The 4th Montecatini International Piano Competition

Over the past few years, I have been fortunate to be a jury member at several international piano competitions. Most of these have been online, which, thanks to the pandemic, has started a new ‘trend’. There are clearly some disadvantages to hearing young pianists perform in this situation regarding sound and instrument quality, but, generally, this approach works well and offers plenty of flexibility to participants, jury members, and organisers. 

The Montecatini International Piano Competition was founded by artistic director Aisa Ijiri. This competition has gone from strength to strength,) and 2023 will be the most exciting to date. I judged both the junior and senior classes during the 2022 competition; there are four age group categories in total. The final of the senior category was held ‘live’ in Serbia, although I judged it online, and the standard was, as might be expected, very high. Repertoire for this competition is free choice.

You can browse all the 2022 winners by clicking here.

Piano competitions that have ventured into the online hemisphere have benefitted from a far greater competitor uptake which is probably due to the ease of applying; one can record performances anywhere on a piano of choice (usually the competitor’s instrument) and submit videos quickly, all without leaving home. This allows for a truly ‘international’ audience and, usually, a higher standard.

The 2022 jury consisted of myself, Aisa Ijiri, Maiko Mori, Chris Craker, Paolo Davide Cognetti, and Ian Goh. Some of the performances were breathtaking, and it was heartening that the jury was unanimous in their decisions for virtually all winners and runners-up in each category; an outcome that rarely happens! The selection of repertoire at the 2022 competition was extremely varied, but, as might be expected, virtuoso works played a prominent role, particularly amongst the younger players. I found it an inspiring experience hearing performances of complex works played with relative ease, even by the youngest competitors.

The 4th Montecatini International Piano Competition will be offering a new Recording Prize with KNS Classical for the overall winner of the Senior Category. The Junior Category encompasses those between the ages of 6 – 17 years old and is divided into three classes: A (6 – 9 years old), B (10 – 13 years old), and C (14 – 17 years old). These classes will be entirely online. For the Senior Category (18 – 35 years old), the first round will be online and six finalists will be invited to give a short recital at the final round which will take place at a new international piano festival, ‘Piano Forte Firenze‘ in Florence, Italy at the end of October. This festival is to be held in collaboration with Future Renaissance Ltd. and the Tokyo International Piano Association (TIPA). I am looking forward to being a member of the 2023 jury. 

The 2023 competition will open for applications on March 20th and the closing date is August 31st, so it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the website for more details. 

You can browse the cash prizes and performing opportunities available to the winners by clicking here (be sure to scroll down to the bottom of the page).

Like last year, there will be a Schott Music prize featuring my piano compositions, and I am most grateful to both Schott Music and Aisa Ijiri for their continued support of my music. Last year’s winner, Edward Leung, gave a beautiful performance of my piece dedicated to Aisa; Aisa – Sand, Silk, and Love (from Simply Driven: Schott Music). The following performance was filmed at Edward’s prize-winning Steinway Hall (London) recital.

You can hear the overall Senior Category winner, Kenichiro Kojima from Japan, here:

 Find out more about the competition here:


Melanie Spanswick has written and published a wide range of courses, anthologies, examination syllabuses, and text books, including Play it again: PIANO (published by Schott Music). This best-selling graded, progressive piano course contains a large selection of repertoire featuring a huge array of styles and genres, with copious practice tips and suggestions for every piece.

For more information, please visit the publications page, here.

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