In autumn of 1987, the first competition was conducted together with Radio Bremen, and, as the competition of the year 1989, it was only open to German pianists aged 16–30.
It was held on a national level. But already in 1990, the three partners Landesmusikrat Bremen e.V., Radio Bremen and the Sparkasse Bremen decided to open the competition to musicians from Europe and Turkey as well as Israel. Therewith, the European unification in the areas of arts and youth encounter and exchange should be fostered.
Hence since then, the competition has always been under the patronage of the current foreign minister, including Hans Dietrich Genscher, Klaus Kinkel, Joschka Fischer and Frank Walter Steinmeier.