Queen Elisabeth Competition Belgium

March 31, 2005 at 05:24 AM · Hi!

In May, the Queen Elisabeth Competition starts again and this year it's for violin! I was wondering what people from other countries think about our Belgian competition.

This year, ten Belgians participate and who knows, maybe one of them will finally catch a prize after such a long time that we didn't get into the final.

In fact, in Belgium people are not really interested in (classical) music, many people even never heard about the Competition, so that's why I was wondering what no-Belgians think/know about it.



Replies (29)

March 31, 2005 at 11:18 AM · Hi,

I'm living in Belgium, so my post doesn't really count.

Unlike most Belgians, I'm actually looking forward to hear the competition.

(I will be listening to RTBF since they deal a lot more with the competition than the Flemish Radio or TV does).

I hope there will be someone like Oistrakh, Kremer, Repin or Znaider participating this year.

I think the competition is highly rated by the readers of v.com.



March 31, 2005 at 11:28 AM · Hi,

Well, I am from Canada. Here, and in the U.S., the Queen Elizabeth Competition is considered the most prestigious of all music competitions. I don't think that anyone aside from Classical musicians or fans of classical music would know anything about it, but for us violinist, it's something. Back in the 80's and 90's they used to show the finals here on Television, but that seems to have stopped sometime in the mid-90's. Too bad. It was a really great experience. I still remember seeing Vadim Repin's final round (he played Tchaikovsky), and many musicians' final rounds who I have come to know since then (Martin Beaver, Ken-Yun Tseng). Wish I could see it again this year.

The only thing that I find sad is that they have lowered the age limit for contestants, which I find unfair. Did you know that the most famous winner ever, David Oistrakh was 29 when he one the first competition held (still called the Ysaÿe competition then), and that now, in 2005 he would not even be able to participate because he would be considered too old? That was the start of his career. Imagine who we could be stopping now... Scary!


March 31, 2005 at 11:29 AM · The Queen Elizabeth Concours is one of the best competitions in the world. Hopefully there will be a Belgium competitor that will reach the final. I'm also from Belgium. But I will be a fierce supporter of Carla Leurs from the Netherlands.

March 31, 2005 at 01:35 PM · Christian, one person the new age limit stopped was...me. After the 1997 competition, when I only made the semifinals, I swore to myself that I'd prepare properly for the next one. I checked out the regulations for the age limits then and found, to my joy, that I'd still be eligible for the next edition. Put it on my calendar and waited.

Four years later, I called the competition office, asking for a brochure and, pro forma, about the age limits. "So sorry," the said, "but we've lowered the age limit to 27." It was an utterly devastating piece of news as I'd been planning almost everything around it. I was in a deep depression for almost a week. To take my mind off things, I tried to find any other competition where the age limit was above 30 and to participate. And, to be fair, I did find and play a few of those. Four of my nine prizes were from after I crossed that Point Of No Return.

But what fries me now is that competitions with no age limit, or a much older limit (e.g. 40 or so) offer very small prizes by comparison to the Big Contests like QE or Indianapolis. Where are the age unlimited contests with major prizes?

March 31, 2005 at 02:10 PM · The age limit stopped me too. If it was 75 I think I could be ready.

March 31, 2005 at 02:40 PM · Sarah:

It surprised me your comments on Belgiums not been interested in classical music. I think you must be involved with the wrong people.

I go to Belgium (Antwerp) every year and so happens I have met the most interesting people in the field. Of course, Belgium is a small country covered with exciting young people, and youg people, unless their parents guide them, are usually not interested in classical music. That comes from home. From our parents influence.

The Queen Elisabeth competition is a very prestigious event. But again, competitions were never my favorite subject.

Good luck!!!

March 31, 2005 at 03:07 PM · Does anyone know where one could find the list of names of participants for this year's competition?

March 31, 2005 at 04:14 PM · On www.concours-reine-elisabeth.be/en/

There is only the names of the Belgian participants.

March 31, 2005 at 04:20 PM · I didn't even know there were any competitions at which someone my age (I'm 35) could compete. What are the names of these competitions?


March 31, 2005 at 05:25 PM · i think the idea of an age limit is abhorrent. you'd think this was a modelling comptetion, not a violin competition. Not to be harsh, but violin culture has a tendency to fetishize prodigies.

I'm with Jim... I was hoping that by 80, I would have the expertise to win this.

Belgium is a very beautiful country though, especially Brugge and Gent; highly recommended if you like historic houses and swans.

March 31, 2005 at 08:47 PM · As a Belgian living in the US for nearly 15 years I am surprised by Sarah's comment that Belgians are not really interested in classical music. I got my early music training 25 years ago going through the local conservatory system (in Leuven) and I am sure glad I got that opportunity. The 5-year-long-twice-weekly mandatory solfege classes might have been a pain at the time but at least I got a theoretical background to base my violin studies on. During my teens I spent hours glued to the TV watching the candidates perform in the QE competitions. I sure hope it is still being broadcast on TV because I asked my brother to tape it for me this year.

Now, as a returning adult violin student I am taking private violin lessons in the US from a Julliard graduate who studied with Galamian and Delay and I am surprised how much time she has to spend teaching basic music theory to other students. Although I am not aware of how music is taught all over the US, the state where I currently live has nothing that comes close the organized music education system in Belgium. And just as in Belgium plenty of folks here in the US don’t know about the competition either but that doesn't mean they are not interested in classical music.


April 1, 2005 at 12:46 AM · Hi,

Emil, I am so sorry to hear that. That really sucks. It is ridiculous. Not that I would be winning, but there is something to be said for maturity. And some people blossom late, so it is unfair to them.

I don't quite know what to say in response to your questions. Maybe there is some cynical involvement from recording and management companies. But it really makes no sense, and yet, I guess reflects modern times in a disturbing way... So, if someone else can answer Emil's question, and mine too, please do?!?!?!?!


April 1, 2005 at 12:54 AM · Prizes with no age limits? Nobel prize perhaps. Unfortunately, there is no equivalent of Nobel prizes in violin. However, there are some life-time achievement type of awards. Seriously, all violin competitions are geared toward finding and showcasing new young talents (career development award?). However, you can always compete for Emmy award and Grammaphone recording of the year award.

April 1, 2005 at 08:57 AM · Denise,

I don't want to blame all Belgian musicians, of course, from not being interested in classical music, but I experience some lack of interest from the Belgian government. Nowadays, they only seem to subsidize pop concerts and rock festivals and they always say they have no money for culture.

Our education system isn't adapted to musicians who want an international career either. I'm now in the last year of secondary school, so I'll be 18 when I will be finally able to focus on my violin. That's much too late compared with other countries, I think. (Other violinists on this discussion board can confirm that probably???)

The conservatories don't get enough financial funds either and that's why they cannot attract the best teachers. But the Queen Elisabeth College (Kapel) is still outstanding, I think.

Maybe they will deliver a finalist in the QE Competition this year, who knows?

April 1, 2005 at 11:56 AM · Sarah,

I think Belgium has/had a very good music education system. Where else on earth you could follow as many music courses you wanted for below 2 dollars a year ? (Which was the case till 15 years ago).

For example, I know someone : following violin, flute, piano, chamber music, harmony, solfege in the same year (for instruments individual classes 1/2 hour a week); using an instrument for only 50 Belgian francs subscription. Rest was fully funded by the government. (Imagine why taxes are that high in Belgium ?)

So for amateur level musicians there is no issue in Belgium.

Indeed, the system as it is now doesn't favour young talents (education starts around the age of 9, which is quite late); everyone gets almost the same amount of attention, so people need to go for private lessons in order to work up to the standards of the international top players, ....

As the minister sees culture as something for all people and not just a selected group, funding goes nowadays indeed to pop-concerts because there is a higher number of people involved. That is what is called democracy. I guess the States are suffering more from this. But surely, like everything, we will copy that from the States too.

For the TV broadcasts, they too decreased over the years. In the french speaking part of Belgium there is more attention, so that's why it is prefered to listen and look there.

But : on the internet there seems to be streaming video/audio !! So, it will be available for all.

Belgium being a small country and musicians and classical music lovers being a small group in that country, I think we have to live with the fact that media attention and financial help from government can not be that high.

(There is a way to have more music education KSO, while being younger than 18)

kind regards,


April 30, 2005 at 09:37 PM · I was born and raised in Belgium and have been living in the United States for many years.

I attended free evening music schools in Belgium (studying piano) and had excellent teachers. Music education for the lay person is excellent in Belgium. It provides a thorough theoretical background (solfege, harmony). Once you're proficient in your instrument, you can be part of a chamber music class, which is very enjoyable.

In the United States, music education for most kids is provided in the regular day schools. There are music classes in the elementary schools (involving singing and some instrumental, practically no theory). From the middle school on, there are afternoon and evening band activities. The bands are pretty good, they take part in regional and national competitions. In the high schools, the kids are often part of marching bands. Practice and competitions for marching bands are very time consuming.

If you want to be really good at an instrument, you need to take private classes. Many kids do so and often at a very early age, and actually are very good. It is true that solfege classes are non-existent, and that it is up to the instrument teacher to teach the basics.

Anyway, I intend to view the Queen Elisabeth competition on streamlined TV and am looking forward to reading the comments on this blog. I missed the competitions for many years, being here in the U.S., and was very happy to be able to finally capture them on-line.

May 1, 2005 at 01:16 AM · Does anyone know who the jury members are this year?

May 1, 2005 at 05:02 AM · There is a lot of information on the QE Competition, including the jury members, and a link for listening at http://www.imkeb.be/ . A note on the site says that the purpose of the competition is to showcase, encourage, and help young musicians; hence the age limit. In addition to the competition, there will be master classes. I got the link from the blog of Carla Leurs on v.com. She is a contestant and I'm cheering for her.

May 2, 2005 at 11:47 AM · Hi!

The official website is www.cmireb.be, and you can find the list of all participants and when they will be playing! 133 violinists came this year!!

May 2, 2005 at 02:35 PM · Hello,

I went listening to the first seven candidates of the first selections. It was the first time in my life I heard the selections and I was surprised to hear that some people didn't take the competition very seriously. Sometimes the level was really low!

When we were waiting for tickets, suddenly people started to applaud and... Queen Fabiola entered the conservatory (of Brussels). It was really something special. She's said to follow the entire competition, without missing one note. She deserves a lot of respect in my opinion.

I know a few names of the jury: Pierre Amoyal (only demi-final and final) Augustin Dumay (only final), Yayoi Toda, Georges Octors, Mihaela Martin... You all see them sitting behind the famous green table, the bell next to one of them.

OK, I go practice for a while.

Probably I go Wednesday evening to listen again.



May 2, 2005 at 04:57 PM · I understand what you mean, but I don't always think that the players who go to QE are unprepared so much as they are nervous. I was a Laureate in the 2001 Queen Elisabeth Competition, and I knew and met a lot of people at the competition who were excellent players, but some of whom became very scared right before they performed. It is quite a unique competition in terms of how it is structured, and I think that is why it presents such a challenge to its competitors.

For example, in the first round, the competitors don't know what Paganini Caprice(s) they're playing until 30 minutes before they actually go on stage. Someone comes into the room backstage with a little piece of paper that has the jury's selection(s) on it, and then you have to decide on the spot in what order you want to play your pieces. Fortunately, the second round has been made a great deal easier for this competition than when I participated (when I played, we had to perform an entire Mozart concerto with orchestra, then had 15 min. break, and then played a near-full recital right away; this time, it's split into two days). And then there's the entire experience at the Chapelle before the last round (they seclude the finalists for 8 days and give them a brand new concerto or piece to perform with orchestra, in addition to a full concerto and sonata).

It is an amazing competition at the end, but getting to the end is not easy and presents a lot of mental challenges as well.

May 4, 2005 at 09:27 PM · Sarah, did you end up going to listen today? If so, did you find that it was better than the last time you went to listen?

May 5, 2005 at 10:12 AM · Christina, I went yesterday at 20 o'clock. I listened to four of the seven candidates and it was better than Sunday. I didn't hear so much notes out of tune this time, so... Of course, they didn't all play badly Sunday and I could learn something from everybody. However, from some people it was immediately clear that they wouldn't go to the semi-final and I was surprised that I was able to hear that. I thought it would have been more difficult to compare the candidates.

Wednesday I heard Valentina Sviatlovskaia, Marie Fuxova, Sarah Griffin and Ji-Yoon Park. Did you know someone of them?

May 5, 2005 at 02:20 PM · Hello Christina, I heard you in Brussels last time

and still remember your wonderful playing !

This time, it seems that the winner is clear,

namely Sergey Khachatryan, whose participation is

a surprise to me, as he is an established world-class violinist.

Four years ago they had comments on each performance on the Belgian Radio site,

how about this time ?

May 5, 2005 at 02:49 PM · I believe I've only heard one of the violinists you heard yesterday, Sarah. You can well imagine that with 130+ people participating, and as much repertoire as is required for the competition, that some musicians will take an opportunity to play even if they are not fully prepared (to gain experience). In the end, it may come down to about 40 or so very strong violinists, from which they must choose 24.

Thanks so much for the compliment, Wilhelm! I still remember my experience in Brussels as if it were yesterday... I believe the radio doesn't comment on each person until the final round. I think that in the second round, it's broadcast but they don't really have much time to make comments, whereas in the final round, they can talk about their impressions between each piece, while the stage is being re-set for the next work.

May 5, 2005 at 04:33 PM · When do they name the semi-finalists?

May 5, 2005 at 06:08 PM · I think in the night between the 7th and the 8th of May...I read it somewhere!!

May 8, 2005 at 03:46 PM · The list of 24 semifinalists is known now. 1 Belgian, 2 Americans, 4 Germans, 2 Chinese, 5 Japanese, 1 Hungarian, 1 Russian, 1 France, 1 Netherlands, 1 Bulgaria, 1 Slovakia, 1 Ukraine, 1 Armenia, 1 Korea, 1 Latvia. Semifinals start tomorrow.

May 8, 2005 at 04:17 PM · more details there:



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