Six reach Arthur Rubinstein final. Audience in uproar.

Six reach Arthur Rubinstein final. Audience in uproar.


norman lebrecht

May 22, 2014

The following pianists have reached the final of the 14th Rubinstein competition in Israel:

Anthony Baryshevskii  (Ukraine)

Steven Lin  (USA)

Kolafeliche Leonardo  (Italy)

Seong Jin Cho  (South Korea)

Andrew Osokins  (Latvia)

Maria Mazo  (Russia)


At least two public favourites were eliminated and there were protests when jury chairman, Arie Vardi (pictured), announced the list. He responded: ‘I am very glad that you are so actively involved in the process.’

arie vardi

Don’t bother to search for results on the competition’s website. It’s useless.


  • Richard says:

    Someone also yelled at Arie Vardi right at the end of the ceremony. Did anyone catch that or knows what happened? They edited it out from the stream recording. Also, Vardi amusingly announced his former(?) student Maria Mazo as “the only one” instead of “the final one” of the finalists.

  • Asaf Cohen says:

    NOT ONE great pianist on this jury! Just the usual clique of piano teachers and former contest winners. And what a “coincidence” that pupils of jury members made it to the finals! (Similarly, what a “coincidence” that pupils of jury members got accepted into the competition).

  • Dave T says:

    Good thing that fellow got his student into the finals. Otherwise the trip to Israel would have been a total waste of time.

  • flox35 says:

    I don’t know about the second public favourite, but in the obvious case of Koziak he had too many mistakes. He is a outstanding pianist no doubt, and an exciting musician that managed (as did others as well) to move the audience. But this is a competition, not a concert. Unfortunately, mistakes do (and should)count for the professional jury, whether the untrained public realizes them or not. About Mazo, as far as I know she left Vardi’s class to go to rival professor Raekallio short after her mildy successful Cliburn appearance back in 2005. Rumors were that Vardi was not that pleased about it.

    • Richard says:

      If Koziak’s mistakes were too many, then what of Osokins’s Gaspard, who qualified? No one had a flawless technical performance in either rounds, really, if you’re willing to nitpick.

      • Flox35 says:

        I didn’t have the pleasure to listen to Osokin, so I wouldn’t know. I was only referring to the “public uproar” mentioned above, which as far as I saw -I was in the hall at the time of the anouncement- happened when a part of the audience showed their disappointment with Koziaks elimination (and only his. I cannot confirm that there were “at least two” public favourites eliminated like the article says). And all I was saying is that from a music professional point of view it is completely legitimate and fair to disqualify Koziak based on his repeated mistakes in his Haydn- although it’s a pity for the competition and the public – myself included, since he was a really interesting and strong contestant indeed, and his recital was actually completely enjoyable – hence the public’s frustration.

  • Aviva Yuron says:

    Rival? Oh no. Vardi, Raekallio, and Kaplinsky are all the very best of friends. They share students, they sit on all the international competition juries, and help out each other’s students. Interestingly, none of these 3 individuals can claim to be a pianist of the first rank–and whether or not they even rank amongst the 2nds is open to debate. Perhaps the young pianists of today might examine the current competition scene more closely, and see it for what it is, i.e. a system manipulated and monopolized by non-major pianists who are judging half-baked piano students, some of whom will have a 3-year “career” and all of whom will eventually disappear — except for those who will someday sit on these same juries themselves. Interestingly, there are two piano teachers on this current Rubinstein competition jury who didn’t pass the 1st round of this same competition themselves back in the 1970’s.

  • James Hoffmann says:

    Once again we see a jury of the usual competition “mafia”. Mr. Vardi, in particular, has an appalling reputation for trying to politically influence other jury members in attempts to get his own way. Why do competition organisers take these musical nonentities seriously?

  • Simon Epperson says:

    The great Rosina Lhevinne NEVER sat on competition juries. Unlike the aforementioned names, Lhevinne was a 1st rate pianist and a fine teacher, and her integrity was of the highest order, so she refused all invitations to judge competitions.

  • Chaim Hadar says:

    Let’s put it this way: If the criteria for jury selection were a discography, a list of top conductors, and a list of first rate orchestras who had engaged these judges, none of them would have been chosen for this jury.

  • Phillip Endicott says:

    A few years back, a certain European pianist signed up for lessons with Vardi. Much to his surprise, at the very first lesson, Vardi handed the student his application (and fee) which he had already submitted to the Rubinstein competition. Without any explanation as to how he came to possess these materials, Vardi told the student “You will not be entering this competition”. (P.S., a Vardi pupil won 2nd prize that year).

  • Elvira Silverman says:

    The entire competition has a feel of improvisation,and lackluster.
    V disappointing .

  • Daniel Shapiro says:

    Whether in competitions or performances, the emphasis on not hitting wrong notes is truly the bane of our age and the quest for it is antithetical to true inspiration and depth of music-making.

  • Neal Fleishacker says:

    The above comments reveal the reason why competitions no longer produce major pianists: The system has been hijacked by mediocre pianists-turned-teachers who sit in judgment of piano students (i.e., their own students). This vicious circle simply produces more mediocrity. Fortunately, truly great pianists don’t need competitions to be recognized – certainly Evgeny Kissin and Yuja Wang never entered competitions.

  • anonymus says:

    Competitions are for losers… on stage and off stage…

  • Annabelle Weidenfeld says:

    Yes, how nice it would be to dispense with competitions and just let pianists make great careers by floating to the top on a cloud! Yes, there are the few great exceptions like Kissin and Barenboim but unfortunately not enough.

    I hope that some of the cretinous and insulting comments concerning the Arthur Rubinstein International Master Piano Competition and its jury are driven by nothing more sinister than sheer ignorance. First, dear friend Norman, it is not rocket science to find the names of finalists on the website and I wonder where you got them from? You not only find the finalists there but can listen to all the competitors on line and through YouTube, judge for yourselves and decide whether you agree with the jury or not.

    As this is a competition and not just a series of concerts, six repeated mistakes in the same place in a Haydn Sonata do unfortunately have to count against a competitor!

    It seems that none of those posting such preposterous comments concerning members of the jury and its highly respected chairman, Arie Vardi, has bothered to read the rules and regulations concerning the judging and voting process which are also clearly available to view on the website. Far from trying to “manipulate” the vote you will see that NO DISCUSSION BETWEEN JURY MEMBERS IS PERMITTED. Following each round, jury members are each handed a paper with a list of the competitors. Each member must tick those he thinks should go through to the next round and/or the winner of a certain category. None of the jury members knows until the winners are announced on stage at the end of the competition who the winners are. Only the man in charge of counting the votes knows and he only needs to indicate if there is a tie so that a decision can be made as to whether to split the prize or force a further vote to decide an all out winner. No applicant who has studied with a jury member after August 2013 may compete. Jury members must declare any past pupils among the candidates and if they choose to vote for a past pupil, their vote for that particular candidate is NOT counted. Where is the manipulation or unfairness?

    Further comments on the composition of the jury and its quality: regrets are expressed that world famous soloists are not on juries. How many are prepared to sit on juries and devote weeks to sitting and listening to pianists? Ask Murray Perahia, Evgeny Kissin, Daniel Barenboim to sit on a jury and see what they say! Next question, are these great artists and others the best equipped to judge future colleagues? How much time do they themselves spend nurturing young talent and guiding it?

    This year for the first time, the Rubinstein Competition has a Junior Jury, working in parallel with the main jury and consisting of seven young musicians, pianists and outstanding Defence Forces musicians who will pick a single winner from all the competitors

    To dismiss such a distinguished and reputable teacher as Yoheved Kaplinsky, chairperson of Julliard’s piano faculty, as conniving and corrupt says a great deal more about the person making such assertions than it does about Miss Kaplinsky!

    Another bright spark said that competitions are for losers… Some losers: Martha Argerich, Murray Perahia, Van Cliburn, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Krystian Zimerman, Emanuel Ax, to name but a few stellar losers. Has anyone NOT yet heard of Daniil Trifonov, the last winner of the Arthur Rubinstein Competition and – how curious – not an ex-pupil of Arie Vardi or Yoheved Kaplinsky?

    Annabelle Weidenfeld

    • Alex Minto says:

      Your take on the whole situation is very naive – you have way too much faith in humanity and righteousness, and/or haven’t seen what really happens in competitions behind the scene.
      But to begin, here’s a thought: those names you mentioned (worthy winners of the competitions they were in, judged by artists of the time like Arthur Rubinstein, Michelangeli…) are all wonderful artists. I’d listen to them any day over whoever is on the jury of this competition. So why aren’t these artists on the jury of important international competitions, ever?

  • Annabelle Weidenfeld says:

    Correction concerning the repeated mistakes in the Haydn Sonata, which I have not yet heard: they were three and not six.
    Since people are counting the number of Vardi’s and Kaplinsky’s students winning competitions where they are on the jury, how about taking a look at the number of Vardi and or Kaplinsky students winning competitions where neither are on the juries?