The first Carl Nielsen International Competition was held in 1980 in Odense, birthplace of the Danish composer. After nearly four decades, the violin, clarinet and flute competitions have established themselves as some of the most demanding and rewarding in the world, each offering winners the chance to launch a significant international career. Open to musicians up to the age of 30, the 1st prize in each category includes 12 000 euros, a recording with the Odense Symphony Orchestra on British label, Orchid Classics, and the potential of up to 10 solo engagements with international orchestras. €10.000 is awarded to the 2nd prize winner in each category and €8.000 to the 3rd prize winners. Three additional prizes are awarded for Best Danish Interpretation (€2.000), Odense Symphony Orchestra Prize (€1.500) and Children’s Jury Prize (€1.500). A key component of the competition requires each finalist to perform Nielsen’s concerto for their instrument – offering a unique occasion for young musicians to immerse themselves in his music and enhancing the composer’s legacy for generations to come.

A panel of experts including Competition President, Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider and Artistic Advisors, Martin Fröst and Emmanuel Pahud, are personally involved in the pre-selection process and over 25 musicians, advisers and managers are engaged on the three juries of the competition. Hosted by the Odense Symphony Orchestra, which accompanies the participants during the competition, particular emphasis is made on supporting young musicians in the same way that Carl Nielsen himself was supported as a young man.

“What makes this competition particularly demanding is that it requires the finalists to perform the concerto written for their instrument by Carl Nielsen” commented Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider. “All three of Nielsen’s concertos are technically challenging to play and give a clear insight into the individuality of the performer. For us, as torchbearers of Nielsen’s legacy, it allows us to introduce a new generation to his music – a generation which might not otherwise have discovered it for themselves. Odense is also the ideal environment in which to hold a competition. Not only is this city the birth place of Carl Nielsen but it is also thanks to members of the local community – who realised the young composer’s talent and supported him financially – that we can enjoy his legacy today. This is the spirit of the Carl Nielsen Competition as we continue to nurture the next generation of young musicians by offering an important platform to further their careers and an atmosphere of genuine support and warmth.”

2019 marked a new stage in the Carl Nielsen Competition’s history which was broadcast internationally by bringing an audience of over 750 000 viewers from 154 countries all of whom followed the success of 1st prize winners Johan Dalene (violin), Blaz Sparovec (clarinet) and Joséphne Olech (flute).