Épinal International Piano Competition 2023 Prize-winner interviews

Épinal International Piano Competition 2023


The 2023 International Piano Competition was held in Épinal, France from March 18th to 26th, and Kawai was honoured to have the Shigeru Kawai SK-EX concert grand piano selected as the official grand piano for the competition.

The Épinal International Piano Competition takes place every two years and is one of the most important musical events in France. Kawai has provided the Shigeru Kawai SK-EX concert grand piano in recent years.



Interviews with the three award winning pianists



Stefan Bonev (Bulgaria), 1st Prize and Audience prize.

How do you feel about winning first prize, Stefan?

I feel extremely grateful and happy, although still quite surprised.


What are your impressions of the SK-EX full concert grand piano?

The keyboard felt extremely comfortable, allowing for a very light touch and responding to very slight colour changes. I particularly liked the bass, which gave a necessary depth in the interpretation of works such as the Waldstein Sonata and the Liszt Sonata.


Leo De Maria (Spain), 2nd Prize and Chopin Etude Prize

How do you feel about winning second prize, Leo?

I feel very good, happy and it is a big honour to be rewarded a prize in such an old, prestigious and great competition.

What are your impressions of the SK-EX full concert grand piano?

The Shigeru Kawai piano never disappoints. It was very comfortable to play, as always, the colours of this brand are pleasant and extremely colourful. I really enjoyed playing this wonderful instrument.


Nanaho Ishikawa (Japan), 3rd prize

How do you feel about winning third prize, Nanaho?

I still can’t believe it but I’m really happy to have received third prize. I had a desire to compete in the Épinal Piano Competition before the Covid-19 pandemic, so reaching the final and playing all the prepared pieces without losing focus was an incredible experience and gave me a perspective on the world I’ve never seen before.

What are your impressions of the SK-EX full concert grand piano?

The Shigeru Kawai SK-EX had beautiful sound that always felt like it was at the perfect distance, not too close and not too far away. I think that’s why I was able to express myself so perfectly in different ways.

About the Épinal International Piano Competition

The Épinal International Piano Competition was founded by Suzanne Chevalier in 1970 and has been held since 1972. He received recognition from the World Federation of International Music Competitions in Geneva in 1979 and gained worldwide recognition. 

The competition aims to give participants the opportunity to launch their international careers and is held every two years at the end of March. The event is also an opportunity for Épinal music lovers and young pianists to connect with piano schools from around the world. The competition is supported by the city of Épinal, the Département des Vosges and the Région Lorraine. The current president of the competition is Olivier Moulin, a former winner of the competition.

Learn more about the Épinal International Piano Competition by visiting their official website.

Why is the Shigeru Kawai SK-EX full concert grand piano held in such renown? 

Unveiled in 2001 as the flagship instrument of the Shigeru Kawai line, the SK-EX concert grand piano is handcrafted in limited numbers following a unique ‘prototyping’ creation process. In order to achieve the supreme range of expression required in a concert piano, each instrument utilises a variety of carefully selected materials, with premium aged Spruce soundboards. 

Shigeru Kawai instruments adopt the advanced Millennium III keyboard action, featuring extended wooden keys and advanced ABS Carbon action parts, providing superior speed and responsiveness to conventional wooden action parts, allowing pianists to express a greater range of dynamic and expression in their performance. This grand piano is very close to our heart and is dedicated to Shigeru Kawai, from whom this prestigious piano takes its name.


Prepared by Hugh Raine.

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