Canadian pianist wins one of the world's most prestigious piano competitions

A Canadian has won one of the world's most prestigious piano competitions. Bruce (Xiaoyu) Liu of Montreal was named the winner of the 18th Frederic Chopin international piano competition early Thursday in Warsaw.

Bruce (Xiaoyu) Liu was named the winner of the 18th Frederic Chopin competition in Warsaw

Pianist Bruce (Xiaoyu) Liu of Canada reacts after being named as the winner of the first prize in the 18th Frederic Chopin international piano competition, a prestigious event that launches pianists’ world careers. (Czarek Sokolowski/The Associated Press)

A Canadian has won one of the world's most prestigious piano competitions. 

The jury of the 18th Frederic Chopin international piano competition chose Bruce (Xiaoyu) Liu of Canada as the winner of the 40,000-euro ($57,000 Cdn) first prize in the 18th Frederic Chopin international piano competition that often launches pianists' world careers.

The announcement came just hours after Liu played as the last entrant among the 12 finalists, performing Chopin's concerto in E minor, opus 11 with the orchestra at the packed National Philharmonic in Warsaw. His performance was met with huge applause.

Liu is from Montreal. He graduated with great distinction from the Conservatoire de Montréal, where he studied with Richard Raymond, and later studied at the Université de Montréal, working with Dang Thai Son.

"Oh my God. I don't know what to say, honestly," Liu said soon after learning he won.

"We have been dreaming with all these people here for this prestigious stage," the 24-year-old said.

"Being able to play Chopin in Warsaw is one of the best things you can imagine, of course, so I'm truly honoured for this award, of course, and for this jury's trust and for all the warmth I have received in recent days," Liu said.

Competition high this year

Second prize and 30,000 euros ($43,000 Cdn) went to Alexander Gadjiev, representing Italy and Slovenia and to Kyohei Sorita of Japan, while the third prize of 20,000 euros ($28,000 Cdn) was awarded to Martin Garcia Garcia of Spain.

High ranking in the renowned competition opens the world's top concert halls to the pianists and pave the way to recordings with best known record companies.

Held every five years, the competition was postponed from 2020 by the pandemic.

Jury head Katarzyna Popowa-Zydron has said that apart from being excellent pianists, the participants should also show sensitivity and bring freshness to the music.

"I try to look for a rapport between the performer and Chopin," Popowa-Zydron said in an interview early in the competition.

Music is a "message from a person and [the musicians] should know what kind of person Chopin was."

Bowing to their artistry, the 17-member jury allowed two more finalists this year than usual.

Observers noted that the level of the competition was very high this year and said it's difficult to pick a favourite to win.

All the finalists are "very outstanding artists," said Aleksander Laskowski, spokesperson for the Fryderyk Chopin Institute that organized the competition.

Canadian pianist Charles Richard-Hamelin took silver in the competition the last time it was held, in 2015. (Elizabeth Delage)

Canadian a past silver medallist

Among previous winners are Maurizio Pollini of Italy, Argentina's Martha Argerich, Garrick Ohlsson from the United States, Poland's Krystian Zimerman and Artur Blechacz, and Seong-Jin Cho of South Korea.

Canadian Charles Richard-Hamelin won silver the last time the competition was held in 2015. 

Chopin, Poland's best known and beloved classical music composer and pianist, was born in 1810 in Zelazowa Wola near Warsaw to a Polish mother and a French father. He left Poland at 19 to broaden his musical education in Vienna and then in Paris, where he settled, composing, giving concerts and teaching the piano.

Chopin died on Oct. 17, 1849, in Paris and is buried at the Pere Lachaise cemetery. His heart is at the Holy Cross Church in Warsaw.

With files from CBC