Outstanding piano playing in Hastings

The 2024 Hastings international Piano Competition announces its winners

Five outstanding young pianists took part in two days of finals in Hastings with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under conductor Rory Macdonald. Pianist Curtis Phill Hsu won the coveted Sophia Guo First Prize after a “scintillating performance” of Tchaikovsky’s first piano concerto, convincing the international jury, chaired by Professor Vanessa Latarche, that he is the fitting overall winner of the competition.
A spokesman said: “The prize includes a £15,000 cash prize, as well as professional engagements and the Hastings Fellowship, an invaluable artist development package provided by one of the UK’s leading artist’s agents. Other prizes included a prize awarded by members of the orchestra and a special prize for the best performance of a new work specially commissioned for the competition’s second (recital) round from American composer Lera Auerbach.”

Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition attracts entries from all over the world. The 2024 competition – the 17th since it was revived in 2006 – took place over ten days at the White Rock Theatre, Hastings. 40 competitors – aged between 16 and 30 at the time of the competition – were chosen to take part from almost 250 young concert pianists who submitted video auditions. In Stage One of the competition, participants were required to play movements of two contrasting concertos, accompanied by another pianist. 20 competitors were selected to go through to Stage Two, the recital round, in which competitors were asked to devise and perform a short solo recital including the commissioned new work by Lera Auerbach.
Ten pianists were selected to go through to the semi-finals, in which competitors performed classical concertos accompanied for the first time this year by the Southbank Sinfonia – a chamber orchestra that is formed anew each year by recruiting 33 promising music graduates. Finally, five finalists were chosen to perform larger Romantic or twentieth century concertos, accompanied by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.


Curtis Phill Hsu (First Prize)

Curtis Phill Hsu was born in the USA and took up the piano at age 4. He began his studies with Prof. Andreas Weber at 12 at the Mozarteum Pre-College and was nominated for the Leopold Mozart Institute’s High Talent Program. He is now studying at Hanover University of Music with Prof. Arie Vardi. Curtis won third prize at the 16th Ettlingen International Piano Competition and first prize at the Merci, Maestro! International Piano Competition in Brussels.

Tsu 2

Harmony Zhu (Second Prize)

Born in China, Harmony Zhu moved to Canada as a child and now lives in the USA. She won the Gilmore Young Artist Award and Young Concert Artists International Auditions, and was awarded first place in competitions including the Gina Bachauer Scholarship Competition, Aspen Music Festival Concerto Competition, VI Chopin International Competition (Connecticut), the Juilliard Concerto Competition, and the Canadian Music Competition. She has been studying at Juilliard since age 8 with Emanuel Ax and Veda Kaplinsky. She is also a world-class chess player.


Chengyao Zhou (Third Prize)

Chengyao Zhou was born in Zhejiang, and began playing the piano at the age of three. At 9 she joined the pre-college of Shanghai Conservatory of Music and was later admitted to the Juilliard School Pre-college studying with Dr. Ernest Barretta. She won the Grand Metropolitan International Piano Competition, the Juilliard Pre-College Prokofiev and Beethoven Competitions, and first prize of the Fifth Manhattan International Music Competition.

1st Prize: Curtis Phill Hsu (19), Haover
2nd Prize: Harmony Zhu (18), New York
3rd Prize: Chengyao Zhou (16), New York

Vanessa Latarche (Chair), Eleanor Wong, Paul Hughes, Cruz Plaza, Piotr Paleczny, Pascal Escande, Norman Krieger

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra / Rory MacDonald (Conductor)


Photos: Peter Mould