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A conducting competition is held behind a screen

August 5, 2017 by norman lebrecht

56 comments.


The results are in for the first conducting contest where the competitors were unseen by the judges.

It took place in Radom, Poland, from 9-15 July with 39 competitors from 21 countries.

The winners:

1st Prize – Igor Manasherov (Russia)

2nd Prize – Adrian Slywotzky (USA)
3rd Prize – Naoyuki Hayashi (Japan)
Yuri Simonov Prize – Sébastien Thomas Bagnoud (Switzerland)
Orchestra Prize – Naoyuki Hayashi (Japan)

Read more here.


Comments (56)

  1. mr oakmountain says:

    Interesting concept. I believe it was Sir Adrian Boult who sayid that a conductor should try to appeal to the blind members of the adience – rather than being a feast for the eyes.

    1. Alexander says:

      “blind members of the audience” sounds too severe for me as for the rest of your words I tend to agree

  2. mr oakmountain says:

    The conductor not being allowed to speak in rehearsal is harsh, but I remember a course at the Vienna University where Johannes Prinz (Singverein) not just forbade a conducting student to speak to the ensemble, but even made him conduct without the use of his hands, so that he would add more nuance to his body language, breathing and the way he looked at the performers.

    1. Jonathan Brett says:

      It was not harsh: we were not looking for great performances in the screened rounds, just a comparison of skills. Not speaking was necessary to preserve anonymity on the one hand and to provide a basis for a clearer assessment on the other. Conductors are not allowed to talk in performances, many of which would actually be better if they talked less in rehearsal and did more with their hands. As one of those who did not make it to the final commented afterwards: “Interesting to see this situation of ‘not allowed to speak’ versus ‘allowed to speak’; from the moment the conductors were allowed to speak, they only mentioned issues they can easily show in their conducting.”

      1. Ungeheuer says:

        Watch this and then tell me that “many would be better if they talked less in rehearsal”. Ladies & gents, CARLOS KLEIBER rehearses the ‘Fledermaus’ overture:
        https://youtu.be/NVk2Glu-7kM

        1. Max Grimm says:

          Alright, I’ve watched it and “many would be better if they talked less in rehearsal”.
          Despite the fact that most simply can’t compare to Carlos Kleiber, loquacious or otherwise, the problem is not so much conductors talking amply during rehearsals per se but conductors who could achieve much of what they want by simply showing it but get lost, wasting time with abstruse lectures and obscure explanations, or talking a lot but really saying very little.

      2. mr oakmountain says:

        Thanks for your response! I agree with you inasmuch as the technical skills of a conductor are concerned. Yes, conductors should be able to communicate nonverbally, and technique is important and sometimes overlooked, but I am sure you have been in rehearsal situations where a good verbal image you communicated to the orchestra had a massive change on the music which went deeper than whatever you could have shown with your hands. I do salute your approach however since it differs from what other competitions do, and so might show up talent that misses out elsewhere.

        1. Jonathan Brett says:

          The first three rounds were intended to be all about comparison of skills. Once they got past those they were allowed to speak and rehearse as they wished for the final performance.

  3. Ruben Greenberg says:

    I suggest putting a screen between the conductor and the orchestra.

    1. Patrick says:

      At once brilliant and snarky. You have my respect, sir!

  4. Elizabeth owen says:

    I can never understand why conductors conduct with their eyes closed – Gergiev comes to mind. Surely they need to make eye contact with the instrumentalists? Mind you Yannick micro manages – it’s your turn, now it’s yours which is the opposite.

  5. herrera says:

    If Toscanini were forbidden to speak during rehearsals, how was he going to curse out and insult the orchestra?

    A hard stare just can’t do justice to “your have ears in your feet! … I feel like kicking everyone in the ass!”

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-1KtSOwLXE

    1. John Nemaric says:

      I don’t believe Toscanini was “insulting” the orchestra, but merely describing their playing. For example: he might have said “idiots” however, it was meant to say their playing at that moment was idiotic. If and when Toscanini wanted to insult them, and I mean really insult, he would thrown something at them…a shoe, maybe?

  6. Ungeheuer says:

    What?! No women? No African Americans? No Hispanics? No trans-sexuals?

    1. herrera says:

      It must be such a privilege to be a straight white male.

      Congratulations.

      The Bible does day “blessed are the straight white males for they shall inherit the earth”.

    2. Robert Holmén says:

      Looking at the event’s photo gallery there seem to have been about 8 female entrants and possibly a few latin-origin entrants as well in the ~35 total

      2 females made it to the semi final round of 9.

      The financial cost of getting to Poland and staying there for several days is probably a substantial barrier in itself to entry for any but the very well-heeled classes.

  7. Bruce says:

    Speaking as an orchestral musician, this sounds like a wonderful idea.

    It’s not that conductors talk too much, but that they… well, yes it is — partly. Here’s how I see it happen in my orchestra (and it has been happening this way since I joined nearly 28 years ago):

    In the first read-through, the conductor indicates something through gesture — a relaxing of the tempo at the end of a phrase, an emphasis on the change of dynamics printed in the score. The orchestra, staring at their parts, ignores him; or some people catch it and some people don’t, resulting in momentary disarray. We pull ourselves together and go on.

    In the second read-through (usually later in the same rehearsal), the conductor does the same thing in the same place, with the same result. At this point, either the conductor usually stops and has to make an announcement — “I want to slow down a little here” — or a musician raises their hand and asks “Are you slowing down here?” This may not happen until the third or fourth time if more people are catching it each time, depending on the conductor’s willingness to give it one more try, and/or the musicians’ level of impatience with the conductor or their colleagues.

    Anyway, at this point the rehearsal process changes. Now the same thing happens with every nuance: no matter how clear or unclear the conductor’s gestures may be, there will be musicians who are unable or unwilling to follow them and require explanations in words. Only after being explained do the conductor’s gestures gain meaning. Rehearsals become word-centered rather than gesture- and sound-centered.

    Naturally, the musicians then complain that the conductor talks too much. :\

    1. Bruce says:

      ^ My point being that, if there was an understanding that the conductor would not speak, and gestures would be the only means of communication, the musicians might be more attentive and do a better job of picking up visual information.

      1. Jonathan Brett says:

        Exactly. And, as another consequence, conductors would need to ensure that the gestures actually support the intentions.

      2. Anon says:

        that’s a bit of an hen-or-egg-first question.

        1. Jonathan Brett says:

          Not really, I think it starts with having the right moves – hence the way the first three rounds of this competition were organised.

    2. Gerhard says:

      My orchestra experience (a bit more than four decades) has taught me something else: most conductors will express their intention verbally regardless whether the musicians have already realized it and played accordingly or not. Therefore in my orchestra the saying goes “having played it doesn’t count, but having been told to do so does”.

  8. Sixtus says:

    From reading at the provided link it’s not clear that the candidates were forbidden to talk at rehearsals. Some nuances, such as a sforzano’s sharpness, simply cannot be adjusted without any verbiage. There are pictures of the rehearsals as well, from which one can see that there was at least one female candidate. I hope the judges didn’t see any of the pictures, nor, indeed, learn of the candidates’ identities until after the final vote. I doubt this was the case. Any claims of bias free voting unfortunately can be dismissed since we also learn that the screen came down for the final round. By common scientific standards, this wasn’t a “blind” process at all.

    1. Jonathan Brett says:

      Personally I think that there is a great deal which can be done in terms of nuance with gesture alone and that it is certainly possible to change inflection of sforzando without discussion. More importantly, though, given your doubts, it seems necessary to clarify that for three rounds the jury had no possible way to know who could be conducting. There were various reasons for making the final open, of which the most significant was the sheer difficulty of preserving the anonymous process over the two days. True it was finally not wholly “blind” but perhaps you should remember that it was an experiment – in fact a quite radical departure from the norm. – from which we learned a good deal and may well review some aspects in future.

      1. Sixtus says:

        In the rehearsal process just how did the candidates indicate where to restart playing, sign language? Normally such spoken phrases as ‘three bars before C’ would be used.

  9. JOHN MCLAUGHLIN WILLIAMS says:

    Among best conducting and learning experiences I’ve had was conducting an orchestra whose language I did not speak. It forced me to concentrate each motion and imbue every gesture with the most direct and communicative movement I could muster. The less one speaks, the more attentive is the orchestra. Professionals who are constantly playing core repertoire tune out when conductor X comes for the same symphony they’ve played countless times before under other conductors, all of whom are convinced they are bringing something new to the show.

    1. mr oakmountain says:

      I think singing a passage to the orchestra in rehearsal is often the fastest way to get the phrasing across, irrespective of language barriers.

    2. Bruce says:

      A great story I heard in college from someone who had played for Erich Leinsdorf (who spoke perfect English) in a summer festival somewhere. I forget what the piece was, or whom he was “talking” to, but it went like this:

      • Pound fist into opposite palm 3 times
      • Close eyes and shake head “no”
      • Tap concentrated fingertips into opposite palm
      • Look at player in question with eyebrows raised; nod
      • Twirl finger in air to indicate “da capo”
      • Raise arms to conduct

      I’ve waited my whole professional career to see something like that actually happen in a rehearsal. Still waiting.

  10. Roberto Trainini says:

    I actually was the soloist for the semifinal as well juror both in the semifinal and the final. Behavior and voting rules were very strict, but as soloist I was obviously allowed to see the conductors in the semifinal. Guess what, my opinions and voting without the screen were practically identical to the rest of the jury ones expressed from behind the screen.

  11. Mike says:

    Conducting competitions, as with all musical competitions, are stupid.

  12. M2N2K says:

    A useful experiment, but rather limited because of the speaking prohibition. Good conductors should be able to explain their intentions quickly and effectively during rehearsals because some of the musical subtleties are virtually impossible to show silently in a way that would be instantly clear to every musician in an orchestra. As we all know, even great ones such as for example CK felt a need to say quite a lot to get their points across. Of course some conductors talk too much, but that does not mean that talking is always unnecessary.

  13. Anonymous says:

    PATRON – YURI SIMONOV

    Jury:
    Jonathan Brett
    “After early conducting studies in England, he went on to study with legendary Russian maestro, Yuri Simonov, later working as his assistant.”

    Maciej Żółtowski
    “…participated in many master-courses working under supervision of notable artists like Zoltán Pesko, Lászlo Tihanyi, Yuri Simonov and Gianluigi Gelmetti.”

    1st prize winner:
    Igor Manasherov
    Student of Yuri Simonov, Manasherov was frequent conductor of the Moscow Philharmonic (music director: Yuri Simonov)

    Coincidence? Methinks the fix was in. Shameful!

    1. Jonathan Brett says:

      I had been wondering how long it would take someone to make such an accusation and understand that no amount of evidence will satisfy those who wish to believe that everything is corrupt. Those who are more open-minded might consider the following points:
      1. I have already explained that there was no way for the jury to know who was conducting for three rounds. In this case, I would be interested to know how we could have fixed the scores?
      2. Having gone to quite elaborate lengths (which I am happy to explain in all their tedious details if necessary) to ensure the clear and openly obvious integrity of the process with the aim of producing what I believed then, and even more so now, to be an interesting experiment, why, even if it were possible, would we allow it to be sabotaged through fixing?
      3. Is it truly so extraordinary that the student of such a respected conductor as Yuri Simonov, one with significant professional additional training and experience, could win a competition without subterfuge?
      4. If I had been involved in fixing, please be assured that my own students would have taken priority for me over Igor Manasherov.
      5. Since the above comment specifies only two, we should clarify that there were five on the jury for the final round, three of whom have – to my knowledge – no past or present connection to Yuri Simonov and who are all of independent mind and might therefore have reason to take offence at the implicit proposition that they were in some
      way corrupted.

  14. Vengerov Maxim says:

    A brilliant concept of the conducting competition!
    I remember when I was studying with Maestro Simonov, in one of the lessons I told him: Maestro, could you explain what is going on with me. Once I’m standing in front of the orchestra without the violin, I am so nervous, that I can’t say a word? He smiled and said. I have a feeling you have a potential to become a good conductor, as the best are the silent ones. Then, on the more serious note he gave me the most important advise. “If you would be able to transfer all your technical skills when you play the violin to the conducting gestures, then you can say you became as good conductor as you are a violinist. And you would need rehearsals for the orchestra to get to know your language and the way you communicate music today”

    I feel, we Need to distinguish few qualities conductirbmust have. A good musician, charismatic artist and conducting as crafts. All that conductor is a must for conductor.
    Many other qualities like the strategy of the rehearsal process which is an art on its own.
    Then any gesture or word conductor does or says, must make a difference. If it does not, it was a waist of time and physical effort.
    Conductor is not allowed to waist any time in the rehearsal process. He or she must know at least 10 times more then most of the musicians. Maestro must have the authority and respect of the majority of the musicians. And that starts from the moment when he or she is coming to the podium. Yet, conductors must be humble enough, so, the orchestra members do not feel intimidated by the ego presence of the conductor. It’s all so psychological and complicated that right from the beginning two simple words “Good morning” coming out of the conductor’s mouth may put some musicians off and consequently may effect the spirit of music making. It’s a proven fact that when we hear someone speak it’s only normal to like or dislike the voice of a human being as it may not be compatible with the energy of the musician seating in the orchestra. Also, words can be misleading, as one can always interpret them in so many ways.
    Therefore in my opinion the model: “business and nothing personal” – may be a correct way for the beginning. Of course there are limits to that as well. Musicians will need at some point a word of encouragement before conductor commence to express his or her vision of the work. And because musicians are not just an instruments of the conductor but a sensitive living body, one need to communicate with them in every way that is necessary.
    Again, nothing is ever ideal which thank God is, otherwise life would be too boring to follow one act. But the intention of this competition is a good one and it should go own. Conducting is still “underdeveloped” form of art and there is definitely room for new concepts and experiments. Bravo to Mr. Bret and all that made this competition possible.

  15. Etienne Abelin says:

    Wonderful comment thread, thanks for the engaging read! I’d be curious to learn what “promising practice” and “lessons learned” Mr. Brett and the organizers identified. R&D in practice, excellent.

  16. Paul says:

    Interesting to see that one of the first round participants was himself a noted conducting teacher with a very impressive resume and bio, Markand Thakar. One can assume from his experience that this is a solid conductor, and this leads me to wonder what could have happened in the first round where the conductor was not allowed to speak. I do not mean to question the quality of the conductor nor of the competition, but clearly this is not an exact science and the success or ability of a conductor is a very elusive matter.

  17. Paul says:

    I would seriously suggest that they consider offering more challenging repertoire especially for the first rounds. They definitely should have included a piece that is impossible to put together with a less than capable conductor such as Stravinsky’s “L’histoire du soldat”. They could also require in the first round conducting recitative (such as Tamino’s “Die Weisheitslehre dieser Knaben” from “Die Zauberflöte”) but with 2 pianos and a string quartet. In both of those cases, it would be clearly audible if the conductor did not have adequate baton technique.

    Similarly, for round 2 I would suggest perhaps the chamber arrangement of Debussy’s “Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune” along with a chamber arrangement of a Johann Strauss waltz and of course more opera/operetta.

    Honestly, their repertoire was the main reason I did not even consider applying for this experiment as the judging would have to be quite subjective based on what one could possibly discern. I hope they make improvements for next year.

    1. Jonathan Brett says:

      We put a lot of thought into designing this competition so that it would include a list of works which would reveal what we sought to hear as well as providing an interesting and rewarding basis for study for those who did not gain prizes. Obviously what is heard is partially subjective but, far more than many people realise, musicians have a pretty broad level of agreement about quality of sound – as Roberto Trainini indicated further up this thread. Where the jury did have lively debates, they tended to concern what was more important when judging the weaker cases, not the stronger ones.

      Whilst some degree of subjectivity is inevitable, though, what made this competition unique is that, for at least three rounds, this element was limited to ideas about sound only and therefore unaffected by any of the many possible forms of personal bias, accusations about which so beset so many competitions.

      In order to arrive at a judgement, the question arises as to whether one uses a single judge (who therefore makes what might be an extremely subjective judgement) or a jury, (which ameliorates specific personal preferences but risks the widely noted competition issue of sometimes supporting what is simply uncontroversial). We opted for the latter and, although I can freely admit I was not wholly in agreement in all respects and at all times, I still think this is the right solution and have no doubt that my colleagues on the jury would agree.

      1. Paul says:

        I greatly appreciate what you are doing and have started with this competition, and my suggestion about the repertoire is based only on my personal experience of having passed the elimination rounds and been accepted 3 times into the orchestral rounds of the Besancon competition, as well as winning 1st, 2nd, 3rd prizes and honorable mentions in at least 6 other conducting competitions. An element I found to be most important and decisive in Besancon, Cadaques, and even a few other competitions was having standard works of mixed meter already in the first round. The elimination rounds often included Stravinksy’s Le sacre du printemps, Petrushka, L’histoire du soldat, and/or Bartók’s Dance Suite, Divertimento, or Concerto for Orchestra. And those are all pieces that can easily be audibly discernible to divide the sheep from the goats.

        On the other hand, I have witnessed the rehearsals of some brilliant musicians (many famous ones whose names I will avoid) who were able to create a beautiful quality of sound merely by their demeanor and graceful gesture, however, they were often (no, actually never) able to get the ensemble to come in together in crucial moments. And it was clear that these truly great instrumentalists who became very successful conductors of the best orchestras in the world would never dare attempt such repertoire as I listed above.

        Please take these considerations to mind for hopefully a future competition. Thanks.

        1. Paul says:

          That should have read that “they were often NOT able”.

          Nothing sadder than watching one of THE most respected musicians ever not being able to even get the orchestra together on the opening 2 chords of Beethoven’s Eroica. After multiple attempts, the players all began just watching the concertmaster, and that fixed it.

          1. Jonathan Brett says:

            Of course I understand the point you are making and agree that the “ideal” competition, if such a thing could exist, should include managing complex mixed meters. I believe that these are, however, something that any conductor who can manage sound effectively in other contexts can learn to deal. In this case other elements – for example a sophisticated approach to music, sound and energy flow – are more of a priority. Concerning your description of Eroica, I think it perfectly illuminates my point across this whole thread that without the technical means to manage sound well we can be only puppets, dancing as best we can to tunes produced by others as they see fit.

  18. Nemesis says:

    The relationship between and conductor and musicians is like sex: some people need to endlessly discuss what to do with their partners, others with a deeper connection just know what to do. In at least one of these cases, it probably works best for the ones who get to do it with those few conductors who know when to keep their mouths shut.

    1. Talking the Talk says:

      Are you are conductor by any chance?

      1. The View From America says:

        I think the answer to that question is obvious …

  19. M2N2K says:

    Two basic ingredients of masterful conducting are: 1) ability to lead by gestures, facial expressions and body language, 2) ability to improve performance by explaining verbally during rehearsals. For 75% of this event, the competitors were denied any opportunity to use the second set of these basic skills and jury was denied any opportunity to witness how they used the first which was the only one at their disposal. Of course, the jurors did hear the musical results which is the purpose of conducting, but those include other important variables such as instrumentalists’ ever-changing desire and ability to follow. Maybe the players – assuming the same ones were used for every conductor in each round, otherwise variables would be even more overwhelming – were already very tired before conductor A stepped up to the podium, maybe they knew the piece better by the time conductor B was in front of them, maybe they were awfully hungry while conductor C was leading them, maybe they were bored by the time they saw conductor D, maybe they were particularly fresh and for whatever reason happy overall when conductor E arrived to lead them. In other words, a truly level playing (as well as conducting) field is impossible to achieve. Therefore, without seeing how competitors were getting their results, jurors have no way of predicting how these same maestros would fare with other orchestras in equalized circumstances. That is why it must have been certainly valuable to have final round unscreened, but it would have been too late to correct any errors of judgement that may have happened in the first three rounds. So, this competition must have been undoubtedly educational for competitors and judges, but this is not necessarily the best way of determining the most promising conductors who will be able to achieve the finest musical results in front of orchestras in normal real-life situations.

    1. Jonathan Brett says:

      Whilst I think that there is quite a lot else involved further up the line, in the practical sense I would not disagree about the two ingredients you mention. Until the first element works effectively, however, the second is not helpful and in most cases inhibits the development of the former. We arranged things as we did partly to establish this and in any case to ensure anonymity. Most of the issues you mention can arise in every competition – hence, for example, the widespread notion that going first is instant death. As I said at the opening, there is no possible way to make a totally fair competition, but we can make a lot progress concerning the removal of bias: in short, we promised participants an honest result, not a perfect one. Also, simply by the amount of comments this post is generating, it is clear that at the very least we have set a few people thinking. As to your last remark, I cannot say for certain that it is the best way to identify potential talent, but I am pretty much convinced that it is better than any other I have seen.

    2. Jonathan Brett says:

      Just to clarify about the elements, I agree absolutely about “ability to improve performance” but absolutely disagree that this is possible only through verbal explanation as you suggest. What is all too often seen as “effective” rehearsal is a conductor causing some issues and then solving some of them, whereas the game is totally different if the issues are avoided in the first place. As Bruce mentioned above, explanation risks a succession of diminishing returns and therefore needs to be used with extreme caution. Quite simply, sophisticated technique – by which I mean the approach to score preparation and rehearsal as well gesture – can achieve a great deal more result with a great deal less verbiage. In times of increasing pressure on resources everywhere, surely this is important?

      1. M2N2K says:

        Without thorough preparation and knowledge of scores and without refined musicianship, there is obviously nothing to talk about. But when a conductor, armed with such knowledge and in possession of such musicianship, appears in front of an orchestra, there are no other skills that are crucial except the two sets that I have named above. If there are, remind me which ones I have forgotten. Some of the issues I listed before are indeed common in many kinds of musical competitions, but all you need in order to minimize effects of such “inequalities” is a superior jury that can see and hear maximum – not minimum – of what conductors are doing, thus learning more – not less – relevant information, which would enable them to determine what aspects of musical result was due to the conductor’s efforts and what was due to players’ varied and varying abilities to realize each conductor’s intentions. This experiment may have been the best way you have seen, but it does not make it the best way possible.
        There has never been a really fine conductor who was always silent during rehearsals. Even those with brilliant gestural technique had to supplement it with verbal enhancements, if they had something really interesting and truly original to say in their interpretations. (And who needs those who have nothing to say?) That is why I am sure that the second element is absolutely the best way to improve performance after the limited possibilities of the first are exhausted. Of course talking too much is counterproductive – we all know that – but by prohibiting any talk the jury loses the chance to evaluate conductor’s ability to use that second set of skills properly and effectively without abusing it. Some of the finest conductors I have worked with in my several decades of orchestral life had great technique of visual leadership and others did not, but all of them were effective verbal communicators of their musical intentions, some of course, again, better than others. Some of the things those great ones said during rehearsals are still, after three decades or more, appear in my mind every time I play certain pieces and help me and, I am sure, my colleagues make better music no matter who is on the podium for each particular performance.

        1. Jonathan Brett says:

          Just to be clear: I have never said that speaking is never useful, only that in general conductors talk too much. We could add that in many cases they show too much that is not useful and too little that is. When a conductor who says little actually says something, though, it can have considerable impact, whereas excessive speaking just becomes a form of white noise from which the musicians simply tune-out. I agree though, that before a competition reaches its conclusion, a conductor should have at least the chance to say something. In this case, once they had won the right to do so by reaching the final, they were allowed to speak. The fact that this would compromise the principle of anonymity was one of the reasons for making the last stage “open”.

          I don’t wish to get bogged down in semantics but concerning skill, there is a crucial third one which comes before talking: I agree that first comes “ability to lead by gestures”and also that second comes “ability to improve performance” but before doing so through verbal explanation this should be done through gesture. Although perhaps you take it for granted, learning to modify sound not the same as learning to lead it – it requires a good deal more technical understanding and refinement.

          1. M2N2K says:

            My understanding of “leading by gesture” includes absolutely everything that is humanly possible to do by gestures alone – not just time beating and maintaining precise ensemble, but indicating all kinds of musical requirements about sound including its character. That is why I put this first and that is what “my” second set of skills is limited to what I call verbal “enhancements”. It is precisely the fact that so many conductors talk too much that I found the prohibition of talking in most rounds of competition so frustrating: this situation made it impossible for jurors to separate those who speak only when absolutely necessary and can do it effectively from those who talk a lot because they can’t show things and/or simply because they enjoy hearing themselves talk. You finally got a taste of all that in the final round, but there was no guarantee that the finalists were in fact the finest ones participating.

  20. M2N2K says:

    The middle of the second sentence above should say “that is WHY “my” second set of skills”.

    1. Jonathan Brett says:

      So, in short, your view seems to be that preventing conductors talking is some kind of violation of human rights, mine is that it provides a level playing field from which to make judgement about impact of gesture. Of course there is some merit in both arguments, of which we were perfectly well aware at the design stage. There was another reason for the ban on speech though: it was the only way to guarantee judgement without bias. Speaking has to be prevented, otherwise too much can be given away. In any case, the speaking ban was always perfectly clear within the rules, so presumably anyone for whom this was an issue simply did not enter.

      Although you seem to imply that it could be possible, I have certainly never seen a competition where absolutely everyone agreed that the right people passed every stage and that the prizes were given in the right order. My experience though, is rather the opposite: that in too many cases, bias can affect results. As (most likely) one of only four people in human history to have sat for four days listening to conductors without seeing them, I probably have a somewhat different perspective from you and am considerably more convinced of the impact of bias on judgement. My experience on this jury added to my former observation means that in my view the system we adopted is better and more likely to achieve a good result. In this case I think it did but, in every case, someone will always disagree and not necessarily without valid reason. I have never suggested that the way we did this is perfect, nor would I ever dream of doing so: we promised an experiment, a competition in which bias was avoided as much as possible. In this regard we delivered and the final delivered some very pleasing results.

      1. M2N2K says:

        Never in this discussion have I said or implied anything that was anywhere close to being about human rights and/or violations of same. Misrepresenting your interlocutor’s words so radically and in such a shameless way does nothing to advance your arguments but in fact actually diminishes their effectiveness. The reason for the vow of silence in screened rounds is perfectly clear to any reasonable person and therefore does not need explanations. The purpose of this entire perversion is obvious as well: to create a chance for, and an appearance of, anonymity. All I have been saying here is that such limitations deprive jurors of opportunity to directly and fully evaluate the most basic components of conductorial skills. Actually, the fact that the final round was held in a normal open manner confirms that your competition recognized at least some if not all of the limitations I am talking about here. If you truly believed that “elimination of biases” was more important than evaluation of skills, there would be no reason for making the final round unscreened. It is just too bad that so many competition jurors are such unprincipled weaklings that they cannot (and unfortunately in many cases should not) trust themselves to make intelligent judging decisions based on their presumed expertise in evaluating musical qualities rather than meekly capitulating while being defeated by their various personal biases and prejudices.

        1. Jonathan Brett says:

          I am sorry that you took my words so amiss; actually, rather than attacking your position I stated quite clearly that “there is some merit in both arguments”. Concerning everything else, I think I have commented on all these points on this thread and about some we seem to agree and others not. “Basic components of conducting skill” is one where we clearly do not: to me the basic component is to be able to manage sound without talking – because that is what we have to do in a performance and if a performance is to be truly alive, rather than simple recreation of rehearsal, the sound must be managed with only gesture. Learning the rehearsal techniques that effectively support such a process is important but can be learned – relatively speaking at least – easily and quickly by anyone with who has the gestural tools needed. Yes, finally sophisticated technique is about how rehearsal and performance work harmoniously together (hence the way the final round was arranged) but I think anyone that has this should still be perfectly well able to manage sound by gesture and without rehearsal in a comparative test situation such as this – indeed in a performance if necessary, we do not always have the luxury of rehearsal time. From behind the screen it was clear to every juror that every conductor made a difference to the sound, hence I find it difficult to see any reason why comparisons should not be valid.

          For me, therefore, the matter of not talking connects positively with needs of the anonymous process and the outcomes have in most cases supported the concepts. Not 100% of course but here – for me at least – the difference does not arise due to anything more than consequences of democratic process – i.e. whether there is a single judge or a jury. Of course I have never seen a competition where everyone present agreed with all the results and this one was no exception. Where perhaps it is an exception is that those who most strongly disagreed with the results were, I suspect, a good deal less impartial than the jury.

          1. M2N2K says:

            Nothing in your comments makes my observations any less valid. If the jury was able to be impartial in the last open round, nothing would have prevented them from being just as fair in previous rounds. Unscreened, those rounds would have given jurors far more relevant information about each contestant. Only time will tell how the winners will fare in real musical life.


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