In September 2009 Sofya Gulyak was awarded the 1st prize and the Princess Mary Gold Medal at the Sixteenth Leeds International Piano Competition – the first woman in the history of the competition to achieve this distinction. Since then she has appeared all over the world to great acclaim.
Her recital programs are frequently reviewed in superlatives, and her concerto appearances with major orchestras are noted in glowing terms by the world’s music press. Sofya has been praised for her "tremendous precision and coloration...exquisite soft playing ...with delicacy" and described as a “Rach star" (Washington Post).
Sofya Gulyak’s resume includes prizes from many prestigious piano competitions: she is a 1st prize winner of William Kapell International Piano Competition in the USA, Maj Lind Helsinki International Piano Competition, Tivoli Piano Competition in Copenhagen, Isang Yun International Piano Competition in South Korea, San Marino Piano Competition, winner of Busoni Competition in Italy and prize winner of Marguerite Long Piano Competition in Paris.
Recitals and concert appearances have been numerous, with Sofya Gulyak having performed all over the globe in such venues as La Scala Theatre and Sala Verdi in Milan, Herculessaal in Munich, Salle Cortot, Salle Gaveau and Salle Pleyel in Paris, Grand Hall of Moscow Conservatory, Konzerthaus in Berlin, Gewandhaus in Leipzig, Kennedy Center in Washington, Palais de la Musique in Strasbourg, Hong Kong City Hall, Shanghai Grand Theatre, Tokyo Opera City Hall, Osaka Symphony Hall, Musashino Cultural Centre in Tokyo, National Hungarian Opera in Budapest, National Forum of Music in Wroclaw, Finlandia Hall in Helsinki, Bridgewater Hall in Manchester, Teatro Municipal and Cidade des Artes in Rio de Janeiro, Auditorium Manzoni in Bologna, Salle Molière in Lyon, Walt Disney Hall in Los Angeles, King Theatre in Rabat, Kursaal in Bern, Tivoli Concert Hall in Copenhagen etc..
Sofya Gulyak appeared as a soloist with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Finnish Radio Symphony, Saint-Petersburg Philharmonic, Rio de Janeiro Symphony, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Hallé Orchestra, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra dell’ Arena di Verona, Orchestra Filarmonica di Bologna, Budapest Philharmonic, Enescu Philharmonic, Stavanger Symphony, Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz, Slovak Radio Symphony, Helsinki Philharmonic, Copenhagen Symphony, Ulster Symphony, Orchestre National de France, Shanghai Philharmonic,Wroclaw Philharmonic, Oulu Philharmonic, Leipzig Philharmonic, Pensacola Symphony, Tatarstan Symphony, Philippines Philharmonic, Morocco Philharmonic and others. She collaborated with conductors such as Vladimir Ashkenazy, Sakari Oramo, Mark Elder, David Hill, Donald Runnicle, Vasily Petrenko, Alexander Lazarev, Alan Buribayev, Eiving Gullberg Jensen, Theodor Guschlbauer, Giancarlo Guerrero, Rory McDonald, Danail Rachev, Fabio Mastrangelo, Michele Mariotti, Marat Bisengaliev, Fuat Mansurov, Alexander Sladkovsky, Mario Kosik, Jesus Medina, and Peter Rubardt. The festivals in which Sofya Gulyak participated include Klavier Ruhr Festival, Chopin Festival in Duzniki-Zdroj, Festival de Sceaux, International Keyboard Festival in New York, International Strasbourg Festival, Busoni Festival, Harrogate Festival, Kraków Piano Festival, New Zealand Piano Festival, Ravello Festival, Festival Chopin in Paris, Shanghai International Piano Festival and many others.
Sofya Gulyak’s recording of Russian piano music (Medtner, Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev) was released on Champs Hill Records in 2013 and received a 5 stars review in Diapason magazine (“What a pleasure to hear the piano blossoming and projecting in the most vivid of ways when played by Sofya Gulyak. The singing sound alongside dazzling and powerful execution distinguishes an outstanding natural pianist”) and praising review in Gramophone (“This is a stunning debut album…”) and glowing review from Guardian magazines (“Sofya Gulyak is a fearless pianist, never afraid to scale the most technically demanding heights of the repertoire and equally proud to wear her heart on her sleeve”). Her CD with Brahms music was released on Piano Classics in the spring of 2015 and has got praising review from American Record Guide (“The Handel Variations is among the top contenders on record. From the very first notes she takes charge and envelops us in a thrilling sequence of variations that will send goose bumps to susceptible listeners. Not only does she perform with arresting contrast and lovely, soft floating tone. She keeps you on the edge of your seat, as the music presses ever forward. Sometimes I was reminded of the young Argerich”) and “Fanfare” magazine (“Her musicality is beautifully attuned to the spirit of Brahms…I must praise Kazan-born Russian pianist Sofya Gulyak, whose impressive reading places a stronger emphasis than Perahia’s on the continuity of the variations…She’s a natural Brahmsian whatever his moods.”) .. Her next CD with the Chaconnes for piano will be released in 2017 on Champs Hill records.
Sofya Gulyak is a native of Kazan (Russia) where she studied in a Special Music College under Nailya Khakimova, and then in Kazan State Conservatoire under Professor Elfiya Burnasheva. After that she continued her studies at the Piano Academy "Incontri col Maestro" (Imola, Italy) with Boris Petrushansky and at the Royal College of Music in London with Vanessa Latarche. Sofya Gulyak attended as a jury member the international piano competitions in Italy, Serbia, France, Greece, USA, and was invited to teach master classes in China, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, Philippines, Hong Kong, Mexico, USA and Germany.
She is presently a professor of the piano at the Royal College of Music in London. Her playing has been broadcast on radio and TV in Russia, Poland, France, Italy, Germany, USA, Finland, Denmark, Serbia, New Zealand, Brazil, Mexico, United Kingdom (BBC3 and BBC4) and other countries.