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2018 Competition Winner Eric Lu joins world-renowned artists Steven Osborne and Barry Douglas for annual celebration of piano in Leeds and London

Content by Yasmin Hoy at Premier

Following his win at the Leeds International Piano Competition in September 2018, 21-year-old pianist Eric Lu returns to ‘The Leeds’ for Leeds Piano Festival, with recitals in Leeds and London. World-renowned pianists Steven Osborne andBarry Douglas also perform recitals, with Osborne leading a masterclass with Young Scholars from the Lang Lang International Music Foundation, building on the ongoing relationship between the Foundation and The Leeds. 

The Festival continues the much-enriched programme of events that surrounded the 2018 Competition, allowing audiences to engage with the piano and The Leeds beyond the triennial Competition. As part of The Leeds’ commitment to developing new and exciting ways of bringing the piano to as wide an audience as possible, the Festival – successfully inaugurated in 2018 – will again comprise many learning and engagement activities, including the return of the ‘Discover the Piano: Piano Fantasia’ on 28 March – The Leeds’ biggest primary school event to date, reaching more than 1,000 schoolchildren. The Young Scholars also participate in learning activities in primary schools and adult care settings in both Leeds and London – the latter once again in partnership with Wigmore Hall’s learning and participation programme – inspiring music lovers young and old with their prodigious talents.

Leeds Piano Festival recitals 

Eric Lu’s return to The Leeds is part of the revolutionary prize package at The Leeds last year, designed with career development in mind. The prize also included world-wide management with Askonas Holt, a release of his Leeds-winning performance on major label Warner Classics (released to much acclaim in November 2018), opening the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra’s 2018/19 season, mentoring with jury members and more. Lu performs Chopin’s Piano Sonata No. 2 – a piece he performed in the Competition semi-finals and released as a single on Warner Classics following his win – as well as works by Mozart, Brahms and Handel.

Former Royal Philharmonic Society ‘Instrumentalist of the Year’ Steven Osborne explores Beethoven’s final three piano sonatas. Osborne is a renowned interpreter of Beethoven’s music, not least from his critically-acclaimed recordings of the composer’s piano sonatas on the Hyperion label, and these recitals offer a rare opportunity to see him perform in an intimate setting.

Internationally-renowned pianist Barry Douglas pairs miniatures with more expansive works in both halves of his programme for the Festival, contrasting Tchaikovsky’s vignettes The Seasons with his Grande Sonata in G major, before pairing Rachmaninov’s Six Moments Musicaux with Schubert’s intense Sonata in A minor.

The Festival also showcases three Young Scholars from the Lang Lang International Music Foundation, developing the continuing relationship between the Foundation and the Leeds. Three exceptional young pianists, Aliya Alsafa, Jaspar Heymann and Shuheng Zhang – handpicked and mentored by Lang Lang, the Competition’s Global Ambassador –perform recitals at both Festival venues, as well as participate in a masterclass led by Steven Osborne at Leeds College of Music.

Speaking at the Finals of the 2018 Competition – where he also presented prizes and was conferred with an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Leeds – Lang Lang stated: I’m extremely proud of my association with the city of Leeds, and with the Piano Competition – which is doing so much to unite excellence and accessibility”.

Closing the Festival, celebrity pianist Alistair McGowan returns to The Leeds with Introduction to Classical Piano at Besbrode Pianos. An alumnus of the University of Leeds, McGowan previously performed at The Leeds during Piano + events at the 2018 Competition, and his 2017 recording The Piano Album reached Number One in the UK Classical Album Charts.

Learning and Engagement

In addition to their recitals and masterclass, the Young Scholars participate in many external learning and engagement activities, following the success of similar events at last year’s Festival. As well as performing in the Piano Fantasia to over 1,000 primary schoolchildren, they also visit local primary schools in both Leeds and London, as well as adult care settings.

The University of Leeds, a principal partner of the Competition, hosts a ‘Steinway Experience’ on 30 March as part of Be Curious, the University’s research open day, where families can enjoy these wonderful instruments. Steinway & Sons, also a partner of The Leeds, has provided the pianos for the Competition since its beginnings in 1963.

Coinciding with Piano Day on 29 March, pop-up performances take place on the Leeds Piano Trail, in partnership with Leeds Business Improvement District (BID). These Besbrode pianos, decorated by local artists, were a popular feature of last year’s Competition and encouraged the public to play and experience the pianos at high-profile locations around Leeds city centre; most of the trail pianos stayed in place after the Competition due to the huge popularity of the initiative.

Adam Gatehouse, Artistic Director of the Leeds International Piano Competition, said: “After winning over both the jury and audiences at the 2018 Competition, we’re delighted to welcome Eric Lu back to The Leeds for the second annual Leeds Piano Festival. We’re thrilled too that Steven Osborne, Barry Douglas and the extraordinary Lang Lang Scholars will join him in both Leeds and London, allowing audiences to experience their remarkable talent and help us share in wonderful performances of great piano music. Deepening our roots in our communities by developing fun, diverse and inclusive events to enable more people to discover and fall in love with the piano is also crucial to our mission, and the Festival continues its inspiring work to attract ever-wider audiences.” 

Leeds Piano Festival 2019

London & Leeds events

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