Honens International Piano Competition

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Formerly known as the Esther Honens International Piano Competition, the Honens International Piano Competition is a classical piano playing competition held in Calgary, Canada. It took place every four years from 1992 to 2000, and then switched to a three-year cycle thereafter. The current top cash award totals $100,000 (Canadian dollars). The next competition will take place August 30 to September 8, 2018.


In 1991, philanthropist Esther Honens established the Honens International Piano Competition Foundation in her hometown of Calgary, with a gift of $5 million. Honens also presents Canada's International Festival of Piano each year in Calgary in addition to nationwide learning and outreach programs.

Competition process[edit]


Application submissions are typically starting a year before the Calgary component of the competition, until approximately 7 months before. Applicants are evaluated on their proposed competition programming, experience relative to age and confidential reference letters. Fifty pianists are chosen to advance to the quarterfinals by an application screening jury made up of four individuals.


Quarterfinalists perform a 40-minute public recital in Berlin, London and New York. An Australasian location may be selected depending on the number of candidates accepted from the region. Should an Australasian quarterfinals location not be scheduled, candidates from this region perform in the next closest location. Additional travel support is provided.

Each pianist must perform music for solo piano from the repertory submitted in his/her application and take part in a ten-minute English-language interview by an arts journalist. Quarterfinals recitals and interviews are recorded on digital video under as similar conditions as possible. The Honens recording team includes at two audio-visual engineers and Honens' director of career and competition planning. The function of the latter is intended to ensure that conditions are as uniform as possible and to note the state of instruments, the acoustic qualities of the rooms in which pianists perform, and any unusual circumstances (e.g. extreme temperatures in the venues, etc.).

Ten pianists are chosen to advance to the semifinals by the first jury, consisting of four music professionals from the classical music industry.

The first jury also chooses four alternates in ranked order, one or more of whom may be invited to the semifinals should any of the first ten withdraw. Honens notifies the alternate pianists as soon as the jury has made its decision and asks for immediate confirmation of acceptance as an alternate. Should a pianist withdraw from the Semifinals, an alternate may be asked to take his/her place.


In Calgary, ten semifinalists each perform a 65-minute solo recital and a 65-minute chamber music recital that includes collaborations with the guest musicians chosen by the competition for any particular edition. Past instrumentalists have included, violin, viola, cello, clarinet and soprano.

A second jury, comprising seven jurors, selects three pianists to advance to the finals. A jury deliberation takes place immediately following the last semifinal performance and the announcement of the finalists is made from the stage that same evening. Before the 2015 edition, five pianists were chosen to go to the finals.


Three finalists perform their choice of a classical piano concerto from a list of provided by the competition and a second Post-Classical concerto of their choice. An arts journalist conducts a 15-minute English-language interview with each pianist. Before 2015, five finalists were accepted into the finals, and they each had the chance to perform one concerto of their choice.


An arts journalist conducts a 15-minute English-language interview with each pianist.

Scoring process[edit]

To determine a sole Laureate, the second jury, composed of seven members from the international classical music community, are asked score the three finalists. The following components are taken into consideration when determining a sole winner:

  • 30%: Semifinal Solo Recital
  • 30%: Semifinal Collaborative Recital
  • 15%: Classical Concerto (from a prescribed list)
  • 15%: Post-Classical Concerto (performer's choice)
  • 10%: Interview

Competition laureates[edit]

The Honens International Piano Competition named between three and five Laureates up to and including its 2009 competition. Starting in 2012, it switched to a sole Prize Laureate system.


  • Luca Buratto, Italy


  • Pavel Kolesnikov, Russia







External links[edit]