On February 28 through March 3, Washington DC is proud to host the 68th Kosciuszko Foundation Chopin Piano Competition. The competition is widely recognized as a pivotal stage in the lives of young pianists, with past winners such as Van Cliburn, Murray Perahia, and Myung Whun Chung. Enjoy the guest blog below from the Kosciuszko Foundation, speaking about the rich history dating back to 1950.

Beginnings of the Competition

In 1949, to mark the centennial of the death of Frederic Chopin, the Kosciuszko Foundations Board of Trustees authorized a National Committee to encourage observance of the anniversary with concerts and programs throughout the United States.  Howard Hanson, then Director of the Eastman School of Music, headed this Committee, which included, among others, Claudio Arrau, Vladimir Horowitz, Serge Koussevitzky, Claire Booth Luce, Eugene Ormandy, Artur Rodzinski, George Szell, and Bruno Walter.

The Chopin Centennial was inaugurated by Witold Malcuzynski at Carnegie Hall on February 14, 1949. A repeat performance was presented by Malcuzynski eight days later, on Chopins birthday, in the Kosciuszko Foundation Gallery.  Abram Chasins, composer, pianist, and music director of the New York Times radio stations WQXR and WQWQ, presided at the evening and opened it with the following remarks:

“In seeking to do justice to the memory of a musical genius, nothing is so eloquent as a presentation of the works through which he enriched our musical heritage. ... In his greatest work, Chopin stands alone ... Throughout the chaos, the dissonance of the world, Chopins music has been for many of us a sanctuary ... It is entirely fitting that this event should take place at the Kosciuszko Foundation House. This Foundation is the only institution which we have in America which promotes cultural relations between Poland and America on a non-political basis. It has helped to understand the debt which mankind owes to Polands men of genius.”

A fund was created during the Chopin celebration by the Kosciuszko Foundation and was further supplemented by Arthur Rubinstein, who donated the receipts from the national tribute to Chopin, held at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York on October 17, 1949. Additional funds came from a cycle of Chopin programs held at the Kosciuszko Foundation House in the 1949-1950 season.  These donations served as a scholarship prize for the Chopin Piano Competition. 

Early Years of the Competition

The first Competition was held on June 15, 1950.  The winner was not of Polish heritage but a young Black American, Roy Eaton, who was a student at the Manhattan School of Music (and City College) of New York.  It is important to note here that prior to General Kosciuszkos departure for Europe in 1798, he directed Thomas Jefferson, the executor of his will, to sell the lands given to him by a grateful American Congress for his services during the Revolutionary War, and to use the proceeds to purchase the freedom and educate the Black slaves living there. Eatons success in the Chopin Piano Competition was significant during the pre-Civil Rights era, and he was featured in the New York Times, Radio WNYC, CBS Radio, and subsequently with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.  He later earned an M.A. in musicology from Yale University and, in 1968, became vice-president of Benton and Bowles Company in New York.

Van Cliburn
Van Cliburn

Van Cliburn is probably the most famous Chopin Competition alumnus. A pupil of Rosina Lhevinne, Van Cliburn was the winner in 1952 at the age of 17. Six years later, he won first prize in the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, a great icebreaker during the Cold War. 

The Chopin Piano Competition has become recognized nationally as an important stage in the lives of young pianists embarking upon a concert career following their studies. In surveying the list of winners, one finds men and women who have become well-known through success on the concert stage or as well-regarded professors and teachers throughout the United States. Some of the notable laureates include Daniel Pollack, Marek Jablonski, Murray Perahia, Myung Yun Chung, Lydia Artymiw, Ian Hobson, Moses Hogen, Sara Davis Buechner, Boris Slutsky, Kevin Kenner, Frederic Chu, Kirill Gerstein, and Claire Huangci.  Through financial assistance to its winners and their subsequent artistic achievements, the Kosciuszko Foundation, as a Polish American cultural/educational institution, has continued to make a substantial contribution to music in the United States.

New Home in Washington D.C.

In 2021, the Chopin Piano Competition was moved from New York City to the Nation’s Capital.  The 67th Competition took place in Washington D.C. from February 5-27, 2022, and was organized by Barbara Bernhardt, the Foundations D.C. Diretor; Martin Labazevitch, the Artistic Director; Jason Solounias, the Competition Director; and Jolanta Stefanska, the Advancement Director.  Garrick Ohlssohn, the newly appointed honorary patron of the competition and winner of the 8th Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw, sent his best wishes to the competition and contestants.   


Faced with difficulties due to rising COVID-19 infections and the prevailing trend of canceling artistic events during the Winter of 2022, the organizers took a gamble and proceeded with the competition in a hybrid online/in-person format.  The enthusiasm of young and talented Chopinists” was astonishing!  Contestants hailed from Poland, Taiwan, China, South Korea, Brazil, and the United States and presented their performances online to the international jury, consisting of pianistic legends and laureates of the International Chopin Competition in Warsaw. 

Through the competition rounds, online and live, the jury chose three pianists to advance to the finals, where they presented concerti by Frederic Chopin accompanied by the National Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Maestro Piotr Gajewski at St. Anns Catholic Church.  The award ceremony was hosted at the Polish Ambassadors residence, and after emotional speeches by Ambassador Marek Magierowski, Ms. Bernhardt, and Mr. Labazevitch, deeply influenced by the war in Ukraine, which started only a few days earlier, the guests heard beautiful performances by all six pianists invited to Washington D.C. 

Yun Chih Hsu (Taiwan)
The winner of 2022, Yun Chih Hsu (Taiwan)

This year marks the 68th Chopin Piano Competition and the second edition held in Washington D.C.  The jury includes Akiko Ebi from Japan, Piotr Gajewski from United States (Jury Chair), Krzysztof Jablonski from Poland/Canada, Linda Petrikova from Czech Republic, and Ewa Poblocka from Poland.  The competition opens on Wednesday, February 28 with a recital by Yun-Chu Hsu, the 2022 first-prize laureate, featuring works by Chopin, Szymanowski, and Rachmaninoff.  Nine talented young pianists, ages 17-27 and representing Poland, Japan, Canada, and the United States, will perform in the semifinal round on February 29 and March 1 at St. Ann Catholic Church in Washington D.C. Three finalists will be chosen to perform concerti with Members of the National Philharmonic with Maestro Piotr Gajewski on Sunday, March 3.  Those semifinalists not advancing will participate in the Chopin Piano Academy masterclass with jury members on Saturday, March 2.  All competition events are free and open to the public. The schedule and details can be found on the competition website, kfchopin.org. 

The Kosciuszko Foundation Chopin Piano Competition is organized in partnership with the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Washington, D.C. , WETA Classical and generous support of the St Ann’s Catholic Church.

Learn more about the Life and Music of Chopin

WETA Passport

Stream tens of thousands of hours of your PBS and local favorites with WETA Passport whenever and wherever you want. Catch up on a single episode or binge-watch full seasons before they air on TV.