Do you know the way to Cadaques?

Do you know the way to Cadaques?


norman lebrecht

June 11, 2010

All it takes for a competition to get onto the musical map is to pick the right winners. Cadaques, in Spain, has just hit the jackpot for the third time.


In 1994, the winner was Gianandrea Noseda, who is just ending a tremendous decade with the BBC Philharmonic in Manchester. In 2002, Vasily Petrenko came top. He has since turned the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic from a grumbling mob to a brilliant band. This week, the first prize went to Andrew Gourlay, Assistant Conductor at the Halle in Manchester. 


Clearly the northweast of England keeps a weather eye on Cadaques for its own benefit, but there is no denying the achievements of Noseda and Petrenko and, from what I hear of Andrew Gourlay, he too is destined to go the distance. 


The Cadaques prize is €6,000 and a chance to conduct all 28 orchestras in Spain over three seasons. The jury is headed by Gennady Rozhdestvensky and Neville Marriner, who provide sage counsel to contestants. If I were a young conductor, Cadaques would be high on my radar.


You can hear Gourlay conduct the Halle for the first time on Thursday 2 December 2010. For full details please visit:


  • I must disagree on the importance of the Cadaques conducting competition. I was in the competition circuit for a few years and several of my friends took part in the Cadaques competition. Since people are invited to this particular competition not based on a video of a performance but by resume and recommendations only, it is a lottery who will get invited. I know that I am opening my guard by saying this but I myself applied three times and was never invited. In addition Cadaques competition makes a business over the repertoire by insisting that only original scores can be used in the competition and surprise, surprise, most of them you must buy directly from the competition organizers. A few years ago they also introduced a “preliminary round” for the people who were not invited to the first round, just to extract some more money out of them. The Cadaques competition has not predicted success any better than any other competition, and these days it has acquired very bad reputation about the young conductors all around the world. It is seen mainly as a business venture by my colleagues. That said, there are so many desperate young conductors trying every opportunity, that Cadaques will stay around for a long time still, despite its faults.