When Dame Fanny Waterman co-founded the Leeds International Piano Competition back in 1961, she could scarcely have imagined that one day the event would reach audiences in places like Berlin, New York and Singapore.
But thanks to ambitious plans outlined by the competition’s new joint artistic directors, Paul Lewis and Adam Gatehouse, this is exactly what will happen when the triennial competition returns in 2018.
The first rounds of the competition, known popularly as the Leeds’, will be held at venues in these three cities before heading to Leeds for the finals.
Mr Lewis and Mr Gatehouse unveiled their ambitious vision for the future of the renowned piano competition at a special event at London’s Wigmore Hall yesterday, saying they wanted to build on Dame Fanny Waterman’s “extraordinary” legacy.
As well holding the first rounds overseas, the competition will also include a bigger prize, with winners being taken on by Askonas Holt, one of the world’s leading arts management agencies.
In addition to this BBC Radio 3 will offer recording and concert opportunities to future winners.
Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, Mr Gatehouse said the first rounds would also be shown live online. He said: “The benefits to Leeds will be enormous because it will put the city on the global map and the live streaming is central to that.
“The International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow last year attracted over 10 million online hits and reached 190 countries, which is just staggering.”
Dame Fanny Waterman, 96, stepped down as chairman and artistic director last year after more than half a century at the helm.
During that time the Leeds’ became one of the world’s foremost classical music competitions and provided the launch pad for some of the finest concert pianists of modern times, including Radu Lupu, Murray Perahia and Andras Schiff.
Mr Gatehouse said the plans would help give it even wider appeal. “Dame Fanny made this an international competition and by hosting the first rounds in America, Europe and the Far East we are adding to the global brand of the Leeds’.
“It is an outward-facing competition and this will garner even greater awareness. We believe more people will want to come and visit Leeds on the back of this and spend some time in Yorkshire.”
The organisers also hope to raise the competition’s profile by holding a series of Q&A events and music masterclasses, as well as public talks and films.
“We really want to make this as welcoming as possible and enhance the audience experience,” said Mr Gatehouse.
Paul Lewis, himself an acclaimed pianist, said that switching the first rounds to Berlin, New York and Singapore was not part of a move to see the Leeds’ move away from the city.
He said: “It is known as the Leeds’ and that will never change. The fact it has such tremendous local support is one of its greatest assets.”
Mr Lewis also heaped praise on Dame Fanny, adding: “What she has created through her hard work and her personality is mind boggling.
“Her legacy is there for all to see and it’s something we want to build on. We want this competition to become even bigger.”
The story of the Leeds’
SINCE its foundation in 1961, the Leeds International Piano Competition has discovered many of the greatest classical pianists of our time.
Murray Perahia and Radu Lupu launched their careers by winning the Leeds’, while Sir András Schiff is among the competition’s illustrious finalists.
Recent winners include Sunwook Kim, from South Korea, who was 18 when he won in 2006.
Dame Fanny Waterman co-founded the Leeds’ which was first staged in September 1963. She stepped down as artistic director last year.
The Leeds’ returns in 2018 with the first rounds held in April.