Strange goings-on in the Solti legacy

Strange goings-on in the Solti legacy


norman lebrecht

September 13, 2010

An informant has mailed me some odd bits of rigging from Frankfurt, where the fifth Georg Solti Conducting Competition is taking place. Apparently, one candidate Aziz Shokhakimov got a free pass into the second round after not competing in the first.

Why and how, read below. But I know what the Old Man would have bellowed if this sort of thing had happened on his watch. And it would not have printable.

On the other hand, young Mr Shokhakimov may be the next Solti.


Here’s the panel of judges:

  • Michael Dellith
    Editor and Critic, Frankfurter Neue Presse
  • Jörg Färber
    Founder and long-time Artistic Director, Württembergisches Kammerorchester Heilbronn
  • Ingo de Haas
    Concertmaster, Frankfurter Museumsorchester
  • Othmar Mága
    Long-time Music Director, Bochumer Symphoniker
  • Karl Rarichs
    Vice chairman,
    Frankfurter Museums-Gesellschaft; Artistic Director, Weilburger Schlosskonzerte
  • Andrea Zietzschmann
    Head of the Music and Orchestras division at Hessischer Rundfunk; General Manager, The Frankfurt Radio Symphony

    And here’s the email:


    An unprecedented chain of events has occurred at the 5th Solti International Conducting Competition in Frankfurt this week.


    Out of 20 candidates in the first round, 10 candidates went through to the second round. A fairly standard scenario, EXCEPT that the last of the 10 candidates of the second round, Aziz Shokhakimov did NOT participate in the first round!


    When a member of the jury was asked about this curiosity, this is what he said:


    “During the last Solti competition in 2008, we did not admit Mr Shokhakimov into the final. It was very close call, but we felt that he was too young, at the age of 20. He was very very angry with the result, and there was a bit of a scandal. In order to calm the situation, we told him that he could come back to the next competition directly to the second round”


    This raises several questions.


    First of all, this kind of wild card scenario is not in the competitions rules. Naturally, all sorts of wheeling and dealing goes on at competitions. Yet this is more than a jury liking one candidate over the other for whatever reason. In this situation, the people in the first round did not get a chance to compete with Mr. Shokhakimov. Someone, who has spent time and money to come to this competition, had his/her spot in the second round taken away.


    This event casts a shadow on a competition with such a respected name. To see something of this sort in Germany?! That is a bit of culture shock.


    The jury also backed itself into a corner. If they do not give Mr. Shokhakimov the first prize now, at the 2010 competition, they can expect a signature scandal, which, as they have demonstrated, will work. This must affect their judgment.


    If the jury of the 2008 competition (the same jury, except for one member) felt that he deserved the prize they should have had the guts to give it to Mr Shakhakimov. As it is now, they are covering their mistake at the expense of 2010 competitors who paid their good money and spent time to come to the 2010 competition (not a “replay” of a 2008 competition)


    No competition can be 100 percent objective, but the organization has to at least on the exterior show respect of rules and regulations.







  • Michael P Scott says:

    There’s a really unfortunate side-effect of this story: If such chicanery can occur at the Solti competition, it merely confirms my (and others’) long-held suspicion that there’s such chicanery behind EVERY competition.
    President Jack Kennedy (and surely others) noted that a rising tide raises all boats.
    What’s obvious, but not pointed out by JFK, is that the receding tide lowers all boats, too.
    And once mired in the muck, it takes a lot to get your boat unstuck.

  • In Music Veritas says:

    Thank you so much for bringing this to public knowledge, Mr Lebrecht. God bless internet that allows people to know some truth!!!