After three gruelling weeks in the most adverse of conditions, brilliant Italian-Slovenian Alexander Gadjiev, aged 26, took out first prize – and $25,000 – in the 2021 Sydney International Online Piano Competition.

The first of the six semi-finalists to be heard in the online recitals, he set the bar high with a dazzling 80-minute program built around the theme of funeral marches. It started with Liszt’s Funérailles– a memorial to his friend Chopin, written soon after his death in October 1849 – and then moved to Chopin’s own iconic Sonata No 2 in B flat Minor, ending with a magnificent performance of Liszt’s arrangement of Beethoven’s Symphony No 7.

Alexander Gadjiev

Introducing his final recital, Gadjiev said he strives for respect for his talent by “being 120 percent in the music”. That talent is recognised in the UK, where he was selected for the BBC New Generation Artists Scheme, and had been on display in the preliminary round with his program of Haydn, Chopin, Messiaen, Vine and Scriabin, and even more so in his 60-minute semi-final...