Bartók World Competition

Ádám Szokolay wins this year’s Bartok World Competition

Ádám Szokolay, 23, has clinched first place at the 2019 Bartók World Competition, organised by the Academy of Music for pianists this year. At the gala evening held on 15 September, second place went to Ádám Balogh, while Peter Klimo came in third.


This year’s Bartók World Competition and Festival came to a close with a gala evening held on Sunday, 15 September. The prominent international jury brought its decision late at night after the orchestral finals held the previous day. The winners of the competition and special prizes were announced at the awards ceremony during the gala, where five of the contestants who had made it to the solo finals took the stage.


Ádám Szokolay won the first cash prize of €30,000, the second cash prize of €20,000 went to Ádám Balogh, and Peter Klimo collected the third cash prize of €10,000.


In a letter of greeting to the competitors, jury, audience and the Academy of Music, which organised the event, Lady Valerie Solti, a chief patron of the Bartók World Competition and Festival, shared a quote from her late husband, Sir Georg Solti: “Never give up, keep working, and never, ever abandon your ideals and aspirations.” Lady Valerie has been a generous supporter of the Bartók World Competition and Festival since the very beginning.


“I trust that the third Bartók World Competition and Festival will be another chapter in a long story, and that, carrying on what has now become an annual event, we can announce a competition for composers next year and then call upon the best string quartets the year after,” Dr Andrea Vigh, Rector of the Academy of Music, noted in her speech. As the initiator of the competition, she underlined that the event introduced in the 2016 memorial year has lived up to Bartók’s name and spirit, as borne out by this year’s piano contest. “As an event that stands out among international music competitions, the Bartók World Competition deserves to become a tradition,” the Rector added.


Japanese pianist Kenji Watanabe, chairman of the prestigious jury, addressed the audience in Hungarian once again. He spoke of the outstanding standard of the competition and the ability of all of the contestants to reveal themselves in their performances. He underscored the infinite nature of an artist’s career and the performing artist’s need for self-improvement. Speaking of his impressions, he said a few contestants had played too fast. “You should not rush it like that because the musicality will be lost, you need to sing, because singing is the most important component of music: it is the soul of music,” he pointed out. He recommended that contestants who choose to play Bartók should listen to recordings of him performing not only his own pieces. He noted that his playing is exciting and that not a single sound of his is rigid.


The three winners also received several special prizes. Ádám Szokolay was awarded opportunities to perform by the Bartók Memorial Home, Bartók Radio, the Győr Philharmonic Orchestra, the Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra and Müpa Budapest as well as being invited by Mūza Rubackytė, member of the jury, to the Vilnius Piano Music Festival.


Ádám Balogh won invitations from Bartók Radio to play in concert at the Marble Hall as well as from the Cziffra Festival, Danubia Orchestra Óbuda, Pannon Philharmonic and Academy of Music; in addition, on the initiative of jury member Klara Min, he received an invitation to attend the Classical Bridge Festival by New York Concert Artists & Associates. Peter Klimo was invited to play with the Hungarian National Philharmonic. Papageno Portal also offered its media package to competitors who had placed first and second. 


Special prizes were likewise awarded to other competitors in the form of concert appearances: from among the six solo finalists, Alberto Greer Menjon Bohanna received an invitation to perform from the Academy of Music, and Krisztián Kocsis was invited by the Concerto Budapest and Pannon Philharmonic, while the Hungarian Radio Symphony Orchestra extended an invitation to semi-finalist Benedek Horváth.


The orchestral finals were held in the Grand Hall of the Academy of Music on 14 September. Ádám Szokolay played Bartók’s Piano Concerto No. 1, Ádám Balogh chose Liszt’s Concerto for Piano in A Major, and Peter Klimo played Bartók’s Piano Concerto No. 3, each accompanied by the Hungarian National Philharmonic, conducted by Zsolt Hamar. The audience received the performances of the three finalists with thunderous enthusiasm, prompting them to return to the stage several times.


The world-renowned members of the jury chaired by Kenji Watanabe included Kálmán Dráfi, Head of Department at the Academy of Music, pianists Tamás Vásáry and Andrei Korobeinikov from Russia, Korean-American Klara Min, Russian-American Alexandre Moutouzkine, Einar Steen-Nøkleberg from Norway and Mūza Rubackytė from Lithuania, as well as music historian and Bartók researcher Tibor Tallián.