Hastings prepares to welcome some of world's best young concert pianists

Kenny Broberg, 2017 HIPCC winner,  with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Kenny Broberg, 2017 HIPCC winner, with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Over the next few days, more than 40 of the best young concert pianists in the world will start arriving in Hastings to take part in the Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition (HIPCC) and compete for a first prize of £15,000 and some wonderful concert opportunities.

They are a select bunch. 176 entered this year’s competition, more than ever before. Live auditions were held in China, Japan, the USA, Italy and the UK. Those who couldn’t reach these locations submitted video auditions. At the end of this rigorous process, 45 were invited to come and play live in Hastings.

Roman Kosyakov, 2018 HIPCC winner

Roman Kosyakov, 2018 HIPCC winner

The ever-growing interest in the Hastings competition reflects its increased status in the international piano world. Prizewinners from Hastings have been doing outstandingly well in other major international competitions.

For instance, at the most recent Cliburn competition – the most prestigious in America which takes place just every four years – the 2017 Hastings winner Kenny Broberg came second to Yekwon Sunwoo, the runner up in the 2014 Hastings competition. Such things do not go unnoticed.

The other great attraction of the HIPCC is the chance to play with one of the greatest orchestras in the world, the Royal Philharmonic (RPO). They play with each of the six finalists over the two evenings of the competition’s grand final. That’s an opportunity any young concert pianist would give a great deal for.

It has recently been announced that HIPCC has signed a new five-year partnership agreement with the Royal Philharmonic. This confirms the RPO as the competition’s Resident Orchestra from 2019 onwards. It also expands the opportunities that will be offered to the victor. This year’s winner will play a concerto with the RPO at Cadogan Hall, its London home, as well as a concerto with the orchestra at a regional location.

This year’s competition will start at the White Rock Theatre on Thursday February 21st and run across 10 days until Saturday March 2nd. In the first round all contestants will play excerpts from the concerto they have chosen from a list of 15 put together by the competition’s Artistic Director.

The orchestral part for this and the next stage will be played by accompanists (see separate story). Stage 1 will last from Thursday February 21st to Saturday February 24th. There will be five sessions a day. Tickets are £5 per session or £15 for the whole day

Up to 24 contestants will then go through to Stage 2, on February 25th and 26th, when they will play 35 minutes from a concerto chosen from a separate list of 10. This stage will feature four sessions a day. Once again tickets are £5 per session or £15 for a whole day.

Children under 16 accompanied by a paying adult will be able to attend Stage 1 and 2 sessions for free. Schools can also send groups to these stages for free. They can book by emailing info@hipcc.org.uk.

A maximum of 12 contestants will then go through to the semi-finals on Wednesday February 27th, when they will play a short piece from a compulsory list of classical composers. The rest of their 35 minute recital will be music of their own choice, which will lead to tremendously varied programmes. Tickets for the whole day are £20.

This year both Stage 2 and the semi-finals will be live-streamed. Anyone will be able to view them on the HIPCC website and they will also be shown on a large screen that will be set up in the town centre.

The grand final will take place on Friday March 1st and Saturday March 2nd, when the six finalists – three each night - will play the whole of one of their chosen concerto with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted this year by Rory Macdonald. Tickets for the final will be £15, £20 or £27.50.

As well as the £15,000 prize and the two concerts with the RPO, the winner will be invited to play a further concert in the United States and a number of other concerts elsewhere in the UK.

All stages of the competition will take place at the White Rock Theatre and will be open to the public. Tickets are now on sale from the White Rock box office (01424 462288) or online from www.whiterocktheatre.org.uk. For further information please go to www.hastingsconcertocompetiion.co.uk.