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The first Leeds International Piano Competition took place in 1963.
The idea of staging a piano competition in Leeds was that of local piano teacher and former concert pianist, Fanny Waterman. In bringing that idea to fruition, Waterman was assisted by her husband Dr Geoffrey de Keyser and by Marion Thorpe, then Countess of Harewood. The first Competition was won by Michael Roll before a jury chaired by Sir Arthur Bliss. In 1966 and 1969 the chair of the jury was William Glock, who was followed by Lord Boyle of Handsworth for the next three competitions. In 1981 Dame Fanny Waterman, as she was to become in 2005, chaired the jury for the first time, continuing to do so until her retirement in 2015.
Leeds Town Hall has hosted all but one of the Competition’s finals (the exception being in 1975, when it was closed for extensive renovation). It provides a magisterial backdrop to the conclusion of the Competition, and it plays host to many notable Competition alumni every year.
The concerto finals have been supported by a number of major UK orchestras over the years including the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and the Hallé. Sir Mark Elder has conducted the Hallé Orchestra at all the finals since 2003, with the exception of 2018 when the conductor was Edward Gardner. Other conductors with long associations with the Competition have included Sir Charles Groves and Sir Simon Rattle. The BBC has broadcast all Competitions since 1966 on television and radio. In 2018 the Competition was streamed live online for the first time with medici.tv.
The list of eminent past Competition winners includes Radu Lupu and Murray Perahia. The roll call of other Competition finalists is equally illustrious as that of the winners and includes Mitsuko Uchida and Sir Andras Schiff (1975), Peter Donohoe (1981), Louis Lortie (1984), Lars Vogt (1990), Denis Kozhukhin (2006) and Louis Schwizgebel (2012).