2021 String Quartet Competition Rules, Repertoire and Practical Information

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The Wigmore Hall International String Quartet Competition was established as the Portsmouth International String Quartet Competition in 1979, became the London International String Quartet Competition in 1988 and then moved to Wigmore Hall in 2010. The Competition was established with the intention of reflecting, and in the hope of extending, awareness and appreciation of the richness of the string quartet, and to promote the discovery and development of talent and audiences for the string quartet.

Every competing quartet must perform Haydn, Mozart, a 20th Century work and the compulsory contemporary work in the Preliminary Round. Each quartet selected for the Semi-final round must play 19th Century repertoire; quartets which progress to the Final round must perform a Beethoven quartet.

The Jury will take into consideration the choice and variety of the repertoire and the balance of the programme for each competing quartet.


Stage 1: Selection Stage

Stage 1 is a pre-recorded audition to be judged by a special Invitation Jury.

Via the application form, applicants must upload two recordings for Stage 1, as follows:

  1. A 16bit/44.1kHz .WAV or 320kbps .MP3 (audio) file recorded on or after Monday 27 April 2020 of the quartet performing::
    • one complete Haydn quartet from List A below and
    • Schubert’s Quartettsatz
  2. List A: Haydn

    • Op. 20 No. 1
    • Op. 33 No. 1 or No. 4
    • Op. 50 No. 2, No. 4 or No. 5
    • Op. 54 No. 3
    • Op. 55 No. 1 or No. 3
    • Op. 64 No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 or No. 4
    • Op. 71 No. 1, No. 2 or No. 3
    • Op. 74 No. 1 or No. 2
    • Op. 76 – any quartet

There is no restriction on the number or position of the microphones used for the audio recording, but the recording must be of professional quality and must not be edited or altered in any way. The recording should consist of one complete take only for BOTH pieces, i.e. with no breaks between movements and without any repeats. The Competition advises applicants not to submit recordings made at a concert, as audience and other ambient noise can detract from the quality of the recording. The recorded audition can only be submitted only as a 16bit/44.1kHz .WAV or 320kbps .MP3 file; no other format can be accepted.

  1. An MP4 (video) recording of the audition recording session. The MP4 file should be recorded with one fixed camera, to give a front view of the whole quartet, and should consist of one complete take only for each piece.
    *Please note that the MP4 recording is for identity verification purposes only and does not therefore need to use moving camera shots or graphics; it should just be a visual record of the audition recording session.*

List A: Haydn

  • Op. 20 No. 1
  • Op. 33 No. 1 or No. 4
  • Op. 50 No. 2, No. 4 or No. 5
  • Op. 54 No. 3
  • Op. 55 No. 1 or No. 3
  • Op. 64 No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 or No. 4
  • Op. 71 No. 1, No. 2 or No. 3
  • Op. 74 No. 1 or No. 2
  • Op. 76 – any quartet



Please note:

  • Please download the Recording Certification Template (please see Rule 5 below) from our website
    (please insert URL here) and take it to the recording session, so that it can be completed and signed as appropriate BEFORE you make your application.
  • The Competition reserves the right to disqualify applicants entering enhanced or modified
    recordings. No other format than16bit/44.1kHz .WAV or 320kbps .MP3 files (audio) and MP4 files (video) will be accepted.
  • Any changes in the personnel of the quartet after the recordings have been made and submitted
    will result in the application being rejected.

Please note that your audio recording is the only part of the application materials that will be accessed by the Selection Jury during the Selection Stage. Members of the Selection Jury will listen ‘blind’ to all the submitted recordings and will not have access to any personal or biographical information, references or the video recording. Please therefore ensure that the submitted recording is made under the best possible conditions. Applications will be judged solely on the quality of the recorded performance, and this is the only criterion that the Selection Jury will use.

Stages 2, 3 and 4: Public Rounds

Stage 2: Preliminary Round must consist of two recital programmes as follows:

  1. Recital 1
    • Any one Haydn quartet from List A above excluding the Op. 76 quartets (NB: this must be a different quartet to the one selected for Stage 1) plus
    • Sally Beamish: Nine Fragments – String Quartet No. 4 (2018)
      Commissioned by the Elias Quartet, with funding from Wigmore Hall, the Harvard Musical Association and Het Concertgebouw.
      *Please note that the Elias Quartet has exclusivity on the work until June 30 2020; scores and parts will be available from Peters Edition after this date. For more information on the work please visit https://www.sallybeamish.com/single-post/2019/09/16/Nine-Fragments---String-Quartet-No-4
  2. Recital 2
    • One complete late Mozart quartet from the ten in List B below and
    • Free choice of any major 20th Century quartet written between 1900 and 2000, EXCLUDING Shostakovich. For example, Bartók (any quartet), Berg Lyric Suite, Britten (any quartet), Carter (any quartet), Elgar Quartet, Hindemith Quartet, Janáček (either quartet), Ligeti (either quartet), Prokofiev (either quartet), Ravel Quartet in F major, Schoenberg Quartet No. 3 or No. 4, Tippett (any quartet).
  3. List B: Mozart

    • G Major K387
    • D Minor K421
    • E Flat Major K428
    • B Flat Major K458
    • A Major K464
    • C Major K465
    • D Major K499
    • D Major K575
    • B Flat Major K589
    • F Major K590

Stage 3 – Semi-finals:

The ensembles which reach the Semi-finals must perform one of their two choices of 19th Century repertoire written between 1810-1900, from List C below. Competing quartets must prepare two complete quartets from this list and be prepared to play either of their choices should they reach the Semi-final. Once the Semi-finalists are known, the General Manager will choose the repertoire from their submitted choices, in order to achieve a balanced programme:

List C: 19th Century repertoire

  • Brahms Any Quartet
  • Debussy Quartet in G minor
  • Dvořák Quartet in A flat major Op. 105 or Quartet in G major Op. 106
  • Franck Quartet in D major
  • Mendelssohn Any Quartet
  • Schubert Quartet in G major D887, Quartet in G minor D173, Quartet in D minor D810 No. 14 or Quartet in A minor D804 No. 13
  • Schumann Any Quartet
  • Smetana Quartet in E minor Op. 116 No. 1
  • Tchaikovsky Quartet No. 3 in E flat major Op. 30
  • Verdi Quartet in E minor

Stage 4 - Final:

Finalists must play any one of Beethoven’s quartets EXCEPT Op. 18 and the Groẞe Fuge Op. 133 (either as a stand-alone piece OR as the finale to Op. 130). Competitors must prepare three complete Beethoven quartets for the Competition and be prepared to play any one of them should they reach the Final. Once the Finalists are known, the General Manager will choose the repertoire from their submitted choices, in order to achieve a balanced programme.


Competition Rules

  1. The Competition will be held from Tuesday 13 – Sunday 18 April 2021 inclusive at the Royal Academy of Music and Wigmore Hall. Please note that Competitors must arrive in London on Sunday 11 April in order to attend a briefing meeting on the evening of Sunday 11 April, as well as rehearsals and the Welcome Reception on Monday 12 April 2021.
  2. Applications open on Monday 27 April 2020 and close at 1.00pm GMT (UK time) on Thursday 3 December 2020.
  3. Recordings must be recent, recorded on or after Monday 27 April 2017.
  4. Applications that arrive after the closing date, or that do not contain all the required material, will not be accepted.
  5. The recording for Stage 1 must be certified by a recognised musician or the recording engineer as the recent work of the named performers. The certification should confirm the name of the quartet, the date and place of recording, and the repertoire. Competitors are advised to have the recording made professionally otherwise it may not do justice to their performance. You canownload the Recording Certification template as a PDF here: download
  6. The Competition is open to string quartets of all nationalities. The Competition is exclusively for string quartets; no other ensembles will be considered.
  7. In order to meet the criteria, each member of a quartet must be under the age of 35 on Tuesday 13 April 2021.
  8. The Competition is divided into four stages:
    • Stage 1 – Selection Stage: Pre-recorded audition by 16bit/44.1kHz .WAV or 320kbps .MP3 only
    • Stage 2: Rehearsals (daytime) and Welcome Reception (evening) on Monday 12 April 2021
      Preliminary Rounds on Tuesday 13, Wednesday 14, Thursday 15 and Friday 16 April 2021
    • Stage 3: Semi-finals on Saturday 17 April 2021
    • Stage 4: Final on Sunday 18 April 2021

    All Stages except Stage 1 will be open to the public and competitors will perform their programmes without interruption. Stage 2 will be held at the Royal Academy of Music, Stages 3 and 4 at Wigmore Hall.

  9. The order of performance for Stage 2 will be decided by the General Manager of the Competition approximately two months before the Competition begins. The order of performance for subsequent rounds will be determined by the General Manager of the Competition in order to provide a balanced programme from the repertoire chosen by the selected quartets.
  10. For the purpose of the Competition, a string quartet is defined as a chamber music ensemble consisting of first and second violins, viola, and cello and in terms of repertoire, a piece of music written for a string quartet.


  • Works originally written for a string quartet.

Not Allowed

  • Arrangements of works originally written for ensembles other than a string quartet.
  • New commissions, unless they have been commissioned by the Competition.
  1. All applicants must submit their programme for Stage 1 on the official application form to correspond with the repertoire outlined in the Repertoire and Selection Process section.
  2. Quartets selected for the Competition must submit their programme for Stages 2, 3 and 4 on the official application form to correspond with the repertoire outlined in the Repertoire and Selection Process section.
  3. Timings of all works must be submitted with programmes. The Jury reserves the right to penalise competitors who overrun.
  4. The Jury’s decision at any stage of the Competition is final and not open to discussion or correspondence.
  5. Quartets will be informed by email whether they have been selected to progress to Stage 2 of the Competition by Friday 18 December 2020. Once accepted, their acknowledgement, programmes for Stages 2, 3 and 4, 200 word biography, high resolution (minimum 300dpi) colour photograph and further entrance fee must be received by Wednesday 6 January 2021. The Selection Jury’s decision to accept or refuse an application is final and requires no explanation. Subject to the advice of the Selection Jury, up to 12 quartets will be selected to compete in London.
  6. The right is reserved to stream, broadcast or televise any stage of the Competition. However, competitors are not permitted to bring any photographic or recording equipment into any stage of the Competition.
  7. Previous winners of the First Prize of the Competition are excluded from further participation in any subsequent Competition.

Practical Information

Practical Information for Competitors

  1. Selected quartets will be expected to arrive in London no later than the evening of Sunday 11 April 2021 and leave on Monday 19 April 2021.
  2. The Preliminary Round of the Competition will take place from Tuesday 13 – Friday 16 April 2021 at the Royal Academy of Music in London. The Semi-finals will take place on the afternoon and evening of Saturday 17 April and the Final on the evening of Sunday 18 April, at Wigmore Hall. All performances will be open to the public.
  3. Selected quartets not based in the UK will also be asked to perform once outside the Competition timetable at lunchtime concerts or in community settings in London as part of Wigmore Hall’s Learning Programme surrounding the Competition.
  4. Please note that the First Prize winner will be required to remain in London on Monday 19 April 2021 for possible media interviews, so travel arrangements must be flexible to allow for this.
  5. Wigmore Hall will, if required, provide one return economy travel ticket to London, for the cello of each competing quartet, the cost of which will be reimbursed by Wigmore Hall after the Competition. No other travel expenses can be refunded. Each competing quartet is responsible for booking their travel.
  6. The Competition is required by law to deduct Withholding Tax from any prize money payments made to competitors not resident (for tax purposes) in the UK. However, the Competition has entered into a global agreement with the Foreign Entertainers Unit of HMRC for the deduction of certain expenses. A tax deduction certificate will be given to these competitors as proof of Withholding Tax paid, if a tax deduction is made. This can be used to claim credit from the tax authorities in the competitor’s country of residence. Further information will be available from the General Manager once a candidate has successfully passed the audition stage.
  7. It is the responsibility of competing quartets to ensure that any necessary visas are applied for in good time before the Competition. Wigmore Hall is happy to write supporting letters but cannot make visa applications on behalf of any competing quartets.
  8. Accommodation will be provided at a University Hall of Residence, and Wigmore Hall will pay for bed and breakfast for 8 nights for competing quartets (Sunday 11 – Sunday 18 April inclusive). Any additional nights will be charged separately and must be booked and paid for direct.
  9. Separate and dedicated rehearsal rooms for each quartet, including the provision of solid music stands, will be available at the Royal Academy of Music. Rehearsal time in the Duke’s Hall, the main Competition performance venue at the Royal Academy of Music, will also be available on Monday 12 April 2021, before the Competition starts.
    We strongly advise competing quartets to take advantage of this rehearsal opportunity on Monday 12 April, as there will be no other rehearsal time in the Duke’s Hall once the Competition has started.
  10. The organisers of the Competition can accept no responsibility for loss or damage to candidates' instruments or any other property at any time. Candidates are advised to make their own insurance arrangements.
  11. All contestants shall agree to have their performances recorded, filmed, or broadcast on the Wigmore Hall website or on radio or television anywhere in the world. No payment will be made to contestants for the recording or broadcasting of Competition performances.
  12. Quartets which do not reach the Final stage will be given an opportunity, if they so wish, to discuss their performances in private with members of the Jury before the Final stage takes place.
  13. Submitting the application form constitutes agreement by each candidate to be bound by all the rules of the Competition.
  14. Only the English text will be considered valid in the case of dispute and English Law will prevail.
  15. All communications should be addressed by This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by post to:

    Ruth Wheal
    General Manager, Competitions
    Wigmore Hall
    36 Wigmore Street
    London W1U 2BP

Application Process and Requirements for Entry

{fold}Application Information and Requirements for Entry/fold}

The deadline for applications is 1:00pm GMT (UK time) on Thursday 3 December 2020. All application forms, references and other documentation plus the recorded Selection Stage 16bit/44.1kHz .WAV or 320kbps .MP3 and MP4 files must be received by the Competition General Manager by this date and time.

Please use the online application form, which can be found here: Application Form

Applications open on Monday 27 April 2020. In order to apply to enter the Competition you must:

  • Pay your initial registration fee of £25 for each application via the online application form, by credit or debit card or by PayPal.
  • For quartets resident outside the UK please note that any card usage fees or bank charges are not included in the £25 fee, and must be paid by the candidate (if applicable).
  • When you have paid your fee, uploaded all the required materials, and completed and submitted the application form, you will receive an automated confirmation email. If you do not receive this email within 5 working days, please email the General Manager, Competitions to check that your application has been received.

You must upload the following required materials to the online application form:

  • Your WAV or 320MP3 (audio) recording of Haydn & Schubert.
  • Your MP4 (video) recording of the audio recording session.
  • Certification of the WAV or 320MP3 and MP4 files confirming the date of the recording and verifying the recording as the recent work of the named competitors (see Rule 5).
  • Copies or scans of the passport for each member of the quartet confirming each person’s
    date of birth. NB: if you do not have passports, then ID cards (NOT drivers’ licences) are
    acceptable for the purposes of application only. If you are accepted for the Competition, then you must apply for passports as soon as possible and send copies/scans to the General Manager once you have them
  • Current biography of the quartet plus a current CV for each member of the quartet with
    particulars of general education and professional training together with details of recent concert
    NB: please make this ONE document, not 5 separate ones.
  • The names of TWO prominent musicians who will each provide a recent professional reference
    for the quartet referring to this specific Competition. References should be emailed direct to the General Manager, Competitions, at the above email address.

Once a quartet has been selected to proceed to Stage 2, you will be required to do the following:

Complete a second online form, which will require you to:

  • Pay a further entrance fee of £35, payable online in the same way as the initial registration fee.
  • Provide complete programmes for Stages 2, 3 and 4 of the Competition (Preliminary Round, Semi-
    finals and Final), with timings, publishers and editions.
  • Upload an updated short biography of 200 words maximum for inclusion on the website and in
    the printed programme which must cover the period up to and including April 2021.
  • Upload one recent high-resolution colour photograph (minimum 1MB or 300dpi) of each quartet
    suitable for reproduction in the programme. Please include the photographer’s name/credit if
  • Confirm of whether the accommodation provided by the Competition is required.


One complete late Mozart quartet from the ten in List B below:

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