On Monday, the Leeds International Piano Competition announced its field of competitors for the 2018 competition. 28-year-old Riyad Nicolas is among the contenders. Nicolas, who was born in Aleppo, will be the first Syrian pianist to ever compete for the coveted first-place award at Leeds.
Nicolas began playing piano at the age of six. He is a two-time winner of Syria’s Best Piano Student Prize. In 2005, Nicolas won the Educational Award at the London International Piano Competition. At 15 years old, he was the youngest pianist to compete in the event. He then moved to the United Kingdom to study at the Purcell School and the Royal Academy of Music. In 2013, he won the Norah Sande Award, a prize recognizing the best young pianist in South East England. He has been selected out of 200 applicants to compete in the 2018 Leeds International Piano Competition.
The competition is held triennially in Leeds, England and is designed to award the most talented young pianist. To be eligible, all contestants must be professional pianists between the ages of 20 and 29. The first event was held in 1963 and was won by English pianist Michael Roll. The competition is open to pianists from around the world and has awarded performers from countries as diverse as Portugal and South Korea. The first-place winner receives a $33,000 prize and the chance to perform in a series of solo concerts. Winners also receive air time on BBC Radio, a recording session for a solo studio album and a mentorship from pianist Paul Lewis.
Nicolas faces stiff competition from pianists like South Korea’s Saeyoon Chon, third-place winner of the 2016 Hilton Head International Piano Competition, and Aris Alexander Blettenberg, winner of the 2015 International Hans von Bülow Piano Competition. To secure the top spot, Nicolas must pass the first round in Berlin. If he places well in the initial round, he will be able to compete in the second round held at the University of Leeds.