About the 2021 Competition


53rd Haarlem International Improvisation Competition 2021

The Haarlem International Organ Improvisation Competition 2020 takes place on Wednesday 21, Friday 23 and Saturday 24 July 2021. Professional improvising organists participate in this oldest and world-famous Improvisation Competition. Since 2018 there is no age limit for participation. For many organists, winning 'Haarlem' was a boost for their international career!

In 2021 new elements will be introduced again in the improvisation competition. Most are kept secret because the participants are informed of the assignments only one hour before their performance. What can already be released is that we will include two new beautiful Haarlem organs in the competition. The first round will be held on Wednesday July 21 in St Bavo's Basilica on the inspiring four-manual organ built in 1923 by the Dutch organ builder Adema Orgelbouw. The Competition will proceed with 6 participants on Friday 23 July in the Doopsgezinde Kerk, where the excellent three-manual Ahrendt & Brunzema organ (1969) is at the disposal of the competitors. The final round will take place on Saturday, 24 July at the majestic and world-famous Christiaan Müller-organ (1738) in St Bavo's Church. 

First preliminary round - Closed
The Competition is preceded by preliminary rounds for which recordings must be send to the organization. In 2020 the organization received 17 entries from countries such as the United States of America, Canada, Italy, Romania, Germany, France, Switzerland, Hungary, Belgium, Japan and The Netherlands.
The assignment was to make a recording of five short improvisations based on thematic material chosen and composed by Jürgen Essl and Jeremy Joseph.

For the thematic material for the preliminary round, click here

The recordings were judged anonymously by the pre-selection jury consisting of Jan Hage, Ansgar Wallenhorst and Geerten Liefting (the winner of 2016). The names of the three selected participants in the Improvisation Competition 2021 are Sebastian Benetello (D), Marcel Eliasch (D) and Cyril Julien (CH).

Second preliminary round - Deadline: February 15, 2021
A second preliminary round will be launched in 2021 to select the four other participants. The new assignments will be published on this site on January 1st, 2021. 
Seven organists will be selected; the eighth participant is the winner of the National Improvisation Competition that takes place in June 2021 during the Bachfestival Dordrecht. See for more info here.

The international jury consists of Anne La Berge, Hayo Boerema (NL), Bernard Foccroulle (B), Jeremy Joseph (SA/A) and Thomas Lacôte (F). Chairman will be Ansgar Wallenhorst (D). 

The winner of the competition is invited to perform organ recitals in The Netherlands and other countries in and outside Europe, and also receives a prize of 4,000 euro. The winner of the audience award will receive 1,000 euro, sponsored by Flentrop Orgelbouw BV.

All participants will be housed at our expense in Haarlem during their participation in the Competition. You are expected to arrive in Haarlem on Monday 19 July 2021. Travel expenses and any additional nights after your participation will not be reimbursed.

Application form Improvisation Competition