The Watford International Piano Competition

in memory of Christopher Duke

was held on Sunday 7th April 2019

at Clarendon Muse in Watford


1st prize John Lee

2nd prize XueLin Xie

3rd prize Mika Inukai


Full report


 Jury: Rolf Hind & Niel Immelman


Rolf Hind

 Photo of Rolf Hind

Rolf Hind’s career has established him as a major force as soloist, composer, recording artist, chamber musician, pedagogue, collaborator and concert planner. He has given recitals at many of Europe’s leading new music festivals, and at Carnegie Hall, Sydney Opera House and on tours of Korea, Taiwan and Cuba.

Rolf has worked with many leading conductors, including Ashkenazy, Knussen, Rattle, David Robertson and Andrew Davis and appeared seven times at the BBC Proms. Orchestras he has worked with include the Chamber Orchestra of EuropeMunich Philharmonic, Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Malmö Symphony, and Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, many appearances with the London Sinfonietta, the LPORPO, and with all the BBC orchestras. 

Composers who have worked with Rolf or written for him include Tan Dun, John Adams, Helmut Lachenmann, Unsuk Chin, Elliott Carter, George Benjamin and James MacMillan. Rolf’s compositions include a piano concerto, Maya-Sesha (nominated for a British Composer’s Award) and a concerto for accordion, premiered at London’s Barbican Centre. Much of his music is inspired by India, where he travels often, while drawing on the technical adventurousness of performers including himself.

An interest in new dance has resulted in collaborations including with choreographer Rui Horta on a large-scale tour of a new work, Danza Preparata, featuring John Cage’s Sonatas and Interludes for prepared piano, with dancer. Rolf curates and performs in Occupy The Pianos, a new piano festival which has become a regular feature at St John’s Smith Square in London. His first opera, Lost in Thought, a ‘Mindfulness opera’ commissioned by Mahogany Opera Group was premiered at The Barbican in 2015. Rolf wrote a major new work for the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival in 2017 and continues to develop many exciting new projects as a composer.


 Niel Immelman

 Photo of Neil Immelman

Niel Immelman studied with Cyril Smith, Ilona Kabos and Maria Curcio.  He was still a student at the Royal College of Music when Bernard Haitink invited him to play Rachmaninov’s Paganini Rhapsody with the London Philharmonic Orchestra.  This highly successful debut was followed by concerts at the Royal Festival Hall, the Royal Albert Hall and the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, working with Sir Adrian Boult, Aldo Ceccato, Louis Frémaux, Sir Charles Groves, Rudolf Schwarz and Walter Susskind.  It marked the beginning of a concert career that has taken him to every continent.

Niel’s teaching career is equally distinguished. He has given masterclasses at many of today’s leading conservatoires, including those of Berlin, Helsinki, Hong Kong, Moscow, Oslo, Singapore, Stockholm, Toronto, Vienna and Warsaw. He regularly serves on juries of international competitions.


2018 Competition:

1st prize Edward Leung

2nd prize Kyle Nash-Baker

3rd prize Raymond Yiu

Special commendation: XueLin Xie


2017 competition:

1st prize Weng Soon Tee

2nd prize Misa Saka

3rd prize Chi-Hoi Cheung


2015 competition: 

1st prize Jina Shim

2nd prize Liga Korne

3rd prize Scott MacIsaac


Recent winners of the Competition who have gone on to busy international careers include Alexander Ullman and Ji Liu (both YCAT Artists in 2015 and 2016) and Riyad Nicolas, currently selected by The Countess of Munster Musical Trust.