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THE SCOOP | 17-Year-Old Canadian Kevin Chen Wins 1st Prize At 76th Concours De Genève

By Anya Wassenberg on November 4, 2022

L-R: Kevin Chen; the four Finalists: Kaoruko Igarashi, Sergey Belyavsky, Kevin Chen & Zijian Wei (Images courtesy of the Concours de Genève)
L-R: Kevin Chen; the four Finalists: Kaoruko Igarashi, Sergey Belyavsky, Kevin Chen & Zijian Wei (Images courtesy of the Concours de Genève)

Canadian Kevin Chen has taken the first prize at the 76th Concours de Genève. Pianist Janina Fialkowska, Chair of the Jury, couldn’t wait to let the world know in a Facebook post.

“Canada is on a roll! Once again a Canadian has won a major international piano competition. Last night as president of the jury of the Concours de Genève I was thrilled to be able to award 1st prize to Calgarian Kevin Chen. The 17 year old gave us fantastic performances and we Canadians should be very proud. I certainly am. Congratulations also to his teacher Marilyn Engle of the University of Calgary,” she wrote.

About Kevin Chen

Kevin Chen made it to CBC Music’s list of Top 30 Hot Canadian Classical Musicians under 30 by the age of eight. It was a year after he’d made his orchestral debut with the Abbotsford Youth Orchestra. The seasoned third-grader had already performed with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, Calgary Philharmonic, Okanagan Symphony Orchestra, Vancouver Island Symphony, the Astana Opera Symphony Orchestra, and the Minnesota Orchestra.

Kevin has also composed many works for full orchestra, and at least one piano concerto.

His latest win is hardly his first.

  • The youngest-ever winner of the Franz Liszt International Piano Competition in 2021;
  • First place in the Mozart International Piano Competition in Switzerland & another win at the Hilton Head International Piano Competition in 2020;
  • First place in the e-Piano Junior Competition, and two additional prizes for best performance of a Schubert and a Russian work in 2019, the same year he was recognized as a laureate in the Astana Piano Passion Competition in Kazakhstan.
  • In 2017, he snagged third place in the 17-and -under category at the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal Competition.

The competition — and the prizes

From an initial field of 40 pianists between the ages of 16 and 29, representing 14 different countries, Kevin was the only Canadian to advance to the semi-finals. From nine semi-finalists, four finalists were chosen for the Final Round, which was held on November 3. Chen, along with Sergey Belyavsky (28 years old, Russia), Kaoruko Igarashi (28 years old, Japan), and Zijian Wei (24 years old, China) performed during the Final Round with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, conducted by Maržena Diakun.

All of the pieces (except for a chamber music program in the semi-finals) had to be performed by memory. In addition, the semi-finalists were required to both present and defend a personal artistic project that is intended to be carried out during a two-year period that follows the prize win. It’s a new feature of the competition, and one where Kevin excelled.

Check out his full final round performance below — but first prize wasn’t Kevin’s only award throughout the competition.

The winner’s list

  • FIRST PRIZE (CHF 20,000.-) Kevin Chen (17 years old, Canada)
  • SECOND PRIZE (CHF 12,000.-) Sergey Belyavsky (28 years old, Russia)
  • THIRD PRIZE EX AEQUO (CHF 8,000.-) Kaoruko Igarashi (28 years old, Japan) & Zijian Wei (24 years old, China)

Other prizes:

  • AUDIENCE PRIZE Awarded by spectators at the Final Rounds (CHF 1500.-) Sergey Belyavsky (28 years old, Russia)
  • YOUNG AUDIENCE PRIZE Awarded by students in Geneva (CHF 1000.-) Kevin Chen (17 years old, Canada)
  • STUDENTS’ PRIZE Awarded by a group of students from the Faculty of Music and the Department of Musicology of the University of Geneva (CHF 1000.-) Sergey Belyavsky (28 years old, Russia)
  • ROSE-MARIE HUGUENIN PRIZE Awarded to all piano laureates (CHF 10,000.-) Sergey Belyavsky (28 years old, Russia); Kevin Chen (17 years old, Canada); Kaoruko Igarashi (28 years old, Japan); Zijian Wei (24 years old, China)
  • FONDATION ETRILLARD PRIZE Awarded by the Jury to the finalist having presented the most remarkable personal artistic project during the semi-final round (CHF 5000.-) Kevin Chen (17 years old, Canada)
  • CONCERTS DE JUSSY PRIZE Awarded to the winner of the Piano Competition and consists in a concert on November 6th at the Temple de Jussy (CHF 3000.-) Kevin Chen (17 years old, Canada)
  • PADEREWSKI PRIZE Awarded to a pianist who demonstrates particularly expressive playing in a romantic tradition (two concert performances) (CHF 3000.-) Sergey Belyavsky (28 years old, Russia)
  • SOCIÉTÉ DES ARTS PRIZE Awarded by the Jury to one of the finalists of the piano competition, consisting of a chamber music concert in 2023 (3000.-) Kevin Chen (17 years old, Canada)
  • STEINWAY PRIZEWINNER CONCERTS PRIZE One or several concerts within the Steinway Prizewinner Concerts Network — Sergey Belyavsky (28 years old, Russia) & Kevin Chen (17 years old, Canada)

The Jury

  • Janina Fialkowska, Chair (Canada)
  • Florent Boffard (France)
  • Josu de Solaun (Spain / USA)
  • Till Fellner (Austria)
  • Momo Kodama (Japan)
  • Marianna Shirinyan (Armenia / Denmark)
  • Gilles Vonsattel (Switzerland / USA)

It’s clear we will be hearing a lot from Kevin in the years to come. Bravo!


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