The International Robert Schumann Competition is one of the most renowned music competitions in the world and takes place in two categories: piano and singing. Pianists, female and male singers respectively are ranked separately and a first, second and third prize are awarded. Since 1989 the best song accompanist receives an additional prize. Since 1996 the competition takes place every four years.
The International Robert Schumann Competition was initiated 100 years after Schumann’s death in 1956. On this occasion a large music festival — in those days still pan-German — was held in Zwickau, the city of the composer’s birth, and his reconstructed birthplace was officially opened as Schumann Museum and Archive. Simultaneously young pianists and singers competed with each other for the best Schumann interpretation in Berlin. Later on the award winners appeared at laureate concerts in Zwickau.
The constellation was similar in 1960 — the year of the 150th anniversary of Robert Schumann’s birth — when the second Schumann Competition in the categories voice and string quartet was held in Berlin followed by a further Schumann Festival in Zwickau. It was not until the third competition that this music event finally moved to Zwickau. Since then the two categories piano and singing have been set. However, the venues varied within the city of Zwickau, including the chamber music hall of the Robert Schumann House, the former Varieté Lindenhof, the idyllically situated Schwanenschloss, which does not exist anymore, as well as the Cathedral Parish Hall. Nowadays the competition takes place in the Robert Schumann Conservatory and in the art nouveau ambience of the Concert House and Ballroom ‚Neue Welt‘.
Since 1961 the International Robert Schumann Competition has been a member of the World Federation of International Music Competitions (Fédération Mondiale des Concours Internationaux de Musique) with its headquarters in Geneva/Switzerland. In 2011 the competition, with respect to its piano category, also joined the Alink-Argerich Foundation.
The list of award winners include names enjoying international reputation such as the pianists Peter Rösel, Nelly Akopian, Dina Joffe, Dezső Ránki, Balázs Szokolay, Yves Henry, Eric Le Sage, Dana Ciocarlie and Florian Noack or singers such as Siegfried Lorenz, Mitsuko Shirai, Edith Wiens, Mary Ann Hart, Matthias Görne, Britta Schwarz, Bodil Arnesen, Annette Dasch, Anna Lucia Richter and Mauro Peter. Meanwhile a number of these winners join the competition’s jury, thus guaranteeing the artistic continuity of the Robert Schumann Competition.
The competition programme — for which the Robert Schumann Society of Zwickau is responsible in its role as a co-organizer — has constantly changed over the years and decades. But Schumann’s great piano works and song cycles still form its immovable cornerstones.