On the history and intention of the International Béla Bartók Piano Competition

Eva Ott (founder)

“In my opinion, the oeuvre of composer Béla Bartók has always been given too little attention. He is sparsely represented in the concert halls, only his Romanian dances enjoy great popularity.

As a native Hungarian, it was a matter of course for me to include his works in my curriculum, but too little was heard of him in the concert halls and music schools - despite his well-placed piano works for children and young people. As an example, I gladly cite the eighty little Hungarian and Slovakian songs and his Microcosm in six volumes.
This unsatisfactory overall situation, which lasted for more than a decade, was reason enough to create the Béla Bartók Music Society.

I began on a small scale and asked students if they would be interested in making his work more visible to the outside world. They agreed. I presented my suggestions to the Austrian Society for Music and Director Track took over the implementation. International piano recitals followed, at which I presented the Romanian "Colinden" and the piano cycle "For Children" - at that time 100 years old. 
Shortly afterwards the idea of organizing a competition in Vienna and Burgenland was born.
In cooperation between the "Béla Bartók International Music Society Austria" and the Collegium Hungaricum Vienna, the first Béla Bartók Piano Competition for young people between the ages of six and fourteen was held in autumn 2009 and advertised in Vienna Lower Austria and Burgenland. For the competition, which took place from 23rd to 25th November 2009 at the Collegium Hungaricum in Hollandstraße, an original piano work by Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Béla Bartók had to be prepared.  

Although the competition was very well received, I found that the competition could only take place every two years. At first, the majority of participants were of Hungarian origin, but this changed over the years. Gradually not only the total number of participants grew, but also its popularity. At the fourth competition we had over sixty participants from different countries. In the months between the competitions, solo and orchestral concerts were held, where mainly the prize winners presented their skills. The places of the competitions were Vienna, Budapest, Graz and Vác. 
The decisive change came after this phase:
I reported about my plans to Mag. Eduard Lanner - director of the Johann-Joseph-Fux- Conservatory in Graz, who had participated in the competition twice with a student.
After a year of preparation, we moved the competition to the Johann-Joseph-Fux-Conservatory in Graz. The premises of this house helped the whole thing to become even more professional. My wish to make today's youth more familiar with classical piano music and the works of Béla-Bartók seemed to come true even more. In 2017 and 2019, the competition took place in Graz with 100 participants.

 With minor changes, the Bartók Music Society still consists of the same founding members as back then.

The aim of the competition is to familiarise schoolchildren with Bartók's literature as early as possible and at the same time to involve the composers of the Viennese Classic - Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert. Their works represent a wonderful opportunity for performers to demonstrate their talent technically and musically and to grow from this experience. In short, it can be said that the competition builds a bridge between West and East. 

With his artistic impulses, Bartók has left his mark on a time that was already in search of innovation. He advanced, so to speak, to become a modern classic, whose work is still significant today. The cancellation of performance rights has contributed to the fact that his music can be played more often.

The competition programme - consisting of his pieces and those of the Viennese Classic - offers young artists an enormous variety of musical expression. The difficulty of these pieces requires the interpreters to play piano at the highest level.
The holding of an annual master class of Viennese Classicism was initiated by the jury and has so far taken place twice in the Mozarthaus in Vienna. Next time this masterclass, which has been very well received so far, will be held in Graz.


This will offer all interested competition participants the opportunity of a comprehensive and high-quality insight into classical piano interpretations. The musical landscape of Graz is thus setting new priorities.