Music Competitions

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Music Competitions


contests of musicians (performers, composers, and instrumental virtuosos) that date from remote antiquity. The first music competitions were held in Athens in the fifth century B.C. The tradition was continued in ancient Rome, where the victors of the contests were called laureates. In the Middle Ages, contests among troubadours, trouvéres, minnesingers, and Meistersingers became common. In the 18th century, major composers frequently competed in performances (organ, clavichord, harpsichord, and violin).

The modern form of music competition originated in the 19th century. The first national music competition was held in France in 1803; the reward was the Prix de Rome. The first international competition (for guitarists), which was held in Brussels, was organized by the Russian musician N. P. Makarov at his own expense. In 1890, A. G. Rubinshtein, also at his own expense, organized an international competition of pianists and composers in St. Petersburg. (It continued to be held in various European capitals at five-year intervals until 1910.)

Music competitions became widespread in the 20th century, serving as the basic means of discovering young talent. The Federation of International Music Competitions, with headquarters in Geneva, has existed since 1957; since 1959 it has issued an annual bulletin.

For each international competition, a program of rounds is developed, and the number and amount of prizes, age limits, and other details are specified. The contestants’ skill is judged by a jury, usually international in composition. International music competitions are usually held in a permanent location, but they are sometimes organized in various countries (for example, the competition of accordionists for the World Cup). The most important contemporary international competitions include the P. I. Tchaikovsky Competition (Moscow), the Queen Elisabeth Competition (Brussels), the M. Long and J. Thibaud Competition (Paris), the F. Chopin Competition (Warsaw), the H. Wieniawski Competition (Poznan), the young opera singers’ competition in Sofia, the G. Enesco Competition (Bucharest), the Budapest competition, the Prague Spring Competition, the performing musicians’ competition in Geneva, the J. S. Bach Competition (Leipzig), the R. Schumann Competition (Zwickau), the pianists’ competition in Leeds, the orchestral conductors’ competition in Rome, and the N. Paganini Competition in Genoa.

In prerevolutionary Russia, music competitions were organized by the Russian Music Society (beginning in 1860) and the St. Petersburg Chamber Music Society, as well as by private music firms and individuals. In the USSR, music competitions have advanced many outstanding performers to the international concert stage. Republic and all-Union competitions are held regularly for performing musicians (once every four years), vocalists (the Glinka Competition, once every two years), and conductors (once every five years). Contests are also organized for performers on orchestral and folk instruments, estrada (variety stage) performers, and composers (contests for composition of works in specific genres).


Muzykal’nye konkursy ν proshlom i nastoiashchem: Spravochnik. Moscow, 1966.


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