The competition proceedings
Every year in May, the Queen Elisabeth Competition organises an international competition in Brussels for young, classically trained musicians. In successive years, the Competition focuses on violinists (since 1937), pianists (since 1938), singers (since 1988), and cellists (since 2017).


The phases of the Competition

The Competition takes place in four phases: a preselection behind closed doors and three public rounds.

The preselection process, based on videos that candidates have enclosed with their online applications, selects the candidates who are admitted to the first public round. The number of those candidates is not fixed or limited in advance.

Starting with the first round, candidates perform in the order assigned to them by the drawing of lots. In the first round, candidates of the instrumental competitions give a recital lasting 20 minutes and candidates of the voice competitions give a recital lasting about 10 minutes. Twenty-four of them are selected for the semi-finals. Due to the sanitary restrictions, for Piano 2021 only twelve semi-finalists were selected.

The 24 semi-finalists perform a more substantial recital, as well as a concerto with a chamber orchestra; those two performances take place on two different days. In the first round and the semi-final of the Voice Competition, candidates only perform in recital. The first two public rounds, which were held in the Brussels Conservatory until 2011, now take place at Flagey. Twelve semi-finalists are selected for the finals. In 2021 each semi-finalist has performed his concerto and recital on the same day. Only six of them have been selected for the final.

The finalists perform, with a symphony orchestra, at the Brussels Centre for Fine Arts (Palais des Beaux-Arts).

After each round, the candidates who have not been selected for the next round have an opportunity to meet the members of the jury. They have met digitally during the 2021 Piano Competition.

The compulsory works

After the semi-final, the finalists in the instrumental competitions are accommodated in the Queen Elisabeth Music Chapel, where they can study, without any external assistance, a new work to be performed with an orchestra. A new work is also a compulsory part of the programme for the semi-final recital. At different times in the past, the compulsory works resulted from a composition competition or were commissioned. Since 2015, both works have been commissioned.

The laureates

All finalists receive the title of ‘laureate’; since 1995, only the first six have been ranked. In the wake of the Competition, the laureates give a number of concerts in Belgium and abroad. In 2021 there were no unranked laureates.


All performances are broadcast by streaming. The semi-final and the final are also broadcast live on radio and television. The highlights of the Competition are issued on CD and are also available on the main streaming platforms.


The Jury and the Artistic Committee

The candidates are judged by a jury made up of internationally renowned figures. The chairperson of the jury is a member of the Competition’s Executive Committee and does not vote. He or she also chairs the Artistic Committees appointed for each edition of the Competition, whose role is to decide on the Competition’s artistic standards and on the repertoire to be prepared by the candidates. A Belgian official (huissier de justice/gerechtsdeurwaarder) observes the operations of the Competition.
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