Competition History

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Created just a few months after the Sputnik satellite took off on its pioneering journey around the Earth, the competition’s goal was to launch the next generation of classical musicians into international stardom—and to underscore the strength of the Soviet classical music tradition. That a young American would wind up enchanting the audience was nearly unimaginable! When it came time to select the winners, the jury asked President Khrushchev himself for permission...

“Is he the best? Then give him the prize,” Khrushchev decided. Van Cliburn was awarded his Gold Medal by Dmitri Shostakovich, a member of the jury.

A decade into the Cold War, Van Cliburn’s playing was a beacon of hope, transcending borders and ideological differences.

Learn more about Van Cliburn ►

"Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter." (M. Twain)

With participants ranging in age from 16 to 32, the competition acts as a launching pad for the stars of tomorrow. In 1966, a 16-year-old pianist showed that success is not a simple matter of experience, edging out his elders to take home first prize...

“That day, something like a miracle happened. No one imagined the youngest pianist would give listeners the best performance of a Tchaikovsky concerto,” a competition press release announced afterwards.

To this date, Grigory Sokolov remains the competition’s youngest ever laureate.

A big win... and then what?

A prize at the Tchaikovsky Competition = a career that’s about to take off! The stamp of approval of such a prestigious event—and such a demanding jury!—brings with it international acclaim.

If you win the Tchaikovsky Competition, you are destined to be on top of the world. [#TCH14 winner] Daniil Trifonov has had a lot of success everywhere he goes. (Valery Gergiev)

Where are they now?

Some of the century's biggest stars were once Tchaikovsky competitors...

    • PIANO: Van Cliburn, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Eliso Virsaladze, Mikhail Pletnev, Grigory Sokolov, Boris Berezovsky, Denis Matsuev, Daniil Trifonov...
    • VIOLIN: Gidon Kremer, Victoria Mullova, Vladimir Spivakov, Viktor Tretiakov, Pavel Milyukov...
    • CELLO: Mario Brunello, David Geringas, Nathaniel Rosen, Natalia Gutman, Antonio Meneses...
    • VOICE: Vladimir Atlantov, Elena Obraztsova, Yulia Matochkina, Evgeny Nesterenko, Paata Burchuladze, Deborah Voigt...

    Past winners in concert ►

    The Holy Grail of juries

    The Tchaikovsky Competition jury has been the stuff of dreams since the very beginning. After all, it was Shostakovich himself who handed out the very first Gold Medal! In the decades since, the jury has included greats like Mstislav Rostropovich, David Oistrakh, Maxim Vengerov, and Plácido Domingo, to name but a few. Since 2011, none other than Valery Gergiev has served as the competition’s co-president.

    The elusive Grand Prix

    The prize of all prizes, the Grand Prix was created in 1994 to honor truly historic performances. Awarded by the competition president, only one winner can be chosen per edition—that is, if the prize is awarded at all! Only three musicians have managed to earn the elusive golden ticket so far: soprano Hibla Gerzmava (1994), pianist Daniil Trifonov (2011), and baritone Ariunbaatar Ganbaatar (2015).

    Six decades of the Tchaikovsky Competition

    • #TCH1 (1958) Moscow hosts the inaugural competition featuring two categories: violin and piano.
    • #TCH2 (1962) The cello category is added.
    • #TCH3 (1966) Singers join in! The voice category is added.
    • #TCH14 (2011) The competition grows and now takes place in both Moscow and St. Petersburg.
    • #TCH15 (2015) The competition celebrates Tchaikovsky's 175th birthday! streams it live to over 10 million viewers in 187 countries.
    • #TCH16 (2019) Two new categories join the traditional set of four, woodwinds and brass, as embarks on its second trip to the competition!