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Queen Elisabeth Competition now open to cellists

12:05 20/01/2015

The Queen Elisabeth Competition, the prestigious annual event in Brussels for pianists, singers and violinists in alternate years, is adding cellists to its roster in 2017. “The decision was arrived at spontaneously, following meetings with a number of outstanding young cellists,” competition organisers said in a statement.

The cello, the organisation said, is hugely popular internationally, but there is no major international competition for the instrument. “This is an historic step that reminds us of the friendship between Queen Elisabeth of Belgium and Pablo Casals,” said the organisation, referring to the late Spanish cellist. “On top of that, the rich cello repertory will prove a major addition to the other instruments.”

The Queen Elisabeth Music Competition was launched in 1937 as the Eugene Ysaÿe Competition, named for the great violinist and official court composer (pictured) who taught and befriended Elisabeth, a keen amateur musician. The first winner was violin virtuoso David Oistrach; the following year the competition switched to piano and was won by Emile Gilels.

The competition adopted the name of Elisabeth, the widow of Albert I, in 1951. From the 1950s, the competition rotated among piano, violin and composition. It was not until 1988 that singers were admitted, on the initiative of then De Munt opera house director Gerard Mortier.

The first cello competition will be in May 2017, the year of the competition’s 80th anniversary. In the meantime, this year’s competition is for violinists, with piano following in 2016.


Written by Alan Hope