History of Competition :: JĀZEPS VĪTOLS International Piano Competition ::

History of Competition

Jāzeps Vītols International Piano Competition, which took part in 2017 for the seventh time, has been recognized as the most ambitious event in Latvian art of piano playing. Prof. Ilma Graudiņa affirmed its importance and admitted: “Jāzeps Vītols International Piano Competition up to now has had the longest lifespan and the widest international recognition, as Jāzeps Vītols is and will remain the patriarch of the Latvian music. He deserves that we bring it to the international arena, so that the Latvian Master’s name and music is heard worldwide”.

The pianist Juris Kalnciems emphasized: "Jāzeps Vītols Piano Competition is like a continuous revival, and first and foremost it is needed to the Latvian music environment, the local culture and last but not the least - to diagnose the current situation and to promote a higher level of piano playing."

Currently, Jāzeps Vītols Competition takes place in three disciplines – it is not only the competition for pianists, but also for singers and choir conductors. The origin of the competition should be traced back as far as 1989, when the Piano Department of the Latvian State Conservatory held the 1st Jāzeps Vītols Inter-republican Pianist Competition, where 30 young musicians from Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova participated.

It was Sana Villeruša, the student of Prof. Arnis Zandmanis at the Latvian State Conservatory, who won the first prize and the special award for the best performance of J. Vītols’ musical composition, and Armands Ābols – the trainee of Prof. Ilze Graubiņa – became the award winner of the competition. The second competition – held in 1993 – was the one to gain international scope – the jury consisted not just of the Latvian members such as the pianist Ilze Graubiņa and the Principal of Jāzeps Vītols Latvian Academy of Music Juris Karlsons, but also musicians from France, Germany, Israel and Lithuania, and the contestants represented the Baltic States, Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, Austria, Poland and Germany (as compared to 1989, the number of contestants had almost doubled amounting to 53). The third round of the competition was accompanied by the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra. It was at that time, that Juris Žvikovs won Grand Prix, the first prize was won by Jevgenijs Samoilovs, the third place was awarded to Sandra Jalaņecka, and the Diploma – to Viktors Ritovs. At the next competitions the Latvian pianists – Sanita Šablovska and Jānis Zilbers (1997), Toms Ostrovskis, Raimonds Petrauskis and Elīna Bērtiņa (2002), Andrejs Osokins and Arta Arnicāne (2008), Antoņina Suhanova (2013) and Iļja Domņins (2017) were also among the laureates and diploma winners.

The international competitions for vocalists were held in 1995., 1999., 2004., and 2015., whereas the choir conductors have had competed for six times (1997., 2000., 2005., 2009., 2015., 2019.).

In October 2023, the VIII Jāzeps Vītols International Piano Competition will take place - the first and second round are planned to take place in the Great Hall of Jāzeps Vītols Latvian Academy of Music, while the participants of the third round will perform the competition program together with the Liepaja Symphony Orchestra in the Liepaja Concert Hall "Great Amber".

Jāzeps Vītols International Piano Competition has become an important component of the Latvian music environment and its laureates continue to develop and to pass on the best traditions of the performance of the Latvian piano music.

Dr. art. Diāna Zandberga