67th edition Maria Canals Competition

International Competition Maria Canals

On 20 and 21 March 2023, the 69th edition of the Maria Canals International Competition will be celebrate, specifically the final and prize-giving ceremony.

Maria Canals International Music Competition

Initiated in 1954 by the pianist Maria Canals and her husband, the writer Rossend Llates, the Maria Canals International Music Competition seeks to promote musical and artistic excellency by supporting young international talent. It is considered a global competition of reference and is the oldest competition in Spain, as well as one of the first ones in the world to be accepted in 1958 by the World Federation of International Music Competitions.

In all these years, the competition has been attended by over 7,000 participants from the 5 continents and has enjoyed the selfless collaboration of 180 jury members from around the world. This competition has helped launch and consolidate many of the most renowned pianists in the past decades.

During the invitation to the competition’s tests, which always take pace at the Palau de la Música, over one hundred families from Barcelona lend their pianos and open the doors to their homes so the participants can study.

The Fundación Jesús Serra has been supporting the winners of the competition since 2008 with a tour of different cities. In addition, as an acknowledgement of its intensive support to music, since 2018, the competition's first prize has been called Premio Fundación Jesús Serra.

Results of the Fundación Occident Award in 2023

27-year-old American pianist Jonathan Mamora is the freshly-crowned winner of the First Fundación Jesús Serra Prize in the 68th edition of the Maria Canals International Music Competition. In the final held at Palau de la Música Catalana he won over Ukrainian pianist Roman Lopatynsky and Russian pianist Valentin Malinin by interpreting Serguéi Rachmaninov's Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 3.

The final was one of the most memorable in recent editions, as the three finalists, who were accompanied during their performance by the National Youth Orchestra of Catalonia (JONC), directed by Manel Valdieso, demonstrated an extraordinary high level, leaving the audience perplexed and complicating the decision of the competition’s jury.

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Winners of previous editions

Sandro Gegechkori (2021)

Sandro is one of the young promises of the international piano scene. He has performed in important concert halls such as the Royal Concertgebouw (Amsterdam), Kaisersaal (Vienna), Mozarthaus (Vienna), Rorsch (New York) and the Nanjing Concert Hall (Nanjing). He has also given piano recitals in countries such as Italy, Armenia and Georgia, among others.

Before winning the top prize in the competition, he won the First Prize and Special Prize at the A. Bababanyan Yerevan International Competition and the Third Prize at the Chopin Contest for Young Pianists in Georgia.

Daumants Liepiņš (2019)

He is one of the most interesting pianists of his generation in Latvia, having won the Lielā Mūzikas Balvin first prize (Latvian National Grand Music Award) in the Young Artist category, the most prestigious prize in Latvia. He has also been awarded winner in the George Enescu International Piano Competition and the Nordic Piano Competition, the James Mottram International Piano Competition and the Tbilisi International Piano Competition. Besides recitals he has given around the world, Liepiņš has performed with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, the Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra, the Romanian National Symphony Orchestra, the Georgian National Symphony Orchestra and the Kaunas Symphony Orchestra. In addition, he has taken part in a workshop with Mitsuko Uchida at the Carnagie Hall in New York and he is currently studying at the Ingesund School of Music / Karlstad University in Sweden.

Evgeny Konnov (2018)

The Russian pianist Evgeny Konnov, has played concerts in several auditoriums in Germany, Austria, Italy, Spain, Malta, Poland and Russia. In 2014 he was awarded the First Prize at the International Competition “Siegfried Gschwilm” in Augsburg, Germany. In 2016 he won the First Prize in the International Competition “Piano Talents” in Milan (Italy) and was awarded the First Prize in the “Excellence” and Special Prize to the “Best Performer of a Russian Composer” categories at the International Piano Competition “Her Royal Highness Princess Lalla Meryem” in Rabat (Morocco). 

In 2017, he won First Prize in the 1st Edition of the Clavis Bavaria Piano Festival and the special prize for “Best Performance of Russian Music” in the International Piano Competition in Bad Tölz, Germany. He also won First Prize in the 1st edition of the International Mozart Competition in Berlin (Germany); First Prize in the Malta International Piano Festival in Valletta (Malta); First Prize in the International Piano Competition "Composers of Spain" in Madrid; and First Prize at the 2nd edition of the "Future Stars" International Piano Competition, as well as other awards and acknowledgements. 

Levon Avagyan (2017)

Levon Avagyan was born in 1990 in Ereván (Armenia) and studied at the Komitas state conservatory in his hometown, with the professor Vagharshak Harutyunyan. Since 2010, he has continued his training with the teacher Milana Chernyavska at the Universität für Musik und Darstellende Kunst of Graz (Austria).

In the 63rd edition of the Maria Canals International Music Competition of Barcelona, held in 2017, he won the first prize and the audience prize, as well as several special acknowledgements. Despite his youth, he has won many international awards during his musical career, including the first prize in the international piano competitions Forum Per Tasti, in Slovakia (2015), and Roberta Gallinari, in Italy (2015); and the second prize in the 18th edition of the Santa Cecilia competition in Portugal (2016) and in the Isidor Bajic competition in Serbia (2016).

Avagyan, a member of the cultural project Kammerton (Germany), the Spivakov Foundation (Russia) and the Fondation Clavarte (Switzerland), has obtained special grants from renowned organisations, such as the Yamaha Music Foundation of Europe, the Ezoe Memorial Foundation and the Tokuji Munegutsu Foundation. In addition he has participated in master classes offered by musicians of the calibre of Arie Vardi, Dimitri Bashkirov, Hung-Kuan Chen, Paul Badura-Skoda, Klaus Hellwig and Boris Berezovsky.

Since 2011, he is a member of the Internationale Musikakademie of Liechtenstein, where he participates regularly in master classes and in whose concert series he performs.

Website: www.levonavagyan.com

Hiroo Sato (2016)

In the 62nd edition of the Maria Canals International Music Competition, held in 2016, the winner was the Japanese pianist Hiroo Sato, who also received the public's special prize. After attending the Tokyo College of Music High School and the Tokyo College of Music, he continued his studies at the Universität der Künste in Berlin (Germany) and the Chaikovski conservatory in Moscow (Russia).

He has participated in several renowned competitions, in which he obtained several awards, such as the first prize in the 5th edition of the St. Nicola di Bari competition (Italy) and in the 76th edition of the international music competition of Japan and in the Minoru Nojima Yokosuka (Japan), as well as the second prize in the 21st edition of Ricard Viñes (Spain).

Throughout his career, Sato has performed in several festivals, alone and with renowned orchestras, such as the Prague Chamber Orchestra, the Symphony Orchestra of Tokyo and the Philharmonic Orchestras of Tokyo and Kyoto; on stages such as the exchange concert for young artists between Japan and Germany; or as a soloist in the international festival Young Prague. He has also recorded albums, among of which are "Hiroo Sato Plays 3 Sonatas" and "Piano Recital". He is currently continuing his education with the teachers Elisso Virsaladze, Kazuko Sumi and Minoru Nojima.

Danylo Saienko (2015)

At just six years of age, Danylo Saienko began his piano education by studying at the specialist music school Solomia Krushelnytska (Ukraine) for talented children. He currently studies at the Mykola Lysenko national conservatory in his home town, Lviv, in Ukraine.

Winner of the 61st edition of the Maria Canals International Music Competition, held in 2015, Danylo was awarded unanimously a medal two years earlier in this same competition. The final test took place at the Palau de la Música, in which the participants were accompanied by the Jove Orquestra Nacional de Catalunya (JONC), directed by Manel Valdivieso. The three finalists chose the same piece by Tchaikovsky among the eight available: the “Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor, Op. 23”. After the concerts, the jury, chaired by Carlos Cebro, gave Saienko the highest score and awarded him with the first prize: 15,000 euros and a tour of recitals and concerts supported by our Foundation.

This prize is added to the many awards he has obtained at international competitions, such as the Chopin award in Lviv, the Emil Gilels award in Odessa, the Mykola Lysenko award in Kiev (all three in Ukraine) and the Zlotyj Parnas award at the Sanok piano festival (Poland).

Regina Chernychko (2014)

The young pianist Regina Chernychko, winner of the 60th edition of the Maria Canals International Music Competition, held in 2014, was born in Járkov (Ukraine), and she began her piano education at the middle special school in her hometown under the guidance of Irina Surjenko. She also received lessons from her mother, Inna Chernychko, and teachers such as Svetlana Zakharova, Olga Rissin-Morenova, Leonid Margarius and Ralf Gothóni.

Chernychko has played concerts together with the Philharmonic Orchestra of Járkov, the Symphony Orchestra of Rome, the Mediterranean Chamber Orchestra and the Symphony Orchestra of Vallès , among others.

Besides the first prize in the Maria Canals Competition, she has been awarded the Frédéric Chopin diploma (Poland), the Stupen K. Masterstvu diploma (Russia) and the Ricard Viñas diploma (Spain).

Website: www.reginachernychko.com

Stanislav Khristenko (2013)

The Russian Stanislav Khristenko studied piano in Moscow between 1998 and 2003; subsequently, he graduated with honours in piano interpretation and studied a Master's at the Tchaikovsky conservatory in the same city. In 2010, he finished his studies in the Cleveland Institute of Music in the United States.

Throughout his career, he has received awards such as the first prize in the international competitions Parnassós (Mexico) and Città di Cantù (Italy), as well as the third prize in the piano competition of New Orleans. in addition to this is the prestigious first prize in the 59th edition of the Maria Canals International Music Competition. Khristenko has played on stages of countries such as Austria, Italy, Spain and the United States, and he has collaborated with prestigious orchestras from around the world.

Website: www.khristenko.com

Soo-Jung Ann (2012)

The pianist from Seoul (South Korea), Soo-Jun Ann, graduated from Korea National University of Arts in Music and holds a Master's degree in Musical Performance from the Royal Irish Academy of Music, where she also obtained her PhD under the direction of teachers John O’Connor and Thérèse Fahy. In 2012, she won the first prize in the 58th edition of the Maria Canals International Music Competition, after which she continued her studies in the Universität Mozarteum of Salzburg (Austria).

Before the Maria Canals competition, Ann had obtained several awards in events such as the international piano competitions of Hong Kong or Hamamatsu (Japan) or Chopin of Salzburg (Austria), among others.

She has performed on stages in Korea —with the Prime Philharmonic Orchestra—, France —Animato recital— or Ireland —yearly concerts by the Symphony Orchestra RIAM—.

Website: www.soojungann.com

Mateusz Borowiak (2011)

Born in London (United Kingdom) and with dual citizenship —British and Polish—, Mateusz Borowiak was the winner of the 57th edition of the Maria Canals International Music Competition, held in 2011, where he was the youngest participant.

After having studied composition and piano at the Junior Guildhall School of Music & Drama and music at the Girton College of Cambridge, both in the United Kingdom, he has performed in the main concert halls of this country (Barbican, St. James’s Church Piccadilly, King’s College Chapel and West Road Concert Hall), as well as in festivals such as King’s Lynn, Lower Machen, Northern Aldborough, Stratford on Avon and Cambridge. She has also played concerts across Europe and performed with renowned orchestras, such as the Royal Philharmonic, the European Union Chamber Orchestra, the Silesian Chamber Orchestra, the Sinfonietta Krakow or the Czestochowa Philharmonic Orchestra.

The Maria Canals award is added to the list of the many piano and composition awards he has received, such as the AGSMD Piano Performing Diploma with high honours in 2006, when he was only 17 years old; the first prize in the Royal Over-Seas League and Christopher Duke competitions (United Kingdom); the audience prize in the 21st edition of the Rina Sala Gallo in Monza (Italy); and the Eiluned Davies, Lutine and Sir Arthur Bliss awards (United Kingdom), among others, in addition to university honours, including the Girton College Music and Sophia Turtle grants, among others.

Denis Zhdanov (2010)

Born in Chernigov (Ukraine) in 1988, Denis Zhdanov was trained at the Incontri col Maestro international piano academy in Imola (Italy), where he was tutored by Leonid Margarius, as well as at the national conservatory in Kiev (Ukraine), with the teacher Boris Fedorov. He took his first piano lessons with V. Danilova at the age of nine, in its hometown, and received various awards in his first few years as a student. Subsequently, when he turned fifteen, he moved to Kiev, where he continued his education at the Mykola Lysenko national conservatory with the teacher T. Abayeva. In his pursuit of improving his artistic development, he received master classes from renowned pianists, such as Dmitri Alexeev, Alexander Braginsky, Karl-Heinz Kämmerling, Klaus Hellwig, Wolfgang Manz, John Rose or Anna Malikova, among others.

Zhdanov began his international career giving concerts and he debuted as a soloist with an orchestra in a recital in 2007, in Lodz (Poland), which was very well received by the audience and critics. The following year, he participated in two concerts of the first international piano festival Arthur Rubinstein, in the same Polish town. There in October 2009 he interpreted the Piano Concerto No. 1 by Chopin in a special event that commemorated the 160th anniversary of his death. In 2010, he was invited to give a recital in Kiev on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the birth of this composer. Two years later, the Fundación Jesús Serra enjoyed his presence in Tenerife, in a concert performed at the fantastic Auditorio Adán Martín, together with the Symphony Orchestra of Tenerife; and in Granada, in the Auditorio Manuel de Falla.

Besides the first prize in the 56th edition of the Maria Canals International Music Competition, in 2010, Zhdanov has been awarded several prizes, such as the first prize in the 7th international piano competition for young people Arthur Rubinstein in Memoriam in Bydgoszcz (Poland, 2007); the first prize and special award in the 19th edition of the Premio Chopin in Rome (Italy, 2009); the third prize in the international competition of Tbilisi (Georgia, 2005); and the fourth prize and Special Award for the Best Performance of a Classical Sonata at the same competition.

Website: www.deniszhdanov.com

Vestard Shimkus (2009)

The Latvian pianist Vestard Shimkus, winner of the 55th edition of the Maria Canals International Music Competition in 2009, is today an internationally renowned musician. He began playing piano with barely five years of age and his international recognition started after playing with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and the National Orchestra of France, among others.

His interpretations are recognised not only for his "naturally brilliant technique", as described by the German paper Main Post, but also for the passion he projects and his extreme attention when it comes to transmitting the real emotional meaning of each musical phrase, which he aims at the listener's ear. We were lucky to witness this at the three successful concerts that he played in collaboration with our Foundation in 2011 in Bilbao, Tenerife and Granada.

Shimkus has received many awards for his musical brilliance, among of which are the Order of the White Star of Estonia and the Gold Decoration of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland for his outstanding contribution to the concerts series dedicated to the 200th anniversary of the birth of Chopin.

Website: vs.no-te.com

Martina Filjak (2008)

The Croatian pianist Martina Filjak, winner of the 54th edition of the Maria Canals International Music Competition in 2008, has obtained major international recognition after receiving, in addition to this first prize, awards such as the gold medal, the first prize and the Beethoven Prize in the international piano competition of Cleveland (2009); the first place prize in the Viotti piano competition in Vercelli (Italy, 2007); and the fifth place prize in the Ferruccio Busoni competition (Italy, 2007).

In the last few years, she has performed with major international orchestras, such as the Cleveland orchestra; the Symphony Orchestras of Barcelona, Bilbao, Granada, Nancy and San Diego; the Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra and the Israel Chamber Orchestra; and she has played concerts on stages such as the Palau de la Música in Barcelona, the Konzerthaus in Berlin (Germany), the Jordan Hall in Boston (United States), the Sala Verdi in Milan (Italy), the Konzerthaus in Vienna (Austria) and the Auditorio Nacional in Madrid.

Thanks to the Fundación Jesús Serra, in 2009 she delighted us with three magnificent concerts held in Bilbao and Tenerife. Such was the success that she had to repeat the experience with an additional recital in Granada in the following year. In 2011 he played together with the Symphony Orchestra of Madrid in the capital city, in a concert that was held on the occasion of the festivity of Santa Cecilia with huge success.

Website: www.martinafiljak.com