At London’s Royal Academy of Music, pianist Yuanfan Yang performed pieces by Frederic Chopin, Franz Liszt and Joseph Haydn with just a camera operator as his audience.
Held every three years, The Leeds has had to change its processes due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with no live jury or audience watching the pianists compete for the career-making prize package.
In a hall at London's Royal Academy of Music, Yuanfan Yang competes in the first round of the Leeds International Piano Competition. The 24-year-old hopes to win over a jury that will only see his performance by video https://t.co/TYA0bsjp2z pic.twitter.com/PKF4HXNZnL— Reuters (@Reuters) April 8, 2021
"I thought it might be a bit challenging at first, but once I started playing, I just forgot about everything," the Edinburgh-born musician said. "It was just literally just me and the music."
With travel restrictions in place, The Leeds invited some 60 competitors from around the world to its virtual first round held in 17 different cities.
From one competitor in Miami to 14 in Berlin, they all performed their 25-minute recitals under the same conditions: playing on a Steinway Model D grand piano and with identical camera setups.
"We realised very quickly that we couldn't do it in the way which we would love to do it ... with an audience and the jury present," Adam Gatehouse, The Leeds artistic director, told Reuters.
"Clearly we were not going to be able to travel a jury from London to Berlin to wherever all around the world so we will watch the videos at home online and judge them in that way."
As Active Participants of OMWPA would be 7-23 years of age, we would be delighted to share this news of recent tour in Italy in January - of young star Yuanfan Yang - he had very kindly offered his valuable time for the benefit of 2018 OMWPA students - appreciate very much. pic.twitter.com/rdfj3sVjPG— OMWPA (Overseas Masters Winter Piano Academy) (@OMWPA) July 11, 2020
''Whatever happens, I am grateful''
First held in 1963, The Leeds offers its winner a recording and management deal, recitals at London's Wigmore Hall and international tours.
"Up until the last minute I thought (The Leeds) would be cancelled," Italian pianist Giulia Contaldo, who practised playing in front of a cameraman before the competition, said.
"So many of my colleagues don’t have this opportunity or don’t have any opportunities at the moment. So whatever happens, I am grateful."
While the first round is virtual, organisers plan to hold the second round, semi-final and final in Leeds, northern England, in September, hopefully with a live audience.
"It's not only about the music itself but it's also about the people in the hall and that is how it's supposed to be," Israeli competitor Ariel Lanyi said.
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