Queen Elisabeth Competition plays to empty rooms

This year’s edition of the international competition for career-starting musicians, the Queen Elisabeth Competition, which will start on Monday in Brussels, is an extraordinary one after it was postponed from last year due to the coronavirus crisis.

After spending a year practically in isolation, the candidates of the 2021 Queen Elisabeth Competition, dedicated to the piano, will play without an audience and will have to respect the current health regulations.

“The candidates were unable to perform for a year,” the Secretary-General of the Competition, Nicolas Dernoncourt, told the Belga news agency.

“It was important for this edition to take place, even if they will be playing in a special context, before an empty room,” he added.

In 2020, the organisers decided to postpone the competition just after the eliminations phase, which saw 74 of the 331 candidates selected for the first round, none of them Belgian. Some of the candidates withdrew, so the final group is made up of 64 pianists, 53 men and 11 women, representing 19 nationalities.

COVID-19 also had an impact on the actual organisation of the event. The number of semi-finalists has been reduced from 24 to 12, from whom six will be selected for participation in the final. Previously, there were 12 finalists, but hosting such a large number for one week at the Musical Chapel to study an original work would have been too complicated in the current health context.