The 2nd International Chopin Competition on Period Instruments 5-15 October 2023 - Warsaw, Poland

Thoughts and Highlights from Stage I


Without what might appear as hyperbole and gross exaggeration, this competition is surely a unique event in the musical life of Europe and the world. I remember when the idea of a Chopin Competition on period pianos was first mooted over five years ago, how this concept was met with a degree of derision and scorn except from musicians with vision and the experience of playing instruments of the period, evoking that rare, irreplaceable soundscape and 'opening the doors of perception' of former times.  With technological advances, we are moving exponentially further and further from the source of this sublime music, ravaged rather by the our constructed notion of linear time. The preservation and context of these precious lost worlds of sound has massively advanced in importance.

The range of original and newly crafted period pianos assembled in Warsaw for this competition is greater than ever as are the number of experienced applicants taking part. After the completion of Stage I it is clear their pianistic abilities and musical accomplishments are also substantially greater than ever.

I see an analogous situation evolving to that which pertained in the late 1960s and 1970s. At that time, there emerged a revolutionary revival of baroque performance practice and the replacement of 'modern' harpsichords designed by say Pleyel or Challis with acoustic, uniquely resonant period instruments restored or newly built by craftsmen along traditional national lines. New life was breathed into the domain of J. S. Bach, François Couperin, Johann Jakob Froberger and other great composers from the more distant past by Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Gustav Leonhardt, Christopher Hogwood, Trevor Pinnock, Tom Koopman and other now renowned musicians. The use of new historically designed or restored harpsichords as solo instruments or in period orchestras, fully embracing the music written for them, has now become an accepted commonplace. This was not always the case. An entire performance art of previous centuries has been raised from the dead like Lazarus.

This irresistible process is now being extended into the closer past of the nineteenth century and the exploration of the eloquent potential of period pianos to revivify the past sound, context and performance of Chopin, Schubert, Schumann and Brahms as change rockets balefully before us.

The first sign of this sea change was surely the inauguration of the competition with a contemporary commission for fortepiano of work entitled presciently Bridging Realms by the Japanese composer Dai Fujikura. This remarkable premiere with other celebrated musicians (detailed below) was on a copy of an 1819 Graf played by the renowned Naruhiko Kawaguchi with the [oh!] Orchestra. The long solo opening soliloquy exploring the sound utilized with ethereal delicacy the una corda possibilities of the Graf.

The Competition participants were pianists from all over the world, aged 18 to 35. The acceptance programme was presented on video performed on an historical instrument. Finding a well-maintained, accessible period instrument is not always easy. The Competition jury was comprised of outstanding representatives of the music world whose artistic and professional activity places them among the most distinguished specialists in the field of historical performance.

The Competition participants chose period pianos from the collections of The National Fryderyk Chopin Institute (a Paul McNulty copy of an 1830 Pleyel ; his copy of an 1819 Graf ; also his recent copy (2017) of the 1825 Polish Buchholtz (with a slightly extended compass and extra moderator pedal). In addition there is an 1838 Érard and a unique and magnificent 1842 Pleyel from the Edwin Beunk collection; an 1846 Broadwood from the Andrzej Włodarczyk collection and an original 1835 Graf from the Chris Meane collection.  

The competition opened with Derek Wang from the US. His Bach Prelude and Fugue with the marvellous, polyphonically transparent sound of the 1842 Pleyel was memorable and the Karol Kurpiński Polonaise a light salon delight on the 1835 Graf.  I was fascinated as so many different period pianos (as many as three) were moved around the stage with efficiency and alacrity as each new contestant emerged.  A unique sight certainly !

Angie Zhang gave us some excellent Bach on the 1838 Érard  and a superbly evocative and narrative Chopin G-minor Ballade Op.23 on the 1842 Pleyel. Yonghuan Zhong produced the most exquisite poetic, singing sound (just as Chopin directed) also from the this instrument during the youthful Polonaise in D minor. The theme emerged as a ghostly trail - marvellously irreplaceable in existential life. Also as impressive was his excellent in glowing yet powerful sound, again on the Pleyel, of the Chopin Ballade in F major Op.38. This was a passionate, lyrical accumulation of tension and controlled, yet explosive emotion that lies at its heart, moving towards the nervous exhaustion of brief final resignation.

As might be expected from an artistic Italian, I found Alice Baccalini's choice of the Maria Szymanowka Polonaise in F minor fascinating using the time traveller's sound world of the 1825 Buchholtz copy. The history of the construction of  this piano is too involved for this space but riveting, so do research it. On the 1842 Pleyel Baccalini improvised decorations and embellishments for the Chopin youthful Polonaise that were both appropriate in period and charming. The sound of her Chopin Ballade in F-minor Op.52 on this same instrument touched the heart and soul in a manner and depth unobtainable on a modern instrument of our time. It was a dramatic interpretation full of Latin fire and irresistible impetus. The lady is a definite Chopinist.

The variations on pianists' approach and choice of instrument for the miniature Mozart Fantasy in D Minor K 397 has given me enough material for an entire conference ! The interpretative range of the 'Fantasy' extended from a youthful Viennese confection, through accurate Urtext adoration to philosophical existential dilemma, with all the dynamic, sound and textural differences possible on these period instruments. Alfred Einstein describes the final Allegretto as having a 'celestial childlike nature, which is far too short really to complete the work.' He felt it was an introduction to other more extensive works. 

I liked very much Aleksandra Bobrowska on the 1835 Graf. Under her fingers it became a true fantasy with many changes of mood and attitude. On the 1842 Pleyel her approach to the Ogiński Polonaise 'Farewell to the Fatherland' was intensely emotive as reflection changed to militant resistance. Her Barcarolle on the same instrument was also seductive in a soft setting - one could feel the movement of the lagoon.

Akeksandra Hortensja Dąbek appropriately chose the 1846 Broadwood for the clear polyphony highlighted in her Bach on this instrument. The piano looked rather large compared to the elegance of the others ('le rosbif') but gave Chopin's music a deeper sound substance verging on modern renditions. When revolution broke out in Paris in 1848, Chopin and many of his acquaintances came to England. Pleyel recommended that Chopin place himself in the hands of John Broadwood & Sons, from whom he chose three pianos; one to be shipped to Scotland, one for his lodgings and one for his public performances in England. The Ballade  performed by Dąbek was possessed of great drama, theatre and a strong sense of narration.

Bach was emerging as a great strength of participants in this competition. Joanna Goranko  on the 1842 Pleyel presented us with fine Bach that although fairly straightforward showed rare emotional imagination. Also she created superb sound and registration colours from the McNulty copy of an 1830 Pleyel. I also found the Yuina Hayakawa recital very satisfying. The Karol Kurpiński Polonaise on the 1820 Pleyel copy was very spirited as it should be. The strong sense of cumulative emotional heat in the tragic narrative and żal of the Chopin G-minor Ballade on the 1842 Pleyel  displayed her fine technique in terms of articulation, touch and tone production. 

Day 1 concluded with a marvellous entire recital by Eric Guo. The Bach on the 1835 Graf had expressive polyphony and great nobility of utterance. I also felt he understood the nature of the Polish Polonaise in the Chopin and Kurpiński and the narrative thread, even the humour of it in this case which most players missed

‘The polonaise breathes and paints the whole national character; the music of this dance, while admitting much art, combines something martial with a sweetness marked by the simplicity of manners of an agricultural people…….Our fathers danced it with a marvellous ability and a gravity full of nobleness; the dancer, making gliding steps with energy, but without skips, and caressing his moustache, varied his movements by the position of his sabre, of his cap, and of his tucked-up coat sleeves, distinctive signs of a free man and a warlike citizen.’  

(The 19th century poet and critic Casimir Brodzińsk) 

The Mozart Fantasy was theatrical. His sensitivity to the glorious sound of the 1842 Pleyel in the Chopin Barcarolle was clear from the poetic opening and his use of graded dynamics gave the work significant musical meaning. Beautifully wrought lyrical cantabile and great musical authority were always in evidence.  


Having listened to 12 contestants each for 40 minutes and 60 pieces on many different period pianos with little sleep or food, I entered the Kameralna Hall in Warsaw the next day somewhat shell-shocked for the next phase of the marathon. The competition is particularly demanding on the participants for they must master a specialist instrument as well as master the musical material.

The Japanese competition pianists generally have an excellent and highly competent approach to the Bach Preludes and Fugues. This was true of Satochi Iijima on the 1842 Pleyel with his fine articulation and absence of pedal. Saya Kamada is clearly an accomplished pianist. Her Bach on the 1842 Pleyel betrayed immense authority and musical penetration of the polyphony. The Chopin Polonaise on the same instrument was as spirited as the partying young Chopin in his youth in Warsaw. This was equally true of the spirit and expressiveness threaded through the Szymanowska Polonaise. The Chopin F-minor Polonaise Op.52 was on the excellent 1838 Erard which was impressive pianistically and expressive musically but occasionally too harsh a tone for period instrument.

Of the recital Hyunji Kim I was much taken by her Chopin Barcarolle on the 1838 Érard. The gentle beginning set a perfect tonal landscape, a Turneresque watercolour atmosphere for this romantic and nostalgic excursion on the Venetian lagoon. The work emerged as a poignant dream of love with a subtle gesture towards a blighted disturbance or argument of a not too extreme variety, as inevitably occurs with romantic affections.  There was a play of many moods between these lovers as they cross the lagoon. She created an entire poetic narrative where happiness finally arrives in a rare ecstatic polyphony. A most poignant account that eschews violence but paints the reality of  love with disturbing hints of disillusionment.

I was moved by the expressive Mozart Fantasy played on a the 1835 Graf by Song-Ha Kim. Tasteful and not exaggerated or mannered or pretentious in any way as with many other accounts. The Ogiński Polonaise was musically expressive and the Bach on the 1842 Pleyel drew the audience into its polyphonic orbit. The Chopin Polonaise on the same instrument was quite lovely if a touch sentimental.  

Mariia Kurtynina is by far the most interesting, creative and imaginative competitor in the competition. Life force seemed to enter the hall with her playing ! She composed her own rather extensive introductory prelude on the 1825 Buchholtz copy which fitted Bach seamlessly. 

This activity of 'Preluding' in the key of the following piece to be performed is quite a popular period feature in this competition unlike the first competition five years ago. Education is the explanation! Unfortunately with many players, all too often the 'Prelude' bore no relationship I could fathom with the key of the work to follow. Not the case here. Research indicated this activity was common in period but thought and imagination are required for it to sound natural and organic. Mariia has this in abundance.

The Mozart expressed her unique concept of the work. Her personality and extrovert character shone in the Kurpiński which became a true spirited Polonaise. There was another long 'prelude' to the Chopin Polonaise. I detected great individuality, spontaneity and creation 'on the spot' here which made such a change from the ubiquitous notion of over-preparation before a competition performance. The Chopin F-minor Ballade Op.52 on the 1842 Pleyel revealed a tremendous musical communicator with noticeably strong L.H. counterpoint. Nothing less than a revelation and superb structural and musical conception !

Nicolas Margarit also indulged in some 'preluding' before excellent Bach on the 1835 Graf. His authority at the keyboard, feeling for nobility, even humour, was evident in his approach to the Kurpiński Polonaise. He also had a great deal of personality and character to communicate. His Chopin Polonaise had the correct rhythm (rare) and nobility as well as control of moods. The best Polonaises in the competition so far. The Chopin Ballade in G minor Op.23 was a brilliant performance with the advanced keyboard command allowing him to express his ideas without technical hindrance. He communicated the living force of the narrative.

I have received from Chopin a Ballade’, Schumann informed his friend Heinrich Dorn in the autumn of 1836. ‘It seems to me to be the work closest to his genius (though not the most brilliant). I told him that of everything he has created thus far it appeals to my heart the most. After a lengthy silence, Chopin replied with emphasis: “I am glad, because I too like it the best, it is my dearest work”.’

The Polish renowned musicologist Mieczysław Tomaszewski paints the background to this work best:

'It was during those two years that what was original, individual and distinctive in Chopin spoke through his music with great urgency and violence, expressing the composer’s inner world spontaneously and without constraint – a world of real experiences and traumas, sentimental memories and dreams, romantic notions and fancies. Life did not spare him such experiences and traumas in those years, be it in the sphere of patriotic or of intimate feelings. [...] For everyone, the ballad was an epic work, in which what had been rejected in Classical high poetry now came to the fore: a world of extraordinary, inexplicable, mysterious, fantastical and irrational events inspired by the popular imagination. In Romantic poetry, the ballad became a ‘programmatic’ genre.

It was here that the real met the surreal. Mickiewicz gave his own definition: ‘The ballad is a tale spun from the incidents of everyday (that is, real) life or from chivalrous stories, animated by the strangeness of the Romantic world, sung in a melancholy tone, in a serious style, simple and natural in its expressions’. And there is no doubt that in creating the first of his piano ballades, Chopin allowed himself to be inspired by just such a vision of this highly Romantic genre. What he produced was an epic work telling of something that once occurred, ‘animated by strangeness’, suffused with a ‘melancholy tone’, couched in a serious style, expressed in a natural way, and so closer to an instrumental song than to an elaborate aria.'

Yuya Nishimoto played to a Japanese strengths with excellent polyphonic transparency in the Bach. Martin Nöbauer was similarly excellent in Bach although his excessive declamatory dynamic rendered the sound on the 1842 Pleyel rather over-stressed and unpleasant. It is remarkable how different pianists extract a different sound from these period instruments.

The final contestant for the day, Shun Oi, communicates well with the audience. His Bach on the 1835 Graf  was possessed of great rhythmic energy but I wished he might slow the tempo so I could decode the polyphony more comfortably. His Kurpiński Polonaise  on the 1825 Buchholtz copy showed understanding of the rhythm and was even quite jolly as he explored the dynamic range was clear in the Chopin Polonaise. His understanding of the genre did not involve exaggerated dynamics. The lyrical sections were extremely beautiful as he used the range of colours available on the Buchholtz to create a painting. This account was excellent and by far the best Polonaise so far in the competition. The Mozart Rondo on the 1835 Graf was in the Viennese style but is not Beethoven. Overall an excellent interpretation with many attractive, delicate details. The Chopin Ballade played on the 1842 Pleyel had a fine, sensitive opening as the singer/storyteller began his tale.

 Day 3

Arisa Onoda on the 1837 Graf has an excellent command of the style brillante that is so vital to understanding the youthful Chopin, so influenced by Hummel and Moscheles. Piotr Pawlak penetrated well what Chopin referred to as 'the Polish element' in his music on the 1830 Pleyel copy. He has an acute sense of the polonaise rhythm and produced in fluent playing in one of the very best of the early polonaises of Chopin in the competition. He utilized the moderator on the 1825 Buchholtz copy with great understanding of the effect on Bach and the polyphony of the fugue.

Kamila Sacharzewska is a sensitive, elegant and impressive artist. Her Bach Prelude & Fugue on the 1825 Buchholtz copy was most impressive. In Mozart she injected a warm element of nineteenth century Romantic fantasy and fragile emotion which lifted the overall impression to the heights. I truly adored her Chopin Polonaise in A-flat major (WN3) on the 1830 Pleyel copy as it is my favourite of his youthful dalliances with a deeply affecting, refined and elegant melody. The work is rarely played in this competition. I found it idiomatic and profoundly satisfying as a work of art. 

It is hardly surprising Chopin was known in his youth as the Polish Mozart. The Ogiński Polonaise on the 1825 Buchholtz copy embraced the mood of melancholic nostalgia and sense of loss that I would anticipate. There was immense nobility and pride in the militaristic elements with no misplaced dynamic exaggerations. The mists of regret overcame me as I experienced the perfectly created mood of such a famous work, so rarely played today with the national understanding of the suffering of partitioned Poland of the time.

A Spanish jury member years ago told me that it was entirely unnecessary to listen to so many pieces at Stage I of any competition. All that is needed is ten minutes of Bach to judge the quality of a pianist!

This was clear to me when Dávid Szilasi opened his recital with the long Bach Prelude & Fugue in G-sharp minor BWV 887 from Book II of the WTC on the 1825 Buchholtz copy. An expressive and impressive account full of driving energy yet with clear polyphony in the fugue. Also on this instrument he performed an excellent early Chopin Polonaise, one of the best I have heard. The Mozart he presented inhabited the cusp of the classical and romantic. A balanced account without dynamic exaggerations or 'cheap tricks'. I felt it as an inner restrained drama. The Ogiński Polonaise 'Farewell to the Fatherland' was suitably nostalgic, melancholic and elegiac. 

Playing these four pieces on the same instrument was perfectly in period and an advantage to my mind. He chose however the 1842 Pleyel for the Chopin Ballade in F minor. A simple, childlike opening was followed by a nuanced approach rather than overt declamation which young pianists often find tempting. A subtly and beautifully understated performance of this great masterpiece. By far the finest Ballade I have heard in the competition.

Any spirited performance of a Polonaise  with Polish rhythm and execution wrestles my attention and so it was with the Kurpiński Polonaise played by the smiling and clearly happy pianist (rare enough!) Nao Takahashi on the 1835 Graf.  

The hair of concert pianists is often commented upon. Here we had an Italian lady, Ludovica Vincenti, with a huge aureole of spectacular hair and I hoped talent to match. I was not disappointed ! Bach on the 1825 Buchholtz copy began with a rather up tempo Prelude but finally most impressive in the fugue. For the Kurpiński Polonaise she effectively utilized many of the moderator tonal effects possible on the Buchholtz. 

Many pianists in the competition used the special effects possible on period pianos but all too often the logic or musical reasoning behind their use escaped me. Not in this case of her always expressive enhancement. The early Chopin Polonaise  on the Broadwood was fine indeed. An alluring, seductive tone and touch informed her Chopin Ballade on the 1842 Pleyel.

Jannik Truong gave us some magnificent, polyphonically transparent Bach on the 1825 Buchholtz copy. He gave a spirited approach with colourful embellishments and decoration to the early Chopin Polonaise on the 1842 Pleyel. I also consider his choice of the Chopin Ballade in F major Op.38 was particularly well informed but he made rather much of it as a virtuoso piano piece. Such a masterpiece of musical condensation Chopin has given us here. I feel the opening should be more like a gently hovering meditative thought that passes over the fraught dramas of a past love life, opening like a landscape of memory below.

Stage I Day 3

October 8th 2023

List of Participants 8th October 2023 in order of appearance:

Arisa Onada (Japan)

Madoka Okada (Japan/France)

Piotr Pawlak (Poland)

Kamila Sacharzewska (Poland)

Viacheslav Shelepov (Russia)

Dávid Szilasi (Hungary)

Mana Shoji (Japan)

Nao Takahashi (Japan)

Ludovica Vincenti (Italy)

Jannik Truong (Germany)

Stage I Day 2

October 7th 2023

List of Participants 7th October 2023 in order of appearance:

Yukino Hayashi (Japan)

Satoshi Iijima (Japan)

Oscar Jiang (Australia)

Saya Kamada (Japan)

Hyunji Kim (South Korea)

Song-Ha Kim (South Korea)

Mariia Kurtynina (Russia)

Nicolas Margarit (Australia/Spain)

Danilo Mascetti (Italy)

Yuya Nashimoto (Japan)

Martin Nöbauer (Austria)

Shun Oi (Japan)

Another day that demonstrated outstanding talents performing on a most remarkable range of superbly restored or high quality modern copies of period pianos. There was some quite remarkably individualistic approaches at a particularly high level of musicianship and pianism. Once again they 'opened the doors of perception' on new soundscapes in surprising and brilliant ways.

On October 8th I would prefer to give some of the highlights I noted at the conclusion of Stage I.

Also I feel it is not appropriate for me to give my personal opinion of participants' performance in public until the jury have decided on those participants who will progress to Stage II

Stage I Day I 

October 6th 2023

It was a day that demonstrated outstanding talents performing on a most remarkable range of superbly restored or high quality modern copies of period pianos. Once again they 'opened the doors of perception' on new soundscapes in surprising and occasionally brilliant ways. 

There will be twelve participants each day (of thirty-five in total) each playing for some forty minutes a range of five pieces. It is just not humanly possible for me in terms of time to listen to the performances, sleep, eat and give written criticism in detail of each performance of the sixty works heard each day of Stage I. 

List of Participants 6th October 2023 in order of appearance:

Derek Wang (US)

Chaojun Yang (China)

Andrzej Wierciński (Poland)

Angie Zhang (US)

Yonghuan Zhong (China)

Alice Baccalini (Italy)

Aleksandra Bobrowska (Poland)

Simone El Oufir Pierini (Italy)

Aleksamdra Hortensja Dąbek (Poland)

Joanna Goranko (Poland)

Yuina Hayakawa (Japan)

Eric Guo (Canada)


Here is the demanding list of works each participant needed to choose from for Stage I of the competition. As you will see all pieces were not by Chopin. 

As ever, I felt the Bach Prelude and Fugue almost instantly revealed the quality of the pianist! They were also required to choose a period piano they felt suitable for the works they chose. Most chose as many as three period instruments from different eras and countries of manufacture.

  • One of the selected Preludes and Fugues from Das Wohltemperierte Klavier by Johann Sebastian Bach
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Fantasia in D minor K.397 or the Rondo in A minor K.511
  • One of the selected Fryderyk Chopin’s early Polonaises (in A flat major, Op. posth, in G sharp minor, Op. posth, in B flat minor, Op. posth, in D minor, Op. 71 No. 1, in B flat major, Op. 71 No. 2, in F minor Op. 71 No. 3)
  • One of the selected Polonaises from among the following:
    Karol KurpińskiPolonaise in D minor, Polonaise in G minor
    Józef Elsner: Polonaise in B flat major, Polonaise in E flat major
    Michał Kleofas OgińskiPolonaise in A minor “Farewell to Homeland”, Polonaise in D minor
    Maria Szymanowska Polonaise in F minor
  • one of the following selected works of Fryderyk Chopin:
    Ballade in G minor, Op. 23
    Ballade in F major, Op. 38
    Ballade in A flat major, Op. 47
    Ballade in F minor, Op. 52
    Barcarolle in F-Sharp major Op. 60

  • The pieces may be performed in any order
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Martha Argerich will perform at the Inaugural Concert 
2nd International Chopin Competition on Period Instruments 

October 5th 2023 at 19.00

Warsaw Philharmonic Concert Hall

Playing on a period piano
Martha Argerich will perform 
Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major, Op. 15 by Ludwig van Beethoven 
 {oh!} Orkiestra conducted by Václav Luks 

Tomasz Ritter, Naruhiko Kawaguchi and Bruce Liu will also take part in the inauguration of the Competition
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This concert is available to watch again here: 

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Performers on period pianos:

Naruhiko Kawaguchi [DAI FUJIKURA [1977–] Bridging Realms for fortepiano ]
Tomasz Ritter [Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, Op. 37 ]
Martha Argerich [Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major, Op. 15
Bruce Liu [Fantasy in C minor for Piano, Mixed Choir and Orchestra, Op. 80]

{oh!} Orkiestra
Podlasie Opera and Philharmonic Choir
Violetta Bielecka - Choir director
Václav Luks - Conductor

Concert programme

Bridging Realms for fortepiano
(Commissioned composition for the inauguration 
of the 
2nd International Chopin Competition on Period Instruments)

The prolific contemporary Japanese composer and music pioneer Dai Fujikura lives in London and is sought out by opera houses and orchestras around the world.

He was intimately involved in the 'Music for Peace' project in Hiroshima in 2020 initiated by Martha Argerich. He wrote a Piano Concerto for her to play on a precious  piano that miraculously survived the conflagration and carries a profound emotional weight in Japan and for the whole of humanity, especially in the tragic present circumstances of war and nuclear threat. 

The instrument is known in Japan as the legendary 'Akiko's Piano'. The Covid pandemic sadly prevented Martha from travelling to Hiroshima to perform the premiere of the piece. 

This cultural and human spiritual experience in Japan was unforgettable - a lifetime event  for me.

2. Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, Op. 37
3. Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major, Op. 15
4. Fantasy in C minor for Piano, Mixed Choir and Orchestra, Op. 80


What an utterly enchanted evening this turned out to be! 

The commissioned piece by Dai Fujikura, so sensitively and alluringly performed by Naruhiko Kawaguchi and perceptively entitled Bridging Realms, indicated a compete understanding of the extraordinary additional sound and color spectrum possible on the period piano. This contemporary music and its interpretation  had a graceful harmonic structure and was, most importantly, an accessible contemporary classical work that one could respond to effortlessly, meaningfully and emotionally. 

The concert was one of those unforgettable musical experiences in life with a rare combination of outstanding artists. The quite extraordinary hypnotic magic, musicality and sheer seductive sound of Martha Argerich playing an 1838 Erard, Tomasz Ritter elegant, passionate and expressive on the McNulty copy of the 1819 Graf and finally Bruce Liu also on the Erard in a superbly integrated performance with choir and orchestra. 

They bewitched us all in Beethoven and on these instruments opened new soundscapes of musical perception, realms of interpretation never before visited. 

Then to conclude the remarkable and surely unique vision and sound of three masters without care crossing the age boundaries of years, playing an encore together on one keyboard! The Romance for six hands by Rachmaninoff. The audience went wild, applause, cheering and with deserved standing ovations ....

A night of true and vital musical transport of the soul in these distracted and murderous times.

[More detailed review a little later - it is late and I am still recovering equanimity - the competition begins early tomorrow] 

Competition Schedule

One of the lodestars the Chopin Institute has followed from its earliest days and a fundamental component of its programme is the endeavour to bring back the authentic sound of the music our composing genius created.

The meticulously drawn and persistently implemented plan of activity in this scope encompasses the annually organised Chopin and His Europe International Festival. Developed from the proprietary concept of Stanisław Leszczyński in 2005, it opened a new chapter in interpreting Chopin’s music.

From the purchase of the first instrument from the time of Chopin, an Erard from 1849, the Institute has developed its collection of period pianos and their replicas, and made them available to eminent pianists, at the same time inviting the best orchestras specializing in historically informed performance to Warsaw.

The release of successive CDs in “The Real Chopin” series, the world’s first to include the complete works of the Polish composing genius in their original sound, has also been a great success in the recent years.

Performances using means similar to those the composer had at his disposal makes contemporary audiences aware of the specific nature of Chopin’s music, and particularly of its distinctive features that are lost if performed on contemporary instruments.

Another extremely important step aimed at spreading the idea of performing Chopin’s music on instruments from his time is the organisation of the exceptional Chopin Competition on Period Instruments.

The competition was first held in September 2018 in the Warsaw Philharmonic, and became a crucial element of the Chopin Institute’s celebrations of Poland’s 100th anniversary of regaining independence. The winner of the competition, which attracted nearly 60 pianists from 19 countries, was Tomasz Ritter, a Pole.

The Competition will be held for the second time from 5 to 15 October 2023, again in the Warsaw Philharmonic.

It has been slated for three stages: the first and the second are solo recitals with repertoires composed of, beside Chopin, selected pieces by Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and polonaises by Polish composers active in the first half of the 19th century. In the third stage, the six finalists will perform their choice of Chopin’s works with an orchestra. They will be accompanied by Martyna Pastuszka’s {oh!} Orkiestra Historyczna.

The pianists will be assessed by an international jury composed of eminent musicians specialising in historically informed performance, notably Andreas Staier, Paolo Giacometti and Tobias Koch, and eminent Chopin experts.

The competing pianists will have at their disposal historical instruments from the Chopin Institute’s collection – Erards from 1838, 1849, and 1855, Pleyels from 1848 and 1854, and a Broadwood from 1843, and, besides those, also replicas of period instruments and instruments kindly loaned from European collections. 

The Jury of the preliminary round of the 2nd International Chopin Competition on Period Instruments: Lech Dudzik, Tobias Koch, Janusz Olejniczak, Ewa Pobłocka and Wojciech Świtała qualified 35 pianists from 14 countries for the main competition. 

The participants have been selected from 84 candidates who submitted their applications.

The most represented countries will be: 

Japan: 10 participants 

Poland: 6 participants 

Italy: 4 participants.

China, South Korea, the USA, and Russia - 2 participants.  

Australia, Austria, France, Spain, Canada, Germany and Hungary - 1 participant

The full list of participants

Official competition website

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1st International Chopin Competition on Period Instruments 
2–14 September 2018

If you are more serious than 'normal' folk about the poignant effect of Chopin performed on period instruments do read my past report and detailed account of the first competition linked below.

Another rich interpretative dimension on sublime Chopin opened during the competition.

The use of period pianos should not be considered a replacement for Chopin on the modern concert instrument, but a useful and thought provoking corrective for the modern pianist and Chopin obsessive. Especially true if you use the National Edition of his compositions edited by the great Jan Ekier with his many possible subtle variant readings (a Chopin specialty) that are carefully noted.

Final Report on 1st International Chopin Competition on Period Instruments 
Warsaw  2–14 September 2018

For photographs of the instruments used and a detailed, fully illustrated review of each participant and each piece at each competition stage:


  1. This article provides a detailed and insightful commentary on the early stages of a prestigious music competition that celebrates the use of period pianos in performing classical music. The author not only highlights the significance of this competition in reviving and preserving the historical context and sound of classical compositions but also offers a rich analysis of the performances by various contestants. Throughout the article, the author's passion for and deep knowledge of music, especially the works of Chopin and other Romantic-era composers, shines through. The descriptions of each pianist's performance, the choice of period instruments, and the historical context of the pieces add a layer of depth and understanding for the reader. To discuss more about visit Audio Engineering Courses In India


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