The Australian International Chopin Piano Competition (AICPC) was established in 2010 as a legacy of the Chopin Bicentennial Celebrations. The competition encourages performers to explore the 19th century tradition of romantic playing, reflecting the lyrical and poetic interpretive aesthetics of Chopin’s own time.
The Competition is held every three years and aims to include both an adult’s and a children’s competition, a composition competition, masterclasses, research, and a festival. The adult competition seeks to provide a pathway for young Australians to compete with their peers on the world stage. It also seeks to bring the best in Chopin pedagogy to Australia to enrich Chopin understanding, and the best young Chopinists from Poland and the world to experience performing in Australia.
A unique element of the Australian competition is the adjunct composition competition. This encourages young Australian composers to engage with the music of Chopin and create a wholly original, musically rich, and pianistically challenging work for piano. The winning piece is included as mandatory repertoire in the adult piano competition.
From its 3rd edition in 2017, the Competition has had honorary patronage from the Polish Minister of Culture and National Heritage, and Partner status with the National Institute of Fryderyk Chopin.
Audiences and students have had the opportunity to experience performances and masterclasses from eminent Polish Chopin performers and jurors such as Professor Janusz Olejniczak, Professor Ewa Pobłocka, and Professor Wojciech Świtała.
The AICPC was initially a joint venture between the Australian National University School of Music and the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Canberra. The Friends of Chopin Australia became a partner in the lead up to the 2nd edition in 2014, with primary responsibility for managing and growing the competition in its out years. In 2017 the Friends of Chopin Australia became the primary partner in the Competition with overall responsibility for the competition.
The piano competition and composition competition are held every three three years. Along with the performance schedule of the piano competition, various public events are also held to explore the life and music of Fryderyk Chopin more fully.
The first edition was held in 2011, and the second edition was held in 2014, and the third edition was held in 2017. Planning has begun for the fourth edition, but a date has not yet been set.
The signature image of the AICPC is a copy of a bust of Chopin by Alfons Karny in profile. This bust was donated to the ACT Government by Polish refugees Michael and Natalie Kułakowski.
The story of the Kułakowski's and the bust is an interesting one.
Michael and Natalie Kułakowski established Carinia Records in Sydney in 1952 (Carinia is an Aboriginal word that means ‘happy home’). For 36 years they built a prosperous and culturally significant music business serving the European migrant population and building a cultural bridge between Europe and Australia. In 1977 they purchased this bust of Chopin by Alfons Karny and presented it to the nation through The Honourable Bob Ellicott QC MP, Attorney-General and Minister of Home Affairs and the Capital Territory.
As part of her ongoing research into Poles in Australia, Dr Bogumiła Żongołłowicz from Melbourne uncovered the Kułakowski’s story, including the donation of the bust that had since gone missing. Dr Żongołłowicz enlisted the help of Wanda Horky in Canberra to search for the bust which was eventually located in a sub-basement of the ANU School of Music.
The bust is now on display in Llewellyn Hall at the Australian National University School of Music.