Liszt Utrecht

Liszt Utrecht actively presents, develops and promotes piano talents from around the world. And by doing so it has become one of the prominent gateways to the international professional classical music scene for young musicians.

Starting point is the triennial International Liszt Competition, held at TivoliVredenburg, Utrecht, The Netherlands. The Competition was founded in 1986 and since has built a reputation as one of the world’s most prestigious piano competitions. As of the edition in 2022 the competition has a new structure in place, which focuses less on the competing part and gives more opportunities to the participating pianists to showcase their artistry to an international audience.


Liszt Utrecht consists of five phases. The first phase is the online selection round, where candidates are judged based on videos. Forty candidates are invited for the second phase, the live selection rounds with public sessions in Utrecht, nine months prior to the competition. Each performing a 40 minute recital. Ten will be selected for participation in the next two phases. First, an ‘academy’ where they will be able to fine tune their repertoire with well-known Liszt experts, followed three months later by the Festival, where each of the ten pianists perform four recitals. One recital devoted to original compositions of Franz Liszt, one to transcriptions of works of Franz Schubert, one to chamber music and one to songs. The last two include works of both composers, as well as a new commissioned work of Dutch composer Mathilde Wantenaar. What makes it truly a festival is that it is no longer set-up in rounds, but it consists of fixed type of concerts on certain times of the day.
The fifth phase is ‘the Finals’, where the three winners of the competition are presented to the world during a performance with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra.


What sets the Liszt Utrecht apart from colleagues is the extensive Career Development Programme that is offered to its winners. For a period of three years the competition works closely with all three winners, providing management (with over 300 concerts in 35 countries), professional coaching (f.i. media- and stage presence training), publicity (website, press-kit, cds, etc.) and continuous mentorship. Winners of the competition will get hand-on experience what it is to be a professional traveling musician, build an international network and develop as artist and person by learning first hand about the (musical) world.

Liszt Utrecht has a ‘difficult-but-human’ reputation. The wishes and needs of the participants are central to the the organization, who make every effort to ensure that participating in Liszt Utrecht does not become more of a burden than it already is on the young pianists. Liszt Utrecht doesn’t regard itself as a real competition, but rather as a stage that offers up-and-coming artists the opportunity to demonstrate their technical skills, artistry and versatility and convince audiences and arts professionals, both in the venue and online. On stage and off stage.
Even more so, to demonstrate that Liszt Utrecht takes its participants seriously, it is offering a fee for their performances both during the live selection round and the Festival phase.

Previous winners include Enrico Pace (1989), Igor Roma (1996), Yundi Li (1999), Yingdi Sun (2005), Vitaly Pisarenko (2008), Nino Gvetadze (2008), Mariam Batsashvili (2014) and Alexander Ullman (2017).


Role model remains pianist, composer and visionary Franz Liszt (1811-1886). As the first international recognized (and idolized) musician ever, Franz Liszt is solely responsible for the way a piano recital is conducted nowadays. Throughout his live he has achieved the creation of a stellar amount of novelties, ranging from new performance techniques to new composition structures, his total oeuvre consists of over 1.000 works, mainly for the piano. He also was a strong advocate for the work of other composers, performing and promoting unknown compositions of the likes of Beethoven, Bellini and Schubert.


Liszt Utrecht is known for its bold repertoire choices, and focuses with each edition on different unknown pieces. After the 2020 edition devoted to Beethoven (unfortunately cancelled due to Covid19), the 2022 will give attention to Franz Schubert. The obligatory repertoire will include Liszt’s transcriptions of song cycles and other compositions of Schubert, includes song and chamber music recitals with works of both composers, as well as highlight the piano concerto based on Schubert’s ‘Wanderer Fantasy’. Furthermore, original compositions of Schubert are allowed as part of the free choice repertoire.


Next to an international competition, Liszt Utrecht also offers emerging Dutch talents an opportunity to perform. In 2022 it will host the first edition of ‘NLiszt’. After an online selection round, 5 pianists (16-21 years) will be invited to give a recital as part of the Festival phase of Liszt Utrecht (22-26 September 2022). The same jury will select one pianist who will receive the ‘Henk de By’ award and an opportunity to perform with the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra during the Finals of Liszt Utrecht.


Liszt Utrecht regularly organizes International Piano Masterclasses with prominent pianists and piano teachers such as Earl Wild, Louis Lortie, Paul Badura-Skoda and Jacques Rouvier. These masterclasses have already taken place in Utrecht but also in New York, Shanghai, Moscow, Beijing, Guangzhou, Taipei, Tokyo and Seoul.
As of 2017 Liszt Utrecht has also started with a new collection of online masterclasses on YouTube, currently this includes lectures by Leslie Howard, Jerome Rose, Frederic Chiu, Andrea Bonatta and Reinbert de Leeuw. And many more video’s are currently in the pipeline.


The Schubert edition of the Liszt Utrecht will take place from 22 till 29 September 2022, with selection rounds from 6 till 9 January 2022. Deadline for application is September 1st 2021.