August 2, 2021

Pianist Jonathan Fournel receives first prize in the Queen Elisabeth Competition of Belgium

French pianists are on the rise. After Alexandre Kantorow, the first Frenchman to win the prestigious Tchaikovsky competition in Moscow in 2019, at the age of 24, it is the turn of Jonathan Fournel, 27, to win hands down the no less prestigious Queen Elisabeth competition of Belgium (endowed with 25,000 euros), which is part of the Top 5 of the major international competitions (with Leeds, Van Cliburn, Chopin and Tchaikovsky). The results fell in the evening of May 29 in Brussels after trials that lasted a month, behind closed doors, in special conditions linked to the Covid-19 pandemic: submission to isolation and obligation to take a weekly test, like the members of the jury – including Nelson Goerner, Elisso Virsaladze, Ralph Gothoni, Jean-Philippe Collard, François-Frédéric Guy, Momo Kodama, Alexei Volodin, Paul Lewis.

Read the story (in 2019): Pianist Alexander Kantorow, Tsar of the Tchaikovsky Competition

Naturalness, musicality and poetry characterize Jonathan Fournel’s playing, whether in the Concerto nO 18 Mozart’s KV 456 of supreme clarity and lyricism (semi-final concerto) under the direction of Frank Braley at the head of the Orchester royal de Chambre de Wallonie, or the Variations and fugue on a theme by Handel by Brahms, conducted with fervor and an undeniable dramaturgical sense (semi-final recital). Like his compatriot Kantorow two years ago, the young man will have won against the other five finalists – two Japanese and three Russians – with a Second Piano Concerto by Brahms unabashedly, virtuoso and magnificently structured. Not content with finishing at the top of the pyramid, the young man also won the hearts of listeners who followed him on the Musiq3 radio channel, obtaining more than half of the votes for the People’s Choice Award.

Jonathan Fournel has been playing in public since the age of 10, participating in international competitions since he was 12

Initially scheduled for May 2020, canceled and postponed for a year, this edition devoted to the piano (the competition alternates with the violin, the cello and the song) should have welcomed 74 candidates. In the end, 58 pianists, of 16 nationalities, will have clashed since May 3. A concert by the winners will close the competition, Wednesday, June 9, at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, in which Russian Sergei Redkin (born in 1991), second winner, as well as Japanese Keigo Mukawa (born in 1993), third will also participate. prize, already distinguished at the 2019 Long-Thibaud-Crespin competition in Paris. The name of Jonathan Fournel – no Frenchman had been singled out at the top of the charts since Frank Braley’s victory twenty years ago – extends a line of illustrious pianists such as Emil Gilels (1938), Leon Fleisher (1952), Vladimir Ashkenazy (1956), Abdel Rahman El Bacha (1978) or, closer to us, the Russians Anna Vinnitskaya (2007) and Denis Kozhukhin (2010) or the Israeli Boris Giltburg (2013).

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