Who's judging the Tchaikovsky contest?

There has been the usual mixture of uncertainty and last-minute changes about Valery Gergiev’s chairmanship of the Tchaikovsky Competition, but over the past 24 hours it does appear that the judging benches have been settled.

In both piano and violin sections, Gergiev has tried as best as possible to recruit past winners in order to break the corrupt stranglehold exerted since Stalin’s time by Russian academicians and establishment flaks.

The piano lineup has Van Cliburn as honorary chairman, but no-one is sure if he will turn up.

The rest are:

Dmitri Alexeev

Vladimir Ashkenazy (who will only attend the final round)

Michel Beroff
Yefim Bronfman (final round only)
Peter Donohoe
Barry Douglas
Nelson Freire
Denis Matsuev (final round only)
Mikhail Voskresensky
Evgeni Koroliov

The first meeting yesterday was, I’m told, amicable and businesslike.

The violin jury has the same mix of pizzazz and sound judgement. Anne-Sophie Mutter and Maxim Vengerov will turn up only for the last round, if at all. I’m not sure what the composer John Corigliano is doing there, and the Verbier Festival manager Martin Engstroem must have been added to give the winners an early showcase. The rest are:

Yuri Bashmet

Andres Cardenes

Leonidas Kavakos

Boris Kushnir

Barry Shifman

Sergei Stadler

Victor Tretiakov

Nikolai Znaider.

The competition website, by the way is excellent and there will be live streaming.

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  • The composer John Corigliano — who wrote this year’s competition piece for violin — is the son of John Corigliano, former concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic. He will talk about that this Sunday on WQXR.

  • It seems worth observing that, unless I am misreading names, not a single woman could be found to exhibit pizzazz and sound judgement, save Anne-Sophie Mutter for one round. Sigh.

  • I felt so sorry for Timur Scherbakov, the Belarus pianist who interrupted this morning’s proceedings at the Tchaikovsky competition. He had stormed out of the hall last night, distraught on learning he’d been eliminated after the first round. So it was a surprise to see him reappear on the stage at the end of today’s first semi-final session. It was obvious he’d had no sleep. Unshaven and unwashed he sat down at the piano and started to play a Chopin ballade to protests and bemused applause from the audience. Was it a security guard who came on stage and talked to him gently and tactfully, eventually persuading him to leave? At least Timur did not disrupt an actual performance.

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