Pianist Beisembayev 'On Cloud Nine' After Winning Leeds Competition
Kazakh pianist Alim Beysembayev, 23, plays the piano after being announced as the winner of the Leeds International Piano Competition, at Steinway Hall in London, Britain, September 20, 2021. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
LONDON (Reuters) - Kazakhstan-born pianist Alim Beisembayev began his musical career when he picked a miniature toy piano for his fifth birthday present.
Now aged 23, he has scooped the career-making Leeds International Piano Competition, beating four other finalists.
"I'm still coming down from cloud nine ... it really is a wonderful feeling," Beisembayev told Reuters on Monday.
"I'm so, so, so happy, but (it was) also unexpected. I'm looking forward to what will come next."
Held every three years, The Leeds had to change its process this time due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It held a virtual first round in April with no live jury or audience and competitors performing in different locations in front of a camera.
The final rounds were held in Leeds, northern England, and on Friday Beisembayev performed Sergei Rachmaninov's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43 along with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in front of a live audience.
Kazakh pianist Alim Beysembayev, 23, reacts during an interview with Reuters after being announced as the winner of the Leeds International Piano Competition, at Steinway Hall in London, Britain, September 20, 2021. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
"The final was just unforgettable and will probably stay with me for the rest of my life because of just playing for an audience," he said.
Beisembayev, who has most recently been studying for a master's degree at the Royal College of Music in London, is the first pianist from Kazakhstan to win The Leeds.
As winner, he gets the competition's Waterman Gold Medal, a 25,000 pounds ($34,120) cash prize as well as a package including a management deal, a recording contract and a European tour.
Beisembayev also scooped the audience prize, which is voted for by the public, and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Society Prize for performance of a 20th/21st century work.
"Alim was the very first pianist that I listened to in the pre-selection round, which was just people submitting tapes. And I remember listening to it and thinking, 'my goodness, if they're all this good, how am I possibly going to choose?'," Adam Gatehouse, The Leeds artistic director, said.