About the Festival

The Singapore International Piano Festival celebrates its 25th anniversary! To mark its silver jubilee, six phenomenal virtuoso pianists from across Asia, Europe and the Americas, from rising star to celebrated veterans, will present varied, colourful programmes in their Festival debuts. The youthful passion of Seong-Jin Cho rubs shoulders with the established artistry of Dénes Várjon, Jeremy Denk, Dang Thai Son and Darío Alejandro Ntaca, in a myriad of works spanning Mozart and Beethoven, Chopin and Schumann, Debussy and Ravel, Prokofiev and Bartók. The quarter centennial celebrations culminate in the long-awaited Singapore debut of the legendary Martha Argerich in duo recital and in Prokofiev’s brilliant Piano Concerto No. 3.

Our grandest edition yet, this is the piano event of the year you simply cannot miss!

The Singapore International Piano Festival has presented over 80 pianists in recital, many of whom are among the very greatest in the music world. Unlike most recital series, each annual edition of the Festival uniquely features recitals over consecutive evenings, offering concertgoers who regularly attend every evening an intense, varied and richly rewarding pianistic and musical experience. Alongside such celebrated virtuosi as Nelson Freire, Stephen Kovacevich, Nikolai Demidenko, Pascal Rogé, Piotr Anderszewski, Stephen Hough, Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, Lars Vogt and Angela Hewitt, the Festival has also had a fantastic track record of impressive debuts by such rising stars as Benjamin Grosvenor, Wang Yuja, Lukáš Vondráček and Nareh Arghamanyan, as it strives to nurture promising young talent. Beginning in 1994, at a time when piano recitals were rare and much-treasured events, the Festival has since established itself as a regular highlight in the musical landscape of Singapore, hosting pianists - and audiences - from all over the world as Asia's Premier Piano Festival.

Artistic Director: Lionel Choi

Lionel Choi may be a qualified lawyer by training, a wealth and estate planner by profession and Managing Director in a global private bank by day, but his involvement in music – from piano to choral conducting to singing – dates back to when he was a child. Besides piano lessons starting at age 3 and stints as a member of the school choir throughout his childhood, he also studied music at GCE O-Level and graduated top of his class.

For a decade since 1997, Lionel was resident classical music reviewer with The Straits Times, and also contributed from time to time to a variety of print publications locally and abroad, including The Business Times, The Esplanade’s The Arts Magazine, Singapore Airlines’ Silver Kris, and the International Piano Quarterly, a UK-based specialist piano magazine which was then part of the Gramophone folio of publications. From 1997 to 2003, he was a part-time producer-presenter with the now defunct Passion 99.5FM of the National Arts Council, where, besides hosting regular programming ‘live’, he also produced a 13-part one-hour series called “The Piano” (1999) and a one-hour special feature interview with British pianist Stephen Hough.

Online, Lionel has been described as an “early Internet Prokofiev pioneer”, culminating in him contributing, as a founding staff writer, many writings to the now defunct Prokofiev.org, an online database on all things relating to the Russian composer Serge Prokofiev, supported by the Prokofiev family and the Serge Prokofiev Archive at Goldsmiths College, London.

Lionel has been Artistic Director of the Singapore International Piano Festival since 2010, and director on the Board of the Singapore Symphony Group since 2011.


Who would have guessed that a tiny yet modern, cosmopolitan and by-and-large English-speaking island-republic tucked away at the southern tip of the Malayan peninsula with a multi-racial population of over 5½ million would end up playing host to a world-class festival dedicated to all things pianistic, and to have done so for a quarter of a century already? Of these 25 years, I am very honoured to have been closely associated with the most recent nine of them (and 18 as a contributor to the programme notes, and more than 20 in the audience), and I am immensely proud of the extraordinary following we have worked hard to build, both among international touring artists and music agencies, and local and regional audiences.

In my final year as Artistic Director, I feel very privileged to be able to work on putting together a ‘supersized’ edition of our little Festival to celebrate our milestone quarter centennial: five recitals, masterclasses, and a grand finale in the form of a closing concert of piano concertos with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO).

The artist line-up, diverse as it has been for the past years, is also augmented. Jaw-droppingly impressive, too, if I may shamelessly add.

New York-based Jeremy Denk, an Avery Fisher Prize recipient, is one of America’s foremost pianists. He brings to his performances a penetrating intellectual engagement with the music and generous musicianship.

The list of musicians with whom Hungarian pianist Dénes Várjon collaborates regularly reads like a who’s who of classical music personalities. As a soloist, he is widely admired by musicians and industry professionals, and is a well-loved name to knowing audiences in Europe. The New York Times noted recently how “elegant, passionate and always technically impressive” his playing is, “his compelling artistry superior to some of the starrier pianists who perform regularly on the main stage of Carnegie Hall”.

Argentinean Darío Alejandro Ntaca was born to parents who were prominent, celebrated piano pedagogues in South America. From such distinguished musical pedigree from the Golden Age, he built a respected performing and teaching career as virtuoso pianist and conductor internationally, including regular collaborations in both roles with compatriot and lifelong family friend Martha Argerich.

Young Korean pianist Seong-Jin Cho has been keeping a very busy schedule working with top orchestras and in the world’s finest concert halls following his win at the prestigious Chopin Competition in 2015. We missed having him in 2012 as a lesser-known but rising star when we first sought him out, then fresh from his 2009 Hamamatsu Competition win and his bronze medal as a 17-year-old at the Tchaikovsky Competition in 2011, but we are glad to finally have him this year as a more mature artist of distinctive qualities to go with his limitless technique. 

Vietnamese veteran Dang Thai Son also shot to fame when he won the Chopin Competition in 1980, and we are very pleased he will bring his free and fluid virtuosity, solid gold sound and consummate musicianship to our Festival for the first time.

Martha Argerich may also have won the Chopin Competition back in 1965 at age 24, but this bit of early history now seems relatively trite considering how everything about her in the decades since then is infinitely more monumental, more feverishly amazing, more fascinating, than a mere competition win, however prestigious. Argerich is an undisputed genuine living legend of the classical music world, venerated almost universally by other artists for her formidable technique, instinctive musicianship and ferocious natural genius, and words cannot express how immeasurably grateful we are to be able to present her in her Southeast Asia and Singapore debut – in recital, and concerto with the SSO ahead of its 40th anniversary season – at our Festival.

I cannot wait. See you in the concert hall!

Lionel Choi


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