Aim and background information

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The competition aims to stimulate career development in performing on historic fortepianos and square pianos. The competitions targets worldwide on early-career professional early keyboard performers and pianists, who specialise in the historically informed performance practice.

Strong emphasis is laid on the technical ability of taking proper, tender and loving care of the historic instruments and on the social performance of the candidates in respect to the historic instruments, in relation to the historical context of both (and intertwined) the compositions and the instruments, and in relation to their fellow candidates and musicians. The competition is about the personal ability for performing with proper care on historic fortepianos (grand, square and other).

The purpose of participation in the competition should not only be for just winning it, but rather for gaining experience in performing on authentic period instruments. The competition element is there to stimulate reaching highest level performance as reviewed by peers (i.e. the jury) on a public stage.

High level performance is not only defined in the sense of virtuosity (i.e. in the perfect execution of the scores), but rather in understanding how to bring alive this music on these historic pianos taking into account their historical context and individuality. To show personality in the candidate’s performance is seen as a virtue. The jury takes for its judgement in consideration all aspects, aesthetic, historical, social and technical, next to the candidate’s virtuosity.

Especially for the final round, the jury will take in consideration the way the performance is coming from the heart, so the aesthetic individuality of the candidate’s performance, rather than only a technically perfect performance.

The choice of the repertoire for this edition of the competition is geared towards the classical and the early romantic period of the fortepiano and the square piano.

For the first time, an early square piano (c. 1770) is included in the fortepiano competition. This is for the performance of pre-1788 works, thus testing the candidate’s over-all skills on such an early instrument as well. In addition, as is traditional for our festival, there is the optional (semi-)separate square piano competition on Sunday 22nd October, which is geared to square pianos: here the candidate shall again perform a pre-1788 piece on an early instrument, a square piano built by Zumpe & Buntebart in 1769, and, thereafter, a piece by Beethoven on a Viennese action of the first quarter of the 19th century.

Next, the candidates are tested performing on a fortepiano built by Matthäus Heilmann around 1790, which is comparable with the piano actions built by Johann Andreas Stein after 1781 (without hammer check). This is perfect for late Mozart and early period Beethoven pieces.

In addition, the candidates are requested to perform on a fortepiano built by Conrad Graf in Vienna in 1836. This instrument is well fitted for the romantic period. The candidate may choose between Franz Schubert’s Impromptu no. 3, Op. 90 (D.899), written in 1827, and Felix Mendelssohn’s Op. 104b from 1834-1838.

For the finals, Mozart’s magnificent “Mme. Jeunehomme Concerto” (Piano Concerto no. 9, KV 271), composed in 1777, is to be performed in its earliest known orchestrated version (1792) with student-musicians gracefully provided by the Early Music Department of the Conservatorium of Amsterdam.

Educational purpose: gaining experience, knowhow and network
The competition is not only about winning: it is also for gaining experience. Participants will have the opportunity, time permitting, to discuss their performance with the jury after each round.

For increasing their experience, the candidates have the possibility to attend public masterclasses in the days following the competition. Candidates are highly recommended to take these masterclasses, which are offered free of charge.

In addition, it is recommended, that candidates join the symposium on Friday 20th October. The candidates may participate in this symposium free of charge.

The initiators of the competition have a broad view on the performance on early keyboards, which is certainly not limited to the historically informed performance – the Early Music Movement – alone. We envisage, that the young generation of performers on historic keyboards (including both fortepianos and early modern pianos) is interested not only in studying and performing the most probable and near to authentic period music “such as the composer must have intended”, but also will venture new and innovative music formats for these historic instruments, both re-using pieces from the Early, Classical and Romantic periods, as well as implementing later or contemporary, and/or cross-cultural compositions.

This festival is modeled around the Geelvinck Collection of historic (forte)pianos. Therefore the careful performance practice, which is proper for historic instruments, is a significant factor within the jury’s considerations. Although the musician’s virtuosity and his or her technical command of mastering fortepiano (and square piano) based on the principles of the Early Music Movement is also taken in consideration, these aspects are not the main target of this competition.

We hope, that this competition will stimulate a new generation of musicians to perform on historic square and fortepianos and to continue inspiring their and following generations of a wide public audience with the experience of performances on and with the appreciation for this musical cultural heritage in general and especially the individual sound of these historic instruments.

In 2011, the annual competition had its first edition during the first Geelvinck Festival “Amsterdam Virtuosi”. This first edition had two ex aequo winners: Yi-Heng Yang and Chiaki Omura. Other then the fourth and following editions, the first three editions of the competition were exclusively limited to the square piano. Since the fourth edition, the scope of the competition is broadened to fortepianos (grand), next to a separate award for performing on square pianos.

A video impression of the fourth edition (2014) of the festival, can be found here.

Impressions of the earlier editions of the festival in Dutch language, can be found here:


In the following edition, we expect to add an optional competition on late historic fortepianos dedicated to Chopin and his contemporaries.

Todays edition of the competition is developed by Marcel Baudet, chairman of our Jury (and artistic leader of the YPF), together with Alain Roudier, member of the Jury. We very much appreciate their continued support of our competition.

The festival organization is most grateful for the useful and practical advices given by Willem Brons (former chairman of the Jury), Stanley Hoogland, Richard Egarr, Bart van Oort, Sergei Lubimov and Michael Tsalka on this and previous competitions.

In addition, the festival organization is very thankful for the continued hands-on support and advice by prof.dr. Olaf van Hees, Hans Kramer (De Pianotemmer), Martin Spaink and, especially, Gijs Wilderom.

Some of the main historic instruments being used in previous editions of the festival were on loan, because the majority of the instruments of the museum’s collection still need extensive repair and restoration. Hence, we are extremely grateful, that we had and again have the opportunity to receive temporary on loan from Richard Egarr and Gijs Wilderom their excellently restored fortepianos , as well as an early square piano from Stanley Hoogland.

Our festival is constantly monitoring en renewing itself. For the next edition, we are planning an optional competition (in its format comparable with the square piano competition) for historically informed performance on mid 19th century  fortepianos. The aim is to stimulate pianists to perform romantic composers, such as Chopin, Schumann, Liszt, Brahms and other on historic pianos.

For this competition, we will have available a fortegrand built by Conrad Graf (1782-1851) in Vienna in 1836 (no. 2505/6), CC-g4, Viennese action, four pedals for keyboard shift, moderator, semi-moderator and damper lift

Coming edition next year, we expect – in addition to the Heilmann fortepiano –  to make use again of the fortegrand built by Joseph Böhm (1786- c. 1850) in Vienna around 1820 for the main fortepiano competition. This magnificent instrument has FF-f4, Viennese action with five pedals: una-corda, bassoon, sustain, moderator and drum-bell (courtesy to Gijs Wilderom, restorer of fortepianos in Amsterdam).

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