75th Anniversary of the Concours de Genève begins in Switzerland in Review

75th Anniversary of the Concours de Genève begins in Switzerland in Review

75th Anniversary of the Concours de Genève begins in Switzerland
November 20, 2014
The Geneva International Music Competition, better known by its more elegant French title, Concours de Genève, celebrates its 75th anniversary this year.  Founded by Belgian composer and organist Henri Gagnebin who was then Director of the conservatory in Geneva, the first competition was held during the ominous days of July, 1939 on the brink of the outbreak of World War II.  Despite the shadows gathered over that first concourse, the jurors chose well: Italian pianist Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, then just 19 years old, was awarded  the Premier Prix, a choice that helped establish the competition among the most prestigious music prizes in the world.
Since that first edition, there have been 68 more — a more or less yearly event  with a handful of exceptions — and the long list of other prizewinners includes dozens of the most famous artists to grace concert stages across the world, among them:  Sir Georg Solti, Martha Argerich, Victoria de los Angeles, Paul Doktor, Friedrich Gulda, Maurizio Pollini, Heinz Hollinger, Elly Ameling, Maurice André, Pierre Laurent-Aimard, The Melos and Vegh String Quartets as well as the current Music Director of the New York Philharmonic, Alan Gilbert.
The 2014 edition will award prizes for Flute and Piano in performance rounds which began November 16th.  The competitors have been chosen from more than 300 applicants from 19 countries ranging in age from 17 to 29.  There are two international juries deciding the winners — acclaimed French concert pianist Pascal Rogé heads the piano jury and Emily Benyon, principal flutist of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, chairs for flute. I am looking forward to covering the Finals — for flute on December 1st and for piano on December 2nd — when the selected pianists will perform with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande under the direction of British conductor Alexander Shelley, and the flutists with the Geneva Chamber Orchestra, Nicolas Chalvin, conducting.  Watch for the reviews.