Julian Lloyd Webber has earned himself a few headlines, declaring that ‘most’ music contests are corrupt.
He brings no new evidence, citing only the Tchaikovsky competition in the Soviet and post-Soviet years which was widely known to be fixed.
Slipped Disc has, from time to time, exposed corruption at competitions. We praised the last Tchaikovsky contest, as it happens, for its admirable transparency and for the calibre of its winners.
The troubling question is: why does anyone take competitions seriously? Most of these events are, as Julian says, rigged by teachers and other special-interest jury members. They are a breeding-ground for cynicism and bad ethics.
The reason die their persistence is, we think, quite simple. The whole world knows that the International Olympics Committee and Fifa are two of the most corrupt organisations on earth, a self-perpetuating pair of conspiracies of time-servers and bribe-takers. So why are they not abolished?
Because every four years they put on a brilliant show – the Olympics and the World Cup – a pair of shows the world and its media cannot do without. So we turn a blind eye to blue murder in the interest of passive pleasure.
That is not – quite obviously – the case with music competitions, which are often duller than betting on flies crawling up a window. But every now and then one of them produces a Trifonov or a Giltburg and the moral outrage is set aside.
We wish Julian’s outcry would make a difference but, given the lack of concrete evidence and the general indifference, it won’t.
UPDATE: Here’s another reason why it won’t.