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 2021 – 22 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., particularly with dates being rescheduled due to COVID). For younger musicians, there are many excellent local festivals that offer the opportunity to perform and get valuable feedback. Check out the London Young Musician which is an online international seasonal music competition for young musicians under age 28. It opens to all classical musical instruments and vocal.
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 17th – 26th June 2021.
Deadline for entries: 8th February 2021. Entry is by VIDEO AUDITION.
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: https://hastingsconcertocompetition.co.uk/
National Centre for Early Music Young Composers Award
The National Centre for Early Music and BBC Radio 3 are calling for aspiring composers to create a new work for the vibrant young recorder quartet Palisander. Composers are invited to create a new work for recorder quartet based on dance-forms. You can choose whatever dance-form you like across all eras and cultures, from the bransle and the galliard to the Charleston and the tango.
Deadline for entries: The closing date for registration is 19 February, with the deadline for submission of scores on 19 March.
Age limit: Entry is open to all UK residents aged up to 25 at the time entry closes on 19 March 2021.
Prizes: The winning piece(s) will be performed by Palisander in a public concert at St John’s Smith Square, London on Thursday 20 May 2021 as part of the London Festival of Baroque Music. BBC Radio 3 will record the concert for future broadcast.
Full details: https://www.youngcomposersaward.co.uk/
Only Stage International Conducting Competition
This online competition is open to musicians of any nationality. The jury will be composed by conductors, artistic directors, general managers representatives of the following institutions: Luzerner Sinfonie Orchester (Switzerland), laVerdi Symphony Orchestra (Italy), Orchestra della Magna Grecia (Italy), Oregon Music Festival (USA), Royal College of Music (UK).
Deadline for entries: 31st March, 2021.
Age limit: No age limit
Prizes: First Prize: £2,000, Second Prize: £1,500, Third Prize: £1,000 plus concert opportunities
Kathleen Ferrier Awards Competition 2021
The competition is open to singers of any nationality who, on or before 1 February 2021, 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: Saturday, 26 June 2021
Age limit: All singers must be 28 or under on 23 April 2021. For 2021 only there will be an exception for those singers who deferred their 2020 entry: they may be 29 or under by 23 April 2021, and the residency requirement will not apply to them.
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: https://ferrierawards.org.uk/2021-competition/
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 Saturday 4th to Thursday 9 September 2021 inclusive.
Deadline for entries: Applications open on Monday 15 February 2021; completed applications and recordings for the Selection Stage must reach the General Manager by 1.00pm UK (GMT) time on Monday 17 May
Watch an introduction to the competition:
Wigmore Hall/International String Quartet Competition 2022
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.
Wigmore Hall has announced that due to the restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), the decision has been taken to postpone the 2021 Wigmore Hall International String Quartet Competition until April 2022. The exact dates for the 2022 Competition will be announced in due course.
Deadline for entries: Applications will open in May 2021 and will close in October 2021 (dates to be announced).
Age limit: under 35.
Full details: https://wigmore-hall.org.uk/string-quartet-competition/wigmore-hall-international-string-quartet-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.
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: http://www.erinartscentre.com/oboe.html
Birmingham International Piano Competition 2021
This competition has been cancelled for 2021.
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: http://www.bipcomp.co.uk/entry-details.html
BBC Young Musician of the Year 2022
Check back for details.
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.
Handel Singing Competition
George Frideric Handel was known to encourage and train young, unestablished singers, many of whom rose to fame as his star soloists. The London Handel Festival continues Handel’s great tradition of nurturing talent through their international Handel Singing Competition, which is presented as part of the annual London Handel Festival.
Deadline for entries: applications are now closed.
First Round – 11/12/13 February 2021 (Craxton Studios, north London)
Semi-Final – 4 March 2021 (St.George’s, Hanover Square)
Final – 23 March 2021 (St.George’s, Hanover Square)
Age limit: 23 to 34 years old as of 1 February 2021.
Prizes: First Prize: £5000, Second Prize: £2000, Audience Prize: £300, Finalist Prizes: £300
Full details: https://www.london-handel-festival.com/handel-singing-competition/2021-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: Applications are now closed.
Age limit: up to and including the age of 30.
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: https://www.rosl.org.uk/amc/for-applicants
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: Applications have now closed.
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: https://www.leedspiano.com/2021-competition/