UK Classical Music Competitions

February 27, 2020
Classical music competition. Sophie Oliver playing cello with piano accompanist

Whether you agree or disagree with classical music competitions, they can provide a platform for young musicians to showcase their talent. Some musicians have voiced their concerns about them (read this article by cellist, Stephen Isserlis). But for those who want to play professionally, the publicity and performance opportunities can be valuable to launching a musical career. (Read this post on How to Succeed in Music Competitions if you want some top tips).

Here, we take a look at the main 2020 – 21 classical music competitions in the UK. (Please refer to the relevant websites for full details and application forms. We cannot be held responsible for changes in deadlines/dates etc). For younger musicians, there are many excellent local festivals that offer the opportunity to perform and get valuable feedback.

The Leeds Competition

The Leeds is a triennial piano competition which has launched the careers of many famous pianists including Andras Schiff and Murray Perahia. It is open to pianists from all round the world.
Deadline for entries: 23:59 hrs GMT, 31st October 2020
International first round: April 2021 | BERLIN | SINGAPORE | NEW YORK
Second Round, Semi-Finals and Finals: 8-18 September 2021 | LEEDS, UK
Age limit: 30 and under.
Prizes: a prize package including: worldwide management with Askonas Holt, a debut recording with Warner Classics, recitals at Wigmore Hall and the Southbank in London, tours of Europe and the Far East in association with Steinway & Sons, broadcast opportunities with the BBC and an extensive package of national and international engagements with a range of promoters and orchestras, including the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.
Full details:

The Hastings International Piano Competition

This is one of the UK’s fastest growing premier piano competitions for international pianists. The next competition will take place from 25th February – 6th March 2021.
Deadline for entries: 19th October 2020. Entry is by video audition only.
Age limit: 16 – 30.
Prizes:  First prize: £15,000 plus concerto performances with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and other concert engagements. 2nd prize: £7,000, 3rd prize: £3,000, 4th prize: £1,500, 5th prize: £850, 6th prize: £600, semi-finalists who do not reach the final: £150 each, Orchestra prize: £500, Special Prize (awarded at the discretion of the jury): £1,000.
Full details:

Wigmore Hall/International String Quartet Competition 2021

The Wigmore Hall International String Quartet Competition (formerly The London International String Quartet Competition) embraces the entire string quartet tradition and requires contestants to perform Classical, Romantic and contemporary repertoire. The next Competition will take place between Tuesday, 13 – Sunday 18 April 2021.
Deadline for entries: 1pm GMT on Thursday, 3 December 2020.
Age limit: under 35.
Full details:

Wigmore Hall/Bollinger International Song Competition 2021.

Celebrating the art of the song recital and honouring the Lied’s place at the heart of the genre, this biennial competition has grown in status and prestige, and continues to attract singers and pianists from around the world who are keen to embark on significant recital careers.

The 2021 Song Competition will take place from Sunday 5 to Thursday 9 September 2021 inclusive.

Full details:

Watch an introduction to the competition:

Barbirolli International Oboe Festival and Competition 2021

This event was founded in 1993 by the late Evelyn Barbarolli, an outstanding oboist. The festival, now based in the Erin Arts Centre, Isle of Man,  attracts competitors from as far away as Australia, China and the United States. 

The 5th Barbirolli Festival was due to be held from March 28th to April 4th 2020, but was cancelled due to Covid-19. Competitors will be automatically entered into the 2021 competition and competition fees will be transferred to the new competition.
Deadline for entries: TBC
Prizes: First prize is £4,000 and a London recital; second prize is £2,000; third prize is £1,000. There will be other subsidiary prizes.
Full details:

BBC Young Composer 2020

The BBC is inviting musically-minded students of all technical abilities, backgrounds, and musical influences to submit an original composition and recording. Any genre, any instrument, and any method of composing are welcome. This competition is open to residents of the UK, Channel Islands and the Isle of Man only.
Age limit: 12-18 on the closing date of Thursday 11 June 2020. 
Prize: Winners will participate in a tailored development programme working with a mentor composer on a project with the BBC Concert Orchestra which will be performed and broadcast in a special young composers concert at the BBC Proms.
Deadline for entries: The deadline has now passed.
Full details:

Kathleen Ferrier Awards Competition 

The competition is open to singers of any nationality who, on or before 3 February 2020, have completed at least one year of a continuous higher education course in music at a recognised conservatoire or music school in the UK or Eire or who have completed the equivalent year of continuous study in the UK or Eire with a recognised vocal coach; they must also be currently resident in the UK or Eire. 

Deadline for entries: The deadline has now passed.
Age limit: All singers must be 28 or under on 24 April 2020.
Prizes: As well as a first prize of £12,500 and a second prize of £6,000, there is the Ferrier Loveday Song Prize of £5,000 and the Help Musicians UK Accompanists Prize of £5,000.
Full details:

ROSL Competition

The competition has four solo awards for Keyboard, Strings, Wind/Brass/Percussion and Singers, the winners of which compete for the Competition Gold Medal and First Prize. The solo awards are open to UK and Commonwealth citizens, including former Commonwealth countries.

Deadline for entries:  The deadline has now passed. For 2021, please check back in September.
Age limit: up to and including the age of 30 as at 1 June 2020.
Prizes: The competition offers more than £75,000 in awards with a £15,000 first prize for solo performers and two chamber ensemble awards of £10,000. The winners of the Wind & Brass, Singers, Strings, and Keyboard solo sections and the collaborative piano prize receive £5,000 each.
Full details:

St Martin’s Chamber Music Competition

Famous for its music, St Martin’s offers the winners of this competition, the opportunity to develop a performance profile across the UK.

Age limit:  from 18 – 30 years (as at Friday, 8 February 2019).
Eligibility: The competition is open to UK based ensembles consisting of 3 to 8 musicians. (The competition is unable to accommodate ensembles with more than one piano, non-acoustic instruments, or those requiring significantly more than 5 minutes set-up and break-down time).
Deadline for entries: The deadline has now passed. Applications for 2021 will open at the beginning of October 2020.
Prizes:  The prize includes a series of professional engagements around Britain (including up to 12 with Making Music member groups at a special rate of £250 per artist), offering the invaluable opportunity of paid performance experience and professional exposure.
Full details:

The Arts Club – Sir Karl Jenkins Music Award in association with Classic FM 2020

Chaired by Sir Karl Jenkins, the panel comprises music educationalist, Carol Barratt; Senior Vice President of Universal Classics, Mark Wilkinson; former Chief Executive at ABRSM, Leslie East OBE; acclaimed clarinettist, Emma Johnson MBE; prominent guitarist, Milos; and a senior representative from Classic FM. The consultation panel includes Emma Johnson MBE, Alison Balsom OBE, Dame Evelyn Glennie, Catrin Finch and Miloš.

Deadline for entries:  The deadline has now passed.
Age limit: 18 – 25 years.
Prizes: The winner will be awarded £4,000 and the opportunity to make a recording of a short repetoire piece of their choosing, as well as a short work especially composed by Sir Karl, to be recorded in a London studio and played on Classic FM. The runner-up will receive a cash prize of £1,000.
Full details:


The Glyndebourne Opera Cup

This international competition returns in 2020 when singers will be invited to perform operatic arias by Mozart, Rossini and a selection of French 19th-century composers.
Age limit: Applicants must be born between 27 March 1988 and 7 March 1999.
Deadline for entries: The application deadline has now closed
International first round: New York – Friday 6 December 2019, Vienna – Wednesday 11 December 2019, Berlin – Thursday 12 December 2019, Milan – Friday 13 December 2019, London – Monday 16 December 2019, Paris – Friday 20 December 2019, Cape Town – Wednesday 8 January 2020.
Semi-Finals: Glyndebourne – Tuesday 3 March for rehearsals and on Wednesday 4 March 2020 for the live Semi-final.
Finals: Glyndebourne – Thursday 5 and Friday 6 March 2020 for rehearsals and on Saturday 7 March 2020 for the live Final.
Prizes: First prize: £15,000 and the offer of a role in an opera staged by one of the companies represented on the Competition jury within five years. Second prize: £10,000, third prize: £7,500, The Ginette Theano Promising Talent prize: £5,000, Audience prize: £5,000. 
Full details:

Siemans Hallé International Conductors Competition 2020

This competition seeks to find an emerging and talented conductor to become Assistant Conductor of the Hallé, with the opportunity to work under Sir Mark Elder and become Music Director of the Hallé Youth Orchestra.

Deadline for entries: The application deadline has now closed
Semi-finalists: will be announced in September 2019
Finalists:  will be selected by the end of Friday 21st February. Final will take place on Saturday 22nd February, 2020, with the Hallé Orchestra.
Prizes: First Prize will be £15,000 plus Hallé Assistant Conductor role for a minimum of 2 years; Second Prize will be £3,000, third prize will be £2,000.
Full details:

The Manchester International Piano Competition for Young Pianists

This competition exists to give inspiration and opportunities to talented young players from  all over the world.
Deadline for entries: The application deadline has now closed
Age limit: 22 years and under on 1 August 2019.
Prizes: First Prize: £1,500,Second Prize: £750,Third Prize: £400,Remaining finalists will receive prizes of £100 each.
The Richard Wainwright Prize of £250 is awarded in the 16 and Under Age Group to a Semi Finalist who does not reach the final but is felt by the jury to show particular musical potential and interpretative sensibility.
Full details:


Birmingham International Piano Competition
Unfortunately, due to the Coronavirus, this competition has been cancelled.

The Birmingham International Piano Competition remains committed to the art of the piano recital, and provides young pianists the chance to further their careers and perform in world class venues.

Full details:

BBC Young Musician of the Year 2022

This biennial classical music competition which is broadcast on BBC television and BBC Radio 3, is open to percussion, keyboard, string, brass and woodwind players, who are residents of the UK.

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