A Luminous Start to the Sixteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition: Toasting the 60th Anniversary with a New Concert Hall and Viewership Expected to Top 10 Million

The Sixteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition opened yesterday, marking 60 years since the inaugural competition in 1962. This year’s Competition once again brings together the world’s most promising young pianists in Fort Worth, Texas, fostering the talents of the next generation of pianists while reaching an international audience with viewership expected to top 10 million. 

“60 years later, the Cliburn stays true to its original mission,” shares Cliburn President and CEO Jacques Marquis, “and it’s a dual mandate: to support young artists and to share music with as many people as possible.”

This year’s Cliburn Competition is especially noteworthy as the Preliminary and Quarterfinal Rounds will be held in the Van Cliburn Concert Hall at TCU, which opened on April 7, 2022. The concert hall has an acoustical volume similar to venues double or triple the seating capacity, and seats 717 people around the entire perimeter of the hall. Designed by nationally acclaimed BORA Architects, the exterior of TCU Music Center boasts impressive floor-to-ceiling windows and rough stone work, while the interior of the Van Cliburn Concert Hall is outfitted with light wood walls.

“It’s so fitting the Cliburn returns to TCU, its original home, this year, and especially in this gorgeous new hall honoring Van and his legacy,” continues Marquis. “Van was always working to make classical music as beautiful and accessible as possible, and we can honor that by welcoming music lovers worldwide to join us in this beautiful space and to listen from wherever they are. This is also so exciting to welcome live audiences back to any venue – but especially to the Van Cliburn Concert Hall – after the pandemic.”

Van Cliburn: A Global Piano Phenom

Van Cliburn (1934-2013) achieved worldwide recognition at the age of 23, and during the height of the Cold War, won the inaugural International Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow in 1958. 

Cliburn’s popularity as a pianist won legions to appreciate classical music in the 20th century, and he became an ambassador for American culture. He performed across the world and to audiences composed of royalty and many heads of state, including all presidents from Harry S. Truman to Barack Obama, and even playing for President Reagan and Soviet President Gorbachev at an invited performance at the White House in 1987. His many lifetime achievements include receiving the Kennedy Center Honors, Presidential Medal of Freedom, and a Grammy® Lifetime Achievement Award. 

Yet, for all his worldwide travels and fame, Cliburn always remained a Texan at heart. He moved with his family to Texas as a young boy, and it was in Fort Worth that the first Van Cliburn International Piano Competition was held in 1962, and has continued every four years since (excluding the pandemic delay). 

“Just as Cliburn sought to build bridges through music, we seek to reach more audiences each year, and to advance the pinnacle of musical achievement by supporting the next generation of artists,” states Marquis. “We expect over 10 million viewers to be enjoying the skillful playing of these young artists over the next two weeks.”

A Musical Olympiad 

Like the Olympics, the Cliburn Competition takes place every four years, and like the world’s most famous quadrennial sporting event, the Cliburn also invites the world’s most elite practitioners to the Competition. 

Thirty international artists representing 15 countries have been selected to compete in Texas. From a record-breaking field of 388 applicants, 72 pianists were chosen to perform a 25-minute recital before the Screening Jury and a live audience at TCU in March. The Jury, consisting of Angela Cheng (Canada), Arnaldo Cohen (Brazil), Christopher Elton (United Kingdom), Alexander Kobrin (United States), and Anton Nel (South Africa/United States) selected the 30 musicians competing in this year’s event. 

Continuing in the legacy of Van Cliburn himself, the artists were selected solely due to their talent and virtuosity, and in the spirit of celebrating how music can help heal during times of international conflict and distress. There are artists from Australia, Belarus, Canada, China, France, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Netherlands, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Ukraine, and the United States. 

Over the next few days, the competitors will each perform a 40-minute recital during the Preliminary Round. The artists select pieces that best represent their individual voices, and all will also perform the piece Fanfare Toccata, a commissioned piece by distinguished British pianist and composer Stephen Hough, who is also on the Competition Jury. The 18 individuals who advance to the Quarterfinal Round will take the stage again beginning June 5. 


June 8 through12, the Semifinal Round will see 12 competitors perform in two phases; first, a 60-minute solo recital, and secondly, a Mozart concerto led by celebrated conductor Nicholas McGegan and the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra. In the Finals, world-renowned conductor (and Jury Chairman) Marin Alsop (United States) will lead the six finalists and the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra through two concertos between June 14-18. 

In addition to Alsop and Hough, the Competition Jury consists of some of the world’s best performance pianists: Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (France), Alessio Bax (Italy), Rico Gulda (Austria), Andreas Haefliger (Switzerland), Wu Han (China Taiwan/United States), Anne-Marie McDermott  (United States), Orli Shaham (Israel/United States), and ​​Lilya Zilberstein (Germany). 

The top prizes will be handed out at the Awards Ceremony on June 18. The pianists compete to become one of the three medalists, which includes a generous cash prize, in addition to a comprehensive and personalized career management package, including three years of concert bookings, commercial recording releases, and a full promotional package. The 2022 cash prizes for medalists have increased this year to $100,000 for gold, $50,000 for silver, and $25,000 for bronze. In addition, the gold medalist will receive international management and booking services to launch a global career. There are also over a dozen additional cash prizes for artists totaling more than $70,000. 

“We know the caliber of musician that has already been selected as one of the 30 competitors,” states Marquis. “They are so splendid, and we look forward to hearing each of them perform for the warm and welcoming Fort Worth audience. Then, we are proud to help our new winners as they grow into meaningful careers as professional pianists.”