History of Prague Spring Competition

The competition’s founding and history

Rafael Kubelík and members of the Czech Philharmonic came up with the idea of holding an international music competition at the Prague Spring Festival in 1946. That same year, the conditions were announced for a violin competition for the Jan Kubelík Prize.

The first competition took place in May 1947 at the Prague Spring International Music Festival. Jan Masaryk, the Czechoslovak Foreign Minister, served as the honorary competition chairman.

From the beginning, the competition has been intended for young, emerging artists to serve as a springboard for their future careers.

Over the years, the Prague Spring Competition developed into an event that takes place for multiple instruments. At present, the competition is held for two instruments each year in a regular alternation. The participants are young musicians up to age 30 who perform on the flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, French horn, trumpet, piano, harpsichord, organ, violin, and cello.

The competition is always held in early May, and the finals constitute a programme of the Prague Spring festival (which traditionally opens on 12 May). Besides monetary prizes, winners are offered appearances on programmes put on by cooperating concert presenters. The award of the greatest value is an appearance at Prague Spring the following year.


In the course of the more than 70 years of its existence, the competition has drawn hundreds of musicians who would later become the renowned artists of their day.

Among the laureates of the Prague Spring International Music Competition have been such illustrious artists as the cellist Mstislav Rostropovich (1950), the flautist James Galway (1968), the singers Štefan Margita (1986) and Dagmar Pecková (1986), the violinists Ivan Ženatý (1987) and Pavel Šporcl (1997), the French horn players Radek Baborák (1992) and Kateřina Javůrková (2013), the pianists Giovanni Bellucci (1993) and Ivo Kahánek (2004), the trumpeters Gábor Boldoczki (1997) and Julian Sommerhalder (2003), the bassoonist Václav Vonášek (2002), the Pavel Haas Quartet (2005), the cellists Tomáš Jamník (2006) and Victor Julien-Laferriѐre (2012), the conductor Krzysztof Urbanski (2007), the harpsichordist Jean Rondeau (2012), and many others.


Other important artists have become associated with the competition by sitting on juries.

Examples include David Oistrakh (violin, 1947), Václav Holzknecht (piano, 1948, 1957, 1958, 1963, 1973, 1988), Mstislav Rostropovich and Paula Tortelier (cello, 1955), Lev Oborin (piano, 1948, 1957), Eugene List (piano, 1963), Rafael Kubelík (conducting, 1990), Josef Suk (violin, 1992, 1997, 2003), Rudolf Firkušný and Lazar Berman (piano, 1993), Zuzana Růžičková (harpsichord, 1994, 1999, 2005), Wolfgang Rihm and Salvatore Sciarrino (composition, 1995), and Philip Jones (trumpet, 1997).

The World Federation of International Music Competitions in Geneva

In 1957, the Prague Spring International Music Competition became a founding member of the prestigious World Federation of International Music Competitions in Geneva (WFIMC), which now affiliates 122 international competitions. From the beginning, it has stood alongside such illustrious competitions as the Concours musical international Reine Élisabeth de Belgique (Brussels), the ARD International Music Competition (Munich), the International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition (Warsaw), and the Henryk Wieniawski International Violin Competition (Poznan).

The Prague Spring Competition and Czech music

One of the important goals of the Prague Spring Competition is to promote Czech music and to support contemporary Czech composers. Czech music has always been a part of the competition repertoire, and since 1994 it has been a tradition for Prague Spring to commission new works by renowned Czech composers. The work is premiered on the day of the semi-finals, and competitors are sent the music after the announcing of the results of the preliminary round just a few months before the competition.

In cooperation with the Foundation of the Czech Music Fund, a prize is also offered for each instrument for the best performance of the new work.

These pieces are written exclusively by Czech composers. Among them in recent years have been Petr Eben, Zdeněk Košler, Ivan Kurz, Viktor Kalabis, Milan Slavický, Karel Husa, Ilja Hurník, Luboš Fišer, Jan Klusák, Ivana Loudová, Sylvie Bodorová, Otomar Kvěch, Ondřej Kukal, and Adam Skoumal.

Cooperation and Support

The Prague Spring International Music Competition has enjoyed many years of support from important institutions. Without their support, realisation of the competition would not be possible. We would mention in particular grants from the Czech Ministry of Culture and the City of Prague.

Other partners offer the competition laureates prizes or offers of concert performances.

One of our traditional partners is the glass manufacturer Moser, which gives our laureates beautiful crystal prizes. Czech Radio records the second round and the finals, and it arranges studio recordings for the most successful laureates. Other partners are the Czech Centres, which offer a residency to the most successful Czech contestant at one of their European locations, the music publisher Bärenreiter, which awards music that it publishes, the Bohuslav Martinů Foundation,which offers a prize for the best performance of the compositions of Bohuslav Martinů and also supports the performing of his works at the competition. The Czech Music Foundation gives a prize for the best performance of compositions written for the given year’s competition. Mercedes Benz lets the most successful Czech laureate borrow a car for half a year. The youngest competition participant is supported by the Artists’ Life Foundation.

The offer of a concert appearance is a very attractive prize for young musicians – first-prize winners are invited to the following year’s Prague Spring International Music Festival.Other presenters who regularly invite laureates of our competition are the festival Ticino Musica International Classic in Switzerland, the Associazione Anna Jervolino Caserta in Italy, and the Konzerthaus Berlin as part of the Espresso-Konzerte series. Competition laureates are also supported by other Czech festival organisers and subscription series.

We greatly appreciate the support of all of these cooperating organisations.

Catalogues of previous years

The competition catalogues of Prague Spring International Music Competitions for download

Results of previous years

The results of Prague Spring International Music Competitions since 1947.