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The Jury – Main Competition

The chairman is the Swiss organist, harpsichordist and musicologist Jean-Claude Zehnder (1941). Zehnder studied at the Winterthur Konservatorium, at the Universität Zürich and at the Musikakademie Wien with Anton Heiller and in Amsterdam with Gustav Leonhardt. In 1966 he accepted the position of organist and choirmaster at the Evangelische Stadtkirche in Frauenfeld and began teaching organ and harpsichord at the Winterthur Konservatorium. From 1972 till 2006 he led the organ department at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis.

As a performer and a researcher Zehnder has focused on the Baroque period, specializing in the stylistic development and performance practice of Johann Sebastian Bach. As a result of this he has published studies mainly on the early works of Bach. For this he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Technical University of Dortmund in 2002.

Zehnder has published numerous recordings (e.g. Bach’s Orgelbüchlein and Die achtzehn Leipziger Choräle) and as a concert organist he has performed throughout Europe. In addition to his concert activities, he has been – and still is – internationally active as a juror at organ competitions and as a lecturer of organ courses like the Sommerakademie für Alte Musik in Innsbruck and the Organ Weeks in Muri and Arlesheim.
Zehnder is also the titular organist of the Johann-Andreas Silbermann/Metzler organ (from 1761) at the Dom in Arlesheim.

Nathan Laube (1987) earned his Bachelor of Music Degree at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where he studied organ with Alan Morrison. In 2010–2011 he spent one academic year at the Conservatoire Rayonnement Régional in Toulouse, studying with Michel Bouvard and Jan Willem Jansen, followed by a graduate degree program in 2011 at the Musikhochschule in Stuttgart Germany as a student of Ludger Lohmann. He has been the recipient of both William Fulbright and DAAD fellowships.Laube is an internationally renowned concert organist and pedagogue. In addition to serving on the faculty of the Eastman School of Music (Rochester, USA) as Associate Professor of Organ, as International Consultant in Organ Studies at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire (UK) and since 2021 as organ professor at the Hochschule für Musik in Stuttgart, Laube’s extensive recital career includes major venues spanning four continents.

Nathan Laube is a regular guest at international American and European organ festivals, appearing in the capacity of a performer, lecturer, and teacher of masterclasses. In 2016, he was chosen to play the inaugural recital of the restored Harrison & Harrison organ of King’s College Chapel in Cambridge (UK), and had the honor of serving as the first artist-in-residence of the 1738 Müller organ in St. Bavo in Haarlem.
Laube’s CD recordings are available on the labels Naxos and Ambiente.

The French composer, organist and pedagogue Éric Lebrun (1967) completed his studies at the Conservatoire de Paris. He studied with Gaston Litaize and Michel Chapuis and graduated with the highest honors, winning a ‘Premier Prix’ for organ and three other first prizes, as well as earning a diploma in music history. He has worked with distinguished organists such as Anne-Marie Barat, Daniel Roth, Michel Bouvard and Olivier Latry and with pianist Bruno Rigutto. With musicologist Jean Saint-Arroman he worked on reconstructing music used in 17th century religious services.Éric Lebrun has been an award winner and finalist in several international competitions. After winning the Grand Prix de Chartres in 1990 he was appointed titular organist of the Cavaillé-Coll instrument at the Parisian church Saint Antoine des Quinze-Vingts, a position which he holds to this day. With his wife, organist Marie-Ange Leurent, he forms an organ duo for four hands

Since 1990, Éric Lebrun has been a lecturer at renowned music academies like the Conservatory of Fontainebleau and the Sorbonne. As a teacher he contributed to the training of many young generation interpreters, several of whom won international competitions. He was founder of the didactic class at the National Superior Conservatory of Music in Paris, and the Organ Academies of Nemours (with André Isoir), Sarlat and Bourron-Marlotte in the Fontainebleau area. He is currently Professor of Organ at the Conservatory at Saint-Maur des Fossés and Honorary Professor at the Royal Conservatory of Aarhus (Denmark), and gives international masterclasses at music academies such as The Royal Academy of Music in London and the conservatories of Bologna and Piacenza.

Éric Lebrun’s recorded albums include the complete works of Jehan Alain, Maurice Duruflé, César Franck and Alexandre Boëly, and (in collaboration with his wife) of Dieterich Buxtehude, Gaston Litaize, and J.S. Bach. He is the author of several books, including biographies on Dieterich Buxtehude, Alexandre Boëly (with Brigitte François-Sappey), César Franck, J.S. Bach and Claude Debussy. As a composer Éric Lebrun has written about fifty works including the cycle Mystères du Rosaire, Trois Poèmes Liturgiques (commissioned by the Sacred Music Festival of Sylvanès Abbey), Sonata Sacra for organ (commissioned by the Comminges Festival) and Canticum Fratris Solis based on the life of Saint Francis of Assisi (inaugural performance by France-Musique).

Reitze Smits (1956) studied organ, harpsichord, composition, improvisation and musicology in Utrecht and The Hague. He won awards in several international organ competitions (Toulouse, Bruges, Nijmegen). As a concert organist he has performed in many European countries. With his own baroque ensemble Concerto Strumentale he has appeared at several international festivals, achieving success with his effective ‘reconstructions’ of Bach organ concertos. In collaboration with vocal soloists, he conducted a series of cantatas by Bach and other German baroque composers, including a performance of the St John Passion.As a teacher Reitze Smits has trained many students who have proceeded to become successful musicians. He is a teacher of organ and improvisation at the Music Academy of Utrecht and the Lemmens Institute in Leuven and he has been a guest lecturer at international organ courses in Haarlem, Toulouse, Brno, Mallorca and at other venues.

In his CD recordings Reitze Smits is known to explore the interface between repertoires for organ, harpsichord and pianoforte. In doing so he has arranged and recorded several organ pieces based on works originally written for piano or orchestra, including Mendelssohn’s ‘Variations Sérieuses’ and works by Satie, Poulenc and Milhaud. Also his own compositions Five Light Pieces, Distant Music and Tripartite have now appeared in print.

In the year 2000 he established the foundation of the music festival ‘Voor the Wind’, of which he was artistic director until 2017. The purpose of this festival was to promote the organ to attract new audiences by combining the instrument with other performing arts, like dance, jazz or youth theatre. In 2011 the festival took to the international stage with a new name, ‘Connecting Arts’, bringing concerts and performances to Toulouse, Copenhagen and Malmö a.o.
In 2010 Reitze Smits was awarded the prestigious Sweelinck Prize for his contributions to the Dutch organ culture.

The Italian Pier Damiano Peretti (1974) studied organ with Antonio Cozza and composition with Wolfgango Dalla Vecchia at the conservatory of his hometown Vicenza. Masterclasses led him to organists like Luigi Ferdinando Tagliavini, Harald Vogel, Jean-Claude Zehnder, Jacques van Oortmerssen and Rinaldo Alessandrini. After his graduation in 1996 he continued his studies at the Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst in Vienna, where he worked with Herbert Tachezi and Michael Radulescu. He graduated with distinction in 2002. He completed his education with an Erasmus stay in Hamburg with Wolfgang Zerer and Pieter van Dijk, as well as with further courses in composition at the Darmstädter Ferienkurse (a.o. with Wolfgang Rihm).Peretti won awards in several international organ competitions (Bologna, Pretoria, Innsbruck, Toulouse, Hamburg); in 1999 he was the winner of the prestigious St. Albans International Organ Competition. As a composer he writes pieces for and with organ, as well as chamber music, orchestral and vocal works. His compositions earned him several awards: a first prize at the Organ Composition Contest Saarlouis-Lisdorf in 2017 and the Audience Prize at the Weimarer Frühjahrstage für Neue Musik in 2018, a.o. In 2015 he received the ‘Outstanding Artist award’ of the Austrian government.

From 2002 to 2009 Pier Damiano Peretti taught as an organ professor at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater Hannover, before being appointed professor at the Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst in Vienna in March 2009. He is regularly invited as a member of the jury at international organ competitions (Nürnberg, Weimar, Tokyo, Odense, Dublin, Montreal, St. Albans) and also gives guest lectures and masterclasses at international organ institutions such as Edinburgh Organ Academy, Hochschule Stuttgart, GOART Göteborg, Norddeutsche Orgelakademiekademie Stade, the Internationale Orgelwoche Nürnberg, Organeum Weener, Piteå Music Academy, Associazione Italiana Organisti di Chiesa, Leipziger Orgelakademie and the Korean Organists Convention.

Related to his busy concert schedule, Peretti travelled throughout Europe, the Far East, Israel and Canada performing repertoire from early to contemporary music. His CD recordings are published by Ursina-Motette, Carrara, IFO-Records and Naxos and include music by Italian and Spanish baroque composers, Dieterich Buxtehude’s complete choral-fantasias, Bach’s Dritter Theil der Clavierübung, and Organ works by Marco Enrico Bossi and Bruno Bettinelli.

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