Leeds International Piano Competition winner revealed

Eric Lu, 20, from the US, has been awarded first place at the Leeds International Piano Competition – widely regarded as among the most coveted prizes in the musical world.

Eric Lu, winner of the Leeds International Piano Competition 2018, performs at the Finals. Picture: Simon Wilkinson Photography

Eric Lu, winner of the Leeds International Piano Competition 2018, performs at the Finals (c) Simon Wilkinson Photography September 2018

Globally-renowned pianist, educator and philanthropist Lang Lang presented the prizes following the last concerto final at Leeds Town Hall on Saturday 15 September, having himself received an honorary degree from the University as part of the evening’s proceedings.

The event was a glittering finale to the triennial piano competition which – with the University as its principal partner – has seen every aspect of the instrument celebrated by a wider audience than ever before.

Starting with international first rounds shared across Berlin, Singapore and New York in April, 68 entrants were whittled down to 24 finalists from 16 countries and territories. They made their way to Leeds last week for the second round and semi-finals, held in the University’s Great Hall. 

Every performance by the young competitors has been watched by audiences across the globe thanks to free online streaming by classical music specialists medici.tv.

The honorary degree of Doctor of Music was conferred on Lang Lang, who is the piano competition’s Global Ambassador, after the last of five finalists performed with the Hallé Orchestra, conducted by Edward Gardner.

The full ceremony, and the prize presentations, can be viewed via medici.tv. All rounds of The Leeds remain available to watch via medici for three years, and BBC Radio 3’s extensive coverage of the semi-finals and finals is available via BBC i Player Radio. The finals will be broadcast at 7pm on BBC Four television on Sunday 23 September.  

Each year the University honours a number of distinguished individuals from varied walks of life, who have contributed knowledge, understanding and expertise in the service of society. 

Lang Lang, Global Ambassador of the Leeds International Piano Competition, is conferred Doctor of Music by the University of Leeds at the Finals of the Leeds International Piano Competition 2018 (c) Simon Wilkinson PhotographyLang Lang, Global Ambassador of the Leeds International Piano Competition, is conferred Doctor of Music by the University's Vice-Chancellor, Sir Alan Langlands, at the Finals. Picture: Simon Wilkinson Photography 

The citation for Lang Lang’s award was delivered by Professor Frank Finlay, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures and Director of the University’s Cultural Institute

Citing the Chinese-born musician’s contributions to global culture and education, he said: “Unprecedented for a classical musician, Lang Lang won global recognition performing to a TV audience of billions at the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

“He is a role model for young musicians everywhere, a United Nations Messenger of Peace, focusing on global education, and he was picked as one of the 250 Young Global Leaders by the World Economic Forum.” 

Lang Lang told the audience: “It's a great honour to receive this incredible honorary doctorate from the University of Leeds – which is one of the best universities in the world."

He also paid tribute to The Leeds' founder, Dame Fanny Waterman – who later joined the stage for the prize presentations – and to the finalists.

He added: "The Finals of The Leeds will stay in my memory for a long time. It has been a privilege to witness so much extraordinary talent on stage.

"I'm extremely proud of my association with the city of Leeds, with the piano competition – which is doing so much to unite excellence and accessibility – and with the University. It truly is the city of the piano and I look forward to returning."

University Vice-Chancellor, Sir Alan Langlands, who is also trustee of the piano competition, thanked everyone who had made the 2018 competition such a great success, and thanked the audience for giving the University's new Doctor of Music such a warm welcome.  

In addition to the £25,000 cash prize, Eric Lu receives a ground-breaking prize portfolio, designed with long-term career development in mind, including worldwide management with Askonas Holt, a CD contract with Warner Classics and performance and recording opportunities with BBC Radio 3. The prize also includes a host of performance engagements with high-profile promoters, including some of the world’s premiere venues and orchestras.

Their first engagement is on Thursday 20 September, for the opening of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra’s new season under the baton of Vasily Petrenko. 

Second place, £15,000 and the Yaltah Menuhin Award for the greatest collaborative chamber performance, was awarded to 28-year old German pianist, Mari Häring.

Xinyuan Wang, 23, from China, was third and received £10,000. The Audience Award, which was, for the first time this year, opened up to a global audience through online streaming by medici.tv, also went to Wang, who will have a concert broadcast on the channel.

See the Leeds International Piano Competition website for the full list of concert engagements for the prize winners.

All the prize winners will have long-term mentoring from The Leeds’ Co-Artistic Director, Paul Lewis, who also chaired the jury, Patron Murray Perahia and other members of the performer-led jury, which included Sa Chen, Imogen Cooper, Adam Gatehouse, Henning Kraggerud, Thomas Larcher, Gillian Moore, Lars Vogt and Shai Wosner. 

Paul Lewis said: "All the pianists have shown extraordinary talent, passion and dedication throughout the competition, and it goes without saying that the standard of playing has been remarkable. 

"Many of the world's greatest pianists have started at The Leeds, and I'm certain all the 2018 finalists have bright futures, and we look forward to supporting what we believe will be successful and fulfilling careers."

The next competition will take place in 2021.

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