International classical guitar competitions

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International classical guitar competitions are public events designed to identify and award outstanding classical guitar soloists, ensembles, and composers. They allow artists to promote themselves and gain exposure. Some competitions also have newly composed "set" pieces which serve to increase the classical guitar repertoire.

Early history[edit]

The guitar seems to be the absentee in musical competitions until the Second World War.

  • In 1949 the "First Guitar Competition", now the Tokyo International Guitar Competition was held and the Modern Japan Guitar Federation was established in Tokyo, Japan. It was not held in 1954, 1955, and 1956, but continued from the 6th edition since 1957. From the 25th edition in 1982 became the Tokyo International Guitar Competition.
  • The first international guitar performance competitions in Europe were promoted and initiated in the 1950s by virtuoso Spanish guitarist Andrés Segovia. In 1956 he managed to get the guitar discipline to be included in prestigious multi-instrumental Geneva International Music Competition.
  • The 1960s led to born within the compass of Segovia two European competitions that marked the history of guitar and which remains active until today, i.e. 1967 - International Guitar Competition "Francisco Tárrega" in Benicàssim, Spain and 1968 - Competition "Premio Città di Alessandria" in Alessandria, Italy, which in 1995 would be renamed International Classical Guitar Competition "Michele Pittaluga - Premio Città di Alessandria" on the occasion of its founder passing. Over the time, Segovia kept promoting competitions by giving his support to ones which had evident professionalism contents.
  • Between 1959 and 1990s the Concours International de Guitare was organized by O.R.T.F., which then became Radio France. The competition was born at the behest of Robert J. Vidal, deputy producer of French radio station. In 2007 a new competition, International Classical Guitar Competition Robert J. Vidal in Barbezieux, France was established in his memory.
  • In 1972 Giuliano Balestra founded International Guitar Competition "Fernando Sor" in Rome, Italy
  • Since 1973 the city of Gargnano, Italy has been hosting the "Incontri Chitarristici" which included the International Classical Guitar Competition, since 1976.
  • In 1982 the Guitar Foundation of America International Concert Artist Competition was established and shortly became one of the most desired awards in the classical guitar world thus given a start to classical guitar popularisation in the US.
  • In 1985, the European Year of Music, Andrés Segovia International Classical Guitar Competition was established in La Herradura, Spain in the honor of maestro.

Present times[edit]

In the recent years, much international classical guitar competitions were established.

  • The overall level of the competitions was raised by increasing prizes value up to $30,000 in the US, $22,000 in Europe, and $10,000 in Asia.
  • Finals with the orchestra became more common.
  • Introduction of online streaming of the competition rounds and YouTube applications greatly improved neutrality and public reception of the judgment.
  • Many classical guitar competitions now take place during guitar festivals, and therefore the competition event can be attended by the general public, as an audience.
  • Youth international competitions became more popular, attracting children and amateurs by the lower comp level and affordable prizes.

Competitors[edit]

  • In the international classical guitar competitions, the typical age of the competitors is from 18 to 35. Some competitions don't have age restrictions.
  • The youth competitions are usually up to 25 years old.
  • As a result of increased number of competitions, some competitors have won unusual (more than 15) number of 1st Prizes in the professional (adult) competitions: 19 - Marcin Dylla, 42 - Marko Topchii.

List of international competitions for classical guitar[edit]

US and Americas[edit]

Competition Name Town Country Last year active 1st prize cash, USD
Parkening International Guitar Competition Malibu, CA USA 2015 30,000
International Guitar Competition Maurizio Biasini (biennial) Bologna, Basel, San Francisco Italy, Switzerland and USA 2018 12,000
Dr. Luis Sigall International Music Competition (Guitar version every 5 years) Viña del Mar Chile 2017 10,000
Guitar Foundation of America International Concert Artist Competition (ICAC) New every year USA 2018 10,000
JoAnn Falletta International Guitar Concerto Competition (biennial) Buffalo, New York USA 2018 10,000
Miami International GuitART Festival and Concert Artist Performance Competition Miami, FL USA 2018 5,000
Wilson Center Guitar Competition & Festival Wisconsin USA 2018 5,000
Festival y Concurso Internacional de Guitarra de la Habana Havana Cuba 2018 5,000
Culiacan International Guitar Competition Culiacán, Sinaloa Mexico 2018 4,000
Indiana International Guitar Festival & Competition Bloomington, IN USA 2018 4,000
Texas International Guitar Festival and Competition Dallas, TX USA 2018 3,000
Guitar Symposium & Competition Columbus, GA USA 2018 1,600

Europe[edit]

Competition Name Town Country Last year active 1st prize cash, USD
Guitar Masters / International competition & festival Wroclaw Poland 2016 22727 (20,000)
Alhambra International Guitar Competition Valencia Spain 2018 15909 (14,000)
International Guitar Competition Maurizio Biasini (biennial) Bologna, Basel, San Francisco, Paris Italy, Switzerland, France and USA 2018 13636 (12,000)
Michele Pittaluga International Classical Guitar Competition Alessandria Italy 2018 11364 (10,000)
International Classical Guitar Competition Robert J. Vidal Barbezieux France 2016 11364 (10,000)
Andrés Segovia International Guitar Competition Almuñecar Spain 2019 11364 (10,000)
Viseu International Guitar Competition (biennial: even years) Viseu Portugal 2018 9091 (8,000)
Concurso Internacional de Guitarra Clásica Gredos San Diego Madrid Spain 2018 5682 (5,000)
Budapest International Guitar Competition & Festival Budapest Hungary 2017 5682 (5,000)
International Classical Guitar Competition Stefano Strata - città di Pisa Pisa Italy 2015 5682 (5,000)
Silesian Guitar Autumn, Jan Edmund Jurkowski Memorial Guitar Competition Tychy Poland 2018 5291 (20,000)
Incontri Chitarristici di Gargano Gargnano Italy 2018 4773 (4,200)
Liechtenstein Guitar Festival ligita, International ligita Guitar Competition Eschen Liechtenstein 2018 4545 (4,000)
International Guitar Competition “Ruggero Chiesa - Città di Camogli” (biennial: even years) Camogli Italy 2018 4545 (4,000)
International Guitar Competition Heinsberg (biennial: odd years) Heinsberg Germany 2017 4545 (4,000)
International Guitar Competition "Ville d'Antony" Antony France 2018 3977 (3,500)
London International Guitar Competition London UK 2018 3750 (£3,000)
International Competition of Guitar - Mottola Mottola Italy 2018 3409 (3,000)
International Guitar Competition Fernando Sor Rome, Madrid Italy, Spain 2018 3409 (3,000)
Linares International Guitar Competition "Andrés Segovia" Linares Spain 2018 3409 (3,000)
Koblenz International Guitar Competition Koblenz Germany 2018 3409 (3,000)
Iserlohn International Guitar Competition Villigst and Iserlohn Germany 2018 3409 (3,000)
International Guitar Competition Nürtingen (biennial: even years) Nürtingen Germany 2018 3409 (3,000)
European Classical Guitar Competition "Enrico Mercatali" Gorizia Italy 2017 2841 (2,500)
Zagreb Guitar Festival and International Guitar Competition Zagreb Croatia 2017 2841 (2,500)
Twents Gitaar Festival Enschede Netherlands 2018 1136 (1,000)
Sarajevo International Guitar Festival Sarajevo Bosnia and Herzegovina 2018 none
Volos international Guitar festival & competition Volos Greece 2017 none
Transilvania International Classical Guitar Competition Cluj-Napoca Romania 2018 none
International Guitar Competition Berlin Berlin Germany 2018 none

Asia, Australia, and Oceania[edit]

Competition Name Town Country Last year active 1st prize cash, USD
Daejeon International Guitar Competition Daejeon South Korea 2017 10000
International Guitar Festival China Changsha Changsha China 2018 10000
Tokyo International Guitar Competition Tokyo Japan 2018 9001 (¥1,000,000)
Taiwan International Guitar Festival & Competition Taipei Taiwan 2018 8000
Adelaide Guitar Festival and International Classical Guitar Competition Adelaide Australia 2018 7692 (A$10,000)
Calcutta International Classical Guitar Festival & Competition Kolkata India 2014 3839 (250,000)
Singapore international Guitar Festival and Competition Singapore Singapore 2016 2,000
Asia International Guitar Festival & Competition Bangkok Thailand 2018 none

Youth and Discontinued[edit]

  • Discontinued (inactive)
Competition Name Town Country Last year active
International Guitar Competition Mauro Giuliani Bari Italy 2004
International Guitar Competition Rene Bartoli Aix-en-Provence France 2006
World Guitar Competition Novi Sad Serbia 2013
  • Youth (junior) competitions
Competition Name Town Country Last year active
International competition for young guitarists Gauting Germany 2016
Gevelsberg Guitar Competition Gevelsberg Germany 2016
International Competition for Young Guitarists «Andrés Segovia» Monheim am Rhein Germany
Terra Siculorum International Classical Guitar Festival and Competition Odorheiu Secuiesc Romania
Vojvodina Guitar Fest International classical guitar competition Novi Sad Serbia 2018

Thoughts on competitions[edit]

  • Denis Azabagić has written: "Competitions give you a very valuable experience. Do they guide in your artistic development? I do not know if it benefits the guitarist in that area, but I think it does benefit the student because it helps him to set goals under pressure (having a deadline). This creates a great deal of stress, which you will have to learn how to deal with. To perform live in front of a jury is something that requires some training. Finally, if you are successful at winning competitions, this will help you to promote your name in the guitar circle, you will start to be noticed. I think winning competitions helps you build a name but does not help much to develop your artistry."[1]
  • In this interview recorded in early 2002, Azabagic stresses that while competitions were very good to him, competitions can also be devastating to worthy musicians who never seem to win.[2]

Modern criticism of guitar competitions is actually quite common. Some criticisms are that they are often judged by unqualified judges, that reward people for being technically proficient without regard to musicality. But concerning the judging of musicality, this is in itself controversial, as the question arises, on how to judge art on any objective level.[3]

  • John Williams has said: "[...] basically I don't like or approve of competitions on any instrument. I don't think music can be evaluated like a race - I know that's an obvious thing to say and that there are many ifs and buts involved because they do help some artists and concentrate the public's attention on music. But I particularly don't like the way many guitar competitions are run, the confusing waypoints are awarded differently in each round of a competition, and especially the over-exploitation of the "Big Winner" and the competitive values that puts on players and the activity of guitar playing itself. Winning is a matter of taste in most cases, and there are often many other equally deserving competitors other than just the First Prize recipient. I feel it would be fairer to have a select group of finalists, each of whom receives the same award and status.
    I have served on juries in the past, but these days I refuse to take part, and I feel it is important to take that stand otherwise your reservations have no meaning. Having said all that, I know it happens anyway and sometimes there is sponsorship involved which does help the general public interest and support. But it still doesn't need to be a cut and dried thing, where each finalist is ranked as precisely as 1,2,3. I think it is those competitive values that are wrong, not the celebration of excellence in music as such. I have talked about the idea of setting up a competition where this other approach is used, but nothing definite has emerged from it yet; it may take some time to develop."
    [4]

Analysis of data at a piano competition, with many high-level participants, has made it doubtful that judges are able to make fully objective judgments; because there was a small correlation between the order of appearance of participants and their ranking:

  • We find that the order and timing of appearance at the competition are good predictors of the final ranking. [...] Because of this, order and timing are unique instrumental variables for the final ranking, which we consistently find to have a significant impact on later success, irrespective of the finalists’ true quality. Pianists with high scores are more likely to see their work recorded later on. It is also worth pointing out that the opinion of music critics is more influenced by the ranking than by the quality of the performers. This is not necessarily surprising, since there are many musicians who may have been good during the competition, but have vanished afterward, leaving the critics recollections unaffected.
    The conclusion that it pays to do well in the competition is strongly supported by the data. However, the fact that judges’ rankings are affected by order and timing of appearance in a competition needs to be stressed, and sheds some doubt on their ability to cast fully objective judgments.
    [5]

On the other hand, if a competition has many professional-level artistic participants, it may not even be possible to make an objective judgement of who is "best"; because: given numerous professional-level artistic performers, there may not even be room for the concept of comparison; since this presumes the existence of a "best" interpretation, which is itself questionable (and would be a commercialization of art; viewing it from a mass-consumption or absolutist point of view).

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