WARSAW, Poland (AP) — A gala concert on Saturday opened the 18th edition of the prestigious Frederic Chopin international piano competition, which was postponed by a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Oct.2-23 competition was scheduled for October 2020, but authorities put the popular event off expecting that social distancing requirements would ban the usual crowds of fans from attending the auditions at the National Philharmonic in Warsaw.

The competition in which only Chopin’s works are played is reputed for launching world careers for its winners and finalists. It includes three stages of solo piano performances, the best of which lead to the promotion to a higher stage, and the final stage where the few finalists play one of Chopin’s two concertos with the orchestra.

The winner gets a gold medal and a prize of 40,000 euros ($45,000) and prestigious recording and concert contracts. The announcement of the winner is expected Oct. 20.

The concerts from 87 participants from around the world — from South Korea to The United States — begin Sunday morning with the performance of Xuanyi Mao from China. The 17-member international jury includes past winners and finalists. Missing from the jury this year will be Brazil’s Nelson Freire and Argentina’s Martha Argerich.

Among past winners are Argerich, Garrick Ohlsson from the United States, Poland’s Krystian Zimerman and Artur Blechacz and Seong-Jin Cho of South Korea.

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The inaugural concert Saturday featured Cho and other past finalists and winners — Yulianna Avdeeva, Philippe Giusiano, Kevin Kenner and Dang Thai Son — in piano works by Johan Sebastian Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven and Robert Schumann.

The first edition was held in 1927 and then every five years, but World War II forced a postponement of the 4th edition until 1949.

Chopin, Poland’s best known and beloved classical music composer and pianist, was born in 1810 in Zelazowa Wola near Warsaw to a Polish mother and a French father. He left Poland at 19 to broaden his music education in Vienna and then in Paris, where he settled, composing, giving concerts and teaching piano. He died in Paris in 1849 and is buried at the Pere Lachaise cemetery. His heart is at the Holy Cross Church in Warsaw.

There will be no competition auditions Oct. 17, to allow the participants and the jury to attend traditional observances of Chopin’s death anniversary that include a rendition of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Requiem” at the Holy Cross Church.

The auditions can be followed live on the Chopin Institute YouTube channel and on Polish state Radio channel.