It all began 50 years ago in the living-room of a cottage in Enville, on the main road between Stourbridge and Bridgnorth, when Gwyneth and Basil Poole decided that their lovely grand piano deserved to be played by talented young pianists.

And so the Dudley Piano Competition was born, held at first as a couple of classes during the annual Dudley Competitive Music Festival, and then becoming an event in its own right, eventually blossoming into concerto finals at Dudley Town Hall.

One of the first peaks in the competition’s career was when the services of the Corinthian Orchestra were secured, conducted by Peter Donohoe, who himself had been a renowned prizewinner in one of the world’s greatest piano competitions, the Moscow Tchaikovsky.

Another renowned prizewinner in the Moscow competition is the much-loved pianist, now conductor, Vladimir Ashkenazy, patron of the competition.

Donohoe had also been a Dudley prizewinner in his earlier days, and others have included Paul Lewis, Joanna MacGregor (who once told me off for describing her as “the Kate Bush of the classical piano”) and Tim Horton, who early in his career stood in for an indisposed Alfred Brendel in the Schoenberg Piano Concerto with Simon Rattle and the CBSO .

This year’s hopefuls are geared up for finals performances in Birmingham Symphony Hall , with the CBSO conducted by Michael Seal.

“The CBSO is the only major orchestra in this country which features a piano competition in its season,” says John Humphreys, chairman and artistic advisor since 2002 to what is now known as the Dudley International Piano Competition. He also goes on to tell me the next competition, to be held in 2020 (it is a triennial event) is already penned into the CBSO’s diary, as is the continuing generous support of Yamaha pianos.

“Yamaha have provided a CFX concert grand for the finals, as well as several practice pianos,” he explains gratefully.

“We’ve also received great support from the Limoges Trust, who have donated £4000 for the first prize – the Limoges Prize – as well as from local solicitors Waldrons, and the Harding Trust.”

Second and third prizes are £3,000 and £2,000 respectively, and there is also the promise of the prize for one of the finalists of a recording on the prestigious SOMM CD label.

Siva Oke, founder and director of SOMM, is one of the members of the adjudicating panel, which is headed by the much-respected pianist Gordon Fergus-Thompson.

Gordon and John have been sifting through the 53 applications (maximum age 35), all of whom been required to upload three recordings, in order to whittle down the field to 16 for the first of two preliminary rounds.

This will be held at Dudley College on October 21, when the contestants will each perform a 20-minute recital consisting of a work by Bach or Scarlatti, a Romantic piece, and a third free choice – a lot to squeeze into a mere third of an hour, methinks.

Next day a selected eight semi-finalists will offer a 45-minute recital with an entirely free choice of programme.

John Humphreys is delighted that 12 students from Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, of which he was until recently assistant head of keyboard studies, will be stewarding during these two demanding days.

The three contestants selected for the finals in one of the world’s great concert halls, accompanied by one of the world’s great orchestras, with one of the world’s most sympathetic conductors, each have to offer in advance two concertos, with the choice of which one is actually to be performed to be made by the adjudicating panel. This is to avoid the regrettable situation at the Leeds International Piano Competition, when the finals, televised live on BBC2 (happy days!), included no fewer than three performances of the Schumann Piano Concerto out of the six offerings, each one accompanied with stoical freshness by the CBSO under Simon Rattle.Lars Vogt was declared the winner, but Schumann, under that combined assault, probably lost.

Paul Arden-Taylor, highly respected as a sound-engineer as well as oboist (the English Symphony Orchestra among his desks), is recording the finals, and there will be an additional prize awarded, chosen by the audience-members themselves.

  • Preliminary rounds on October 21 and 22 at Dudley College. Concerto Finals at Symphony Hall on Saturday November 4 (3pm). Details on 0121 780 3333.