the few contestants that were as convincing to the competition jury as to the general audience. Recorded performances were commercialised from 1967. In the 21st century recordings of the competitors' performances were streamed live on the internet and/or made available as video or audio downloads, followed by social media discussions.[11]

See also


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