Sydney International Piano Competition

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Sydney International Piano Competition of Australia
Awarded for Exceptional piano performance
Country Australia
Presented by Australian Broadcasting Corporation
First awarded 1977
Last awarded 2016
Official website

The Sydney International Piano Competition of Australia (SIPCA) is a music competition, presented by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in association with the University of Sydney and broadcast live throughout Australia and internationally. It is held every four years, over a three-week period in July–August,[1] and is internationally recognised as one of the world's great piano competitions.[2] It was established in July 1977 by Claire Dan, with co-founders Rex Hobcroft and Robert Tobias,[3] and was admitted as a member of the World Federation of International Music Competitions in 1978.[4][5]

The Artistic Director from its inception until 2015 was Warren Thomson, who also served as Chairman of the jury from 1992 until 2012. In April 2015, following Thomson's death in February, Piers Lane (a former competitor and juror) was announced as the Artistic Director of the 2016 competition.[6]


A total of 32 (originally 36) pianists are selected to participate in the competition. Worldwide auditions are held to select the entrants, who must be aged between 17 and 30.[1][7]

Traditionally, the previous winner presents a Gala Opening Recital.

The competition proper consists of five stages. All 36 competitors appear in the first two stages, which each involve a 20-minute solo recital. Competitors must include an Australian work chosen from a group of pieces set by the organizers. Miriam Hyde's Valley of Rocks was one of the pieces set for the 1988 competition; it was chosen by 23 of the contestants, and it went on to become her best-known work.

After this the best 20 are chosen to proceed to the third stage, a 40-minute recital. Twelve pianists are selected to proceed to the fourth stage, a 50-minute recital and participation in a chamber work. Six competitors are selected for the final stage, in which they play two piano concertos with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.[8][9]

Up until 2016, the first four stages took place at the Seymour Centre, University of Sydney;[10][11][12] in 2016 the venue was changed to Verbrugghen Hall, Sydney Conservatorium of Music. The fifth stage is held in the Concert Hall of the Sydney Opera House.[13][14] The winner receives a prize of $25,000, with smaller prizes awarded for other placings.[15] All stages are broadcast live on radio throughout Australia and to the world online, by ABC Classic FM. From 2016 the competition in its entirety is streamed live and free on SIPCA's website.

In the competition's thirty-nine-year history, no Australian pianist has won first prize.


Despite its generally recognised prestige, the competition has been strongly criticised by some established Australian pianists. The pianist and composer Larry Sitsky said: "The title Sydney International Piano Competition sounds grand and definitive. But behind the facade is a rather shabby private party in progress".[16] The Liszt specialist and composer Leslie Howard said: "I was asked to be on the international advisory panel for this years ago ... and since then have never heard from any of them. ... No-one, of course, will ever hear from any of the prize-winners. They all seem to have had rather too close connections with members of the jury, which in any case is composed mostly of lacklustre teachers ... who have never been professional concert pianists in their lives and wouldn't recognise good and original artistry if it jumped up and bit them".[16] Michael Kieran Harvey has asked: "What does the complete lack of success past SIPCA winners have had at making a career say about the cloth-eared selectors who travel around the world at great expense auditioning young hopefuls? Why, if SIPCA is such an internationally significant competition, are second-rate teachers no-one's ever heard of, to say nothing of completely unqualified non-musicians, sitting in judgment at this supposedly premier music event?"[17] Despite his criticism, Harvey agreed to become the commentator for the ABC's radio broadcast of the 2000 competition, "in an attempt to provide some objective analysis".[17]

Critics also pointed to the dominance of Warren Thomson, who single-handedly chose the repertoire and all the jurors, many of whom are associated with the Australian Institute of Music (AIM), of which he was Artistic Director, Professional Development Programs.[16] With assistance from others, he also auditioned all the entrants, and chose the 36 competitors. Alexei Yemtsov, a competitor at the 2000 competition, lived in Thomson's home and Thomson became his official guardian. That year, the minimum age was lowered from 18 to 17, although Thomson denied it had anything to do with Yemtsov's being only 17 at the time.[16] The pianist Simon Tedeschi has said he "has no intention of ever collaborating with Thomson and SIPCA ... The school of pianism with which he associates himself is not to my taste ... The trained-seal mentality makes for poor musicianship, and, ultimately, unhappy lives".[17] Margaret Hair, AIM's former head of keyboard studies, said: "There's a feeling among teachers that with Warren [Thomson] in charge, Australian students have little chance of making the final cut. The most tragic outcome of his effect on the piano scene in this country is a sense of hopelessness that most students now feel".[16]

Critics also pointed to the fact that in some cases competitors are the students of members of the jury. For example, Mikhail Yanovitsky and Dmitry Grigortsevich, finalists in the 1996 competition, were students of Mikhail Voskresenky and Lev Vlassenko respectively, both of whom were jurors.

Musical patrons[edit]

The list of musicians and others who have been involved with the competition as either patrons or jurors includes Vladimir Ashkenazy, Lazar Berman, Sir Bernard Heinze, Eileen Joyce, Eugene List, Sir Charles Mackerras, Denis Matthews, Hephzibah Menuhin, John O'Conor, Harold C. Schonberg, Sir Georg Solti and Gordon Watson.[17]

Prize winners and jurors[edit]

Number Year Prize winners Country Jurors (incomplete) Music patron
I 1977 Irina Plotnikova USSR Rex Hobcroft (Chairman)[17]
Sergei Dorensky
Sir Bernard Heinze
Ludwig Hoffmann (de)
Lucrecia Kasilag
Eugene List
André-F. Marescotti
Denis Matthews
Hephzibah Menuhin[18]
Jan Weber
Wiktor Weinbaum
Roger Woodward[19]
Svetlana Navasardyan USSR
André Laplante Canada
Marioara Trifan United States
Philip Fowke United Kingdom
Manana Doijashvili USSR
Daniel Blumenthal United States
Dennis Lee Malaysia
Diana Kacso Brazil
Gary Steigerwalt United States
Jenő Jandó Hungary
Paweł Chęciński Poland
Piers Lane Australia
II 1981 Chia Chou Canada Rex Hobcroft (Chairman)
Claude Frank
Eileen Joyce
André-F. Marescotti
Li Mingqiang
Cécile Ousset
Frederick Page
Abbey Simon
Gordon Watson
Wiktor Weinbaum
Roger Woodward[20]
Sir Bernard Heinze[19]
Endre Hegedűs Hungary
Catherine Vickers Canada
Daniel Blumenthal United States
David Owen Norris United Kingdom
Liora Ziv-Li Israel
Marc Raubenheimer South Africa
Patrick O'Byrne New Zealand
Martin Roscoe United Kingdom
Alec Chien Hong Kong
Edward Newman United States
Yves Rault France
III 1985 Du Ning-Wu China Rex Hobcroft (Chairman)[17]
Eileen Joyce (Deputy Chairman)[20]
Marcello Abbado
Nicole Henriot
André Laplante
Li Min-duo
Jurgen Meyer-Josten
Elizabeth Powell
Harold C. Schonberg
Peter Solymos
Gordon Watson
Kasulo Yasukawa
Eileen Joyce[20]
Bernd Glemser West Germany
Thomas Duis West Germany
Eduardus Halim Indonesia
Arnan Weisel Israel
Ueli Wiget Switzerland
Istvan Gulyas Hungary
Rita Kinka Yugoslavia
David Selig Australia
Michael Gurt United States
Luigi Ceci Italy
Phillip Shovk Australia
IV 1988 Alexander Korsantia USSR Rex Hobcroft (Chairman)[17]
Joan Chissell
Nicole Henriot
Li Mingqiang
Albrecht Roeseler
Harold C. Schonberg
Warren Thomson
Kazuyuki Tohyama
Ana Maria Trenchi de Botazzi
Arie Vardi
Lev Vlassenko
Eileen Joyce[19]
Riccardo Zadra Italy
Eduardus Halim Indonesia
David Buechner (later Sara Davis Buechner) United States
Sergei Erohin USSR
Phillip Shovk Australia
Gilead Mishory Israel
Anton Batagov USSR
Matthias Fletzberger Austria
Victor Sangiorgio Australia
Asaf Zohar Israel
Adrienne Krausz Hungary
V 1992 Xiang-Dong Kong China Warren Thomson (Chairman)[17]
Joan Chissell
Anthony Fogg
Edward Gordon
William Littler
Li Mingqiang
Hiroko Nakamura
John O'Conor
Elizabeth Powell
Albrecht Roeseler
Joaquín Soriano
Maurice Till
Arie Vardi
Lev Vlassenko
Sir Charles Mackerras[19]
Olivier Cazal France
Duncan Gifford Australia
Hiroshi Arimori Japan
Anna Malikova Russia
Vitaly Samoshko Ukraine
Daniel Gortler Israel
Matthias Kirschnereit Germany
Michele Bolla Italy
Ivor Janssen Netherlands
Young-Ah Kim South Korea
Helen Sim United States
VI 1996 Sergey Tarasov Russia Warren Thomson (Chairman)
Aquiles Delle Vigne
Dean Elder
Ernest Fleischmann
Alexander Jenner
György Nador
Hiroko Nakamura
John Painter
John Roos
Pnina Salzman
Edvard Tchivzhel
Mikhail Voskresensky
Sir Georg Solti[19]
Yuki Takao Japan
Roberto Cominati Italy
Christiano Burato Italy
Mikhail Yanovitsky Russia
Dimitry Grigortsevich Russia
Konstantin Masliouk Russia
Ingo Dannhorn Germany
David Louie Canada
Edward Park Australia
Gabor Rozsa Hungary
Anne Louise-Turgeon Canada
VII 2000 Marina Kolomiitseva Russia Warren Thomson (Chairman)
Lazar Berman
Timothy Calnin[17][21]
Aquiles Delle Vigne
Franz Muller-Heuser
Irina Plotnikova
Pnina Salzman
Phillip Shovk
Edvard Tchivzhel
Frank Wibaut
Sir Charles Mackerras[19]
Ayako Uehara Japan
Evgeny Ukhanov Ukraine
Aleksei Volodin Russia
Vera Kamaneva Russia
Henry Wong Doe New Zealand
VIII 2004 John Chen New Zealand Warren Thomson (Chairman)
Nancy Bricard
Aquiles Delle Vigne
Alexander Jenner
Xiang-Dong Kong
Piers Lane
William Lyne
John O'Conor
Arie Vardi
Sir Charles Mackerras[19]
Rem Urasin Russia
Daniel Hill Australia
Ayano Shimada Japan
Alexander Lubiantsev Russia
Chu-Fang Huang China
IX 2008 Konstantin Shamray Russia Warren Thomson (Chairman)
Michael Brimer
Manana Doijashvili
Aquiles Delle Vigne
Norma Fisher
Alexander Jenner
Choong-Mo Kang
Ian Munro
Arie Vardi
Zhou Guangren[22]
Vladimir Ashkenazy[22]
Tatiana Kolesova Russia
Ran Dank Israel
Takashi Sato Japan
Tomoki Kitamura Japan
Eric Zuber United States
X 2012 Avan Yu[23] Canada Warren Thomson (Chairman)
Michael Brimer
Choong-Mo Kang
Manana Doijashvili
Aquiles Delle Vigne
Norma Fisher
Heinz Medjimorec
Ian Munro
Phillip Shovk
Arie Vardi
Vladimir Ashkenazy
Nikolay Khozyainov Russia
Dmitry Onishchenko Ukraine
Mikhail Berestnev Russia
Hao Zhu China
Tanya Gabrielian USA
XI 2016 Andrei Gugnin[24] Russia Piers Lane (Chairman)[25]
Sa Chen
Nikolai Demidenko
Hamish Milne
Noriko Ogawa
Mira Yevtich
Orli Shaham
Ewa Kupiec
Carl Vine
Timothy Walker
Valery Gergiev
Arseny Tarasevich-Nikolaev Russia
Moye Chen China
Kenneth Broberg USA
Oxana Shevchenko Kazakhstan
Jianing Kong China

See also[edit]



  • 1977 Prize-Winners. The Sydney International Piano Competition of Australia. Retrieved on 2008-04-26
  • 1981 Prize-Winners. The Sydney International Piano Competition of Australia. Retrieved on 2008-04-26
  • 1985 Prize-Winners. The Sydney International Piano Competition of Australia. Retrieved on 2008-04-26
  • 1988 Prize-Winners. The Sydney International Piano Competition of Australia. Retrieved on 2008-04-26.
  • 1992 Prize-Winners. The Sydney International Piano Competition of Australia. Retrieved on 2008-04-26
  • 1996 Prize-Winners. The Sydney International Piano Competition of Australia. Retrieved on 2008-04-26
  • 2000 Prize-Winners. The Sydney International Piano Competition of Australia. Retrieved on 2008-04-26
  • 2004 Prize-Winners. The Sydney International Piano Competition of Australia. Retrieved on 2008-04-26
  • 2008 Prize-Winners. The Sydney International Piano Competition of Australia. Retrieved on 2016-07-27
  • 2012 Prize-Winners. The Sydney International Piano Competition of Australia. Retrieved on 2016-07-27
  • 2016 Prize-Winners. The Sydney International Piano Competition of Australia. Retrieved on 2016-07-27


  1. ^ a b "Sydney International Piano Competition 2004". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 26 April 2008. 
  2. ^ "The Sydney Piano Competition Winner". riverside Archived from the original on 4 June 2008. Retrieved 4 April 2008. 
  3. ^ SIPCA 2012
  4. ^ "About the Competition". The Sydney International Piano Competition of Australia. Retrieved 25 April 2008. 
  5. ^ "Website Detail". Retrieved 26 April 2008. [dead link]
  6. ^ Maxim Boon, "Piers Lane to lead Sydney International Piano Competition", Limelight, 8 April 2015. Retrieved 4 May 2015
  7. ^ "Competitors Chosen for 2008 Competition". The Sydney International Piano Competition of Australia. Retrieved 29 April 2008. 
  8. ^ "Opening Recital — The Sydney International Piano Competition". Sydney International Piano Competition. 22 April 2008. Retrieved 4 May 2008. 
  9. ^ "International Piano Opening". Seymour Box Office. Retrieved 4 May 2008. 
  10. ^ "International Piano Stage 3". Seymour Box Office. Retrieved 4 May 2008. 
  11. ^ "International Piano Semi Final". Seymour Box Office. Retrieved 4 May 2008. 
  12. ^ "Sydney International Piano Competition". The University of Sydney. Archived from the original on 21 July 2008. Retrieved 4 May 2008. 
  13. ^ "What's new?". The Sydney International Piano Competition of Australia. Retrieved 25 April 2008. 
  14. ^ "14. Competition Stages". The Sydney International Piano Competition of Australia. Retrieved 26 April 2008. 
  15. ^ "3. Prizes and Special Prizes". The Sydney International Piano Competition of Australia. Retrieved 26 April 2008. 
  16. ^ a b c d e Kelly Burke: "Musicians lift lid on 'piano Olympics'", The Age, 3 July 2000
  17. ^ a b c d e f g h i Kelly Burke, "Tinkle, tinkle, little stars", The Sydney Morning Herald, 1 July 2000, via
  18. ^ "Hephzibah Menuhin 1920-1981". Live Performance Australia Hall of Fame. Retrieved 20 October 2009. 
  19. ^ a b c d e f g "SIPCA Newsletter September 2003". The Sydney International Piano Competition of Australia. Archived from the original on 30 September 2009. Retrieved 20 October 2009. 
  20. ^ a b c "Eileen Joyce (1908–1991) Timeline" (PDF). University of Western Australia. Retrieved 20 October 2009. 
  21. ^ John Painter and Viktor Makarov were originally chosen as jurors, but Painter withdrew due to illness, and Makarov was removed by Warren Thomson to allay concerns over the method of selection of judges. Phillip Shovk and Timothy Calnin were chosen in their places.
  22. ^ a b "2008 SIPCA website". The Sydney International Piano Competition. Retrieved 20 October 2009. 
  23. ^ SIPCA 2012 winners
  24. ^ [1]
  25. ^ [2]

External links[edit]