Leopold Auer violin contest is won by chairman’s student

Leopold Auer violin contest is won by chairman’s student


norman lebrecht

September 22, 2014

Here we go again.

The results are in from St Petersburg.

1st Prize -Lubov Stekolschikova.

2nd- Olga Artugina jointly with Olga Yakushina. 3 Price -Ayako Tanabe.

The first prize winner is a pupil of Mikhail Gantvarg, Rector of the St Petersburg State Consrvatoire, head of its Violin and viola department and chair of the Auer jury.

The second and third are pupils of professors Kravchenko and Ivanov, jury members from Moscow.

leopold auer

pictured: Leopold Auer, incorruptible, with student


Финалисты I Международного конкурса скрипачей имени Ауэра ПОБЕДИТЕЛИ I МЕЖДУНАРОДНОГО КОНКУРСА СКРИПАЧЕЙ ИМЕНИ ЛЕОПОЛЬДА АУЭРА 1 ПРЕМИЯ Любовь Стекольщикова (Россия, Санкт-Петербург) 2 ПРЕМИЯ Ольга Артюгина (Россия, Санкт-Петербург) 2 ПРЕМИЯ Ольга Якушина (Россия, Москва) 3 ПРЕМИЯ Аяко Танабэ (Япония, Сайтама) ДИПЛОМ Семен Климашевский (Россия, Санкт-Петербург) Читать далее Состоялось открытие конкурса скрипачей им. Леопольда Ауэра


In the wake of the Indianapolis fiasco, the St Petersburg result confirms the totally compromised status of most major competitions.


  • Neil McGowan says:

    The accusation of cronyism is understandable.

    But is it really surprising that competitions to determine the best players would be won by the best students of the finest teachers?

    Little-known fact – Leopold Auer was the grandfather of the legendary Hollywood screen actor Mischa Auer – most well-known for playing ‘caricature Russians’ in Hollywood comedies such as Hellzapoppin’!, Hold That Ghost, and Destry Rides Again

    • Mathieu says:

      The problem is not that the best students of the finest teachers win prizes, but that the teachers are members of the juries who award those prizes.

      • That is, indeed, the biggest problem. Nothing is wrong with the best winning the prizes – but the teachers of the competitors should not be in the jury.
        Even then, of course, big competitions will not be free of “favors” certain members of the jury would feel obliged to provide for their influential friends (= “best teachers”) whose students are participating. But at least the scope will be greatly reduced. The fallacy that “best teachers are also best judges for big competitions” remains what it is – a fallacy. There are plenty of great musicians around whose students do not enter competitions or who do not even teach. They should be the judges. Not the competitor’s teachers.

  • There is quite a decent number of violin teachers who are every bit as good as Leopoldo Auer: Zakhar Bron, for example.

  • Leo says:

    The issue was that only 16 of 32 participants really made it to the stage and those finalists were really the best of them. Cronyism is not quite an issue, the lack of material is.

  • ViolinMom says:

    I do not believe any of this internet slander about competitions being fixed. It’s obvious that Norman and some of the teachers who are creating this drama are not checking their facts and listening to the competitions. It’s unfortunate that when some competitors don’t happen to do as well on a particular day as other competitors, their teachers throw hissy fits and try to discredit other excellent and well-respected teachers. It’s also unfortunate that journalists who are well known for stirring up trouble without checking facts actually make a living doing so–slinging insults for profit. The Indianapolis was not a fiasco. It has a strong history and reputation of transparency and integrity. Therefore, I’m inclined to not believe this story about the Leopold Auer or any of the other stories Norman Lebrecht publishes that attempt to destroy the classical music business.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      If you had the courage to give your name, your view might carry weight. But to say the Indy has transparency is simply Orwellian when six of the finalists were secretly students of two of the judges.

      • Martin Malmgren says:

        “Secretly”? What are you talking about? The program for the IVCI lists all major teachers, current and past, with whom each contestant has trained.

    • Vik says:

      The word “business” implies money. By only one word you just swiped off what you have said about transparency and integrity.

  • milka says:

    To believe that it is not all cronyism
    is to live in some la la land .From the days of the Tchaikovsky competition
    where the presiding judge Oistrakh torpedoed the unsuspecting Erick Friedman which elicited the comment
    from the great Szigeti that he was
    “appalled “at the goings on of the competition,the judges & the kowtowing to the will of the presiding judge… even the audience was in an uproar ,but to no avail .Now the back room shenanigans
    have evolved to a greater degree sophistication by which to fool the
    general public that all is “fair” and above board .The whole thing smells
    to high heaven ,everyone is complaisant.
    from students who go from teacher to teacher to find the one with enough clout
    to put them on the fast track of winning competitions to the teachers themselves who trade on gaining more and more pupils at ever higher lesson fees every time one of their
    own is announced a prize winner.
    The prize winners usually have short
    careers and most end up as teachers
    only to perpetuate the same dreary
    cycle of competition winning fiddlers .
    If the likes of Szigeti and Heifetz
    deplored the competitions one
    can only imagine how much worse they are than what is written here .
    Mr. Lebrecht has opened up a can
    of worms for which we should be most grateful …now let’s hear what the worms and their apologists have to say ……….

  • Tim Walton says:

    The Dudley Piano Competition taking place in Birmingham’s Symphony Hall in November, specifically excludes any competitors that have studied with any of the Jury in the last 12 months.

    It can’t work the other way round because to have have a top rank Jury, they have to be booked years ahead.

    This surely is a much fairer way of organising a competition.

  • Alla Aranovskaya says:

    Letter to Norman Lebrecht

    Dear Norman . Thank you for your publication.
    It was such a long fight. The story starts in 2012.
    In November of 2012 I was invited to be a Jury member of the renewed II International Leopold Auer competition http://auercompetition.ru/leopold-auer ( sorry the site is in Russian but in our FB that we created on Nov .28 of 2013 we making posts in both Russian and English).https://www.facebook.com/groups/auerviolin/
    Why it’s named Second?
    this is the quote from the web:

    “145 years ago in May of 1868 Anton Rubinstein invited to St. Petersburg famous violinist Leopold Auer – to assume the position of professor of the Conservatory and the soloist of the Imperial Theatres. In the St. Petersburg Conservatory L. Auer for fifty years led top class violin playing, quartet, chamber ensemble, and also conducted the student orchestra.

    In 1908, Conservatory celebrated 40th anniversary of his activities at the St Peterburg Conservatoire. In the same year it was decided to hold a competition for violinists of his name. The first prize was awarded to M. Piastro. He won the first competition of the name of Leopold Auer – his teacher, the founder of Russian violin school, well-known and respected throughout the world Considering the merits of Leopold Auer – musician and teacher – to Russian musical culture, after 105 years in St. Petersburg it was decided to continue the tradition of musical competition.

    Thus, in October 2014, will take place on the Second International Violin Competition and the String Quartets of Leopold Auer, dedicated to the 145th anniversary of moving to the famous violinist and teacher in St. Petersburg, as well as the 105th anniversary of the decision to hold the first contest of its name.”

    When I’ve got the invitation to be on the Jury panel I told the organizers that I’l participate only if M. Gantvarg who just become the Rector of the conservatory, will be excluded from the Jury list because I knew that he will push everyone and makes this competition unfair.

    Organizers agreed and we started preparations.
    I made my half year research and found descendants of Leopold Auer, visited them and invited to our competition.

    In the end of March of 2013 Mr. Gantvarg figured out that something happen in the city without his knowledge and participation and “stood on the warpath”.
    On April 1 (so funny coincident) his team stool all the information from our publications (our web wasn’t ready by that time) and announced his I International Leopold Auer competition. Participants were misinformed and we spend so much time to explain what is going on. (You can see all the conversation on the competition FB page that we created on Nov .28 of 2013.)
    Since that time we’ve got so much troubles- starting from the point that no concert halls wants to give us the space for the audition or asking for absolutely crazy money, sponsors was afraid to help us because they were scared. Department of culture of St. Petersburg denied to support us.
    The Organizers of our competition got several calls from the Mr. Gantvarg office demanding to to come in the rector’s office to find out “who is the owner of the city”
    Several time I’ve got calls from the perspective participants who said that in private conversations he said that he will kick out anyone who will participate our competition. So they was scared to participate our competition.

    Makes the story shorter- the result is He made his competition. We are doing our in October.
    We’ve got 70 violinists and 7 string quartets ( in our competition also nomination for string quartet because Leopold Auer for more than 50 years played in string quartet. Young Brahms was sitting in the room where Auer quartet rehearsed his first Quartet op 51 N.1 . In Auer’s memories he said “ young Brahms was very shy, not very attractive and said almost nothing about his music” 

    Great-great Granddaughter and possible Great-great Grandson of Leopold Auer are coming to our competition and I even not sure that Mr. Gantvarg will allow them to visit classroom of Leopold Auer N. 25 at the conservatory.
    Organizers of the competition two months ago decided that I’ll be the Chairman of the competition and I PROMISED to the participants that I will not let happen in the competition that St. Petersburg Conservatory held couple days ago.

    Sorry for long letter. Sincerely, Alla Aranovskaya, First violinist of Grammy nominated St. Petrsburg Quartet, who will celebrate their 30st Anniversary in 2015.

  • Vik says:

    The word “business” implies money. By only one word you swiped off what you’ve just said about transparency and integrity. Oops……….

  • Dear Petersburgians and guests of our beautiful city!

    From 14 to 19 October 2014 Saint Petersburg will host the II International Violin and String Quartets Competition/Festival named after and held in honour of Leopold Auer.
    In the competition program of the Festival, in two age categories (Juniors up to the age of 16 and Seniors aged between 16 and 35) over 70 violinists and 7 string quartets from Russia, the USA, Austria, Germany, South Korea, Great Britain, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Ukraine and other countries will participate. The competition jury will be represented by famous performers and teachers of the Art of the Violin: musicians from Russia, Germany, USA, Switzerland.

    The Competition is named in honour of Leopold Auer – famous native of Austria-Hungary, a musician and teacher, founder of the Russian violin school that has become a World-wide art phenomenon worthy of Russian classical ballet or Russian school of painting. In 1913 in Saint Petersburg the I Violin Competition named after Leopard Auer was held. The cultural significance of this event determinated the beginning of vibrant musical traditions of the XX century which, due to historical realities was destined for a long – bordering on oblivion – almost 100 years, anticipation…

    The work on the organization of the II Competition named after Auer began in 2008 and rallied a team of like-minded people – admirers of Auer, creative people from different spheres of culture and art in Saint Petersburg, in Russia, and abroad. And above all, it was decided to locate the descendants of Auer to obtain their agreement and support of this event.

    Jacqueline L. Auer (Jacqueline Lee Auer, USA), great granddaughter of L. Auer
    – “The idea to commemorate my granddad’s output in Saint Petersburg and hold II International Competition in his name was supported by the whole family. The list of family members includes: my aunt Zoe Auer-Litvinov and her daughter Victoria (NY, USA), my daughter – Liana Auer (Alabama, USA), and my aunt Michelle Auer-Hodebold (France). The historical memory of our relatives and the efforts made by the organizers to find us had touched me greatly. As Auer’s great granddaughter and as a musician, I was happy to help and granted the right to use the name in the title of the II Auer Competition. I am grateful to the Association of Leopold Auer for the invitation to attend this important event for me, for the opportunity to personally welcome the participants and represent our family. It is very exciting that the first time in many years, a direct descendant of Leopold Auer will be present at the Competition held in his honour and named after him. For me it is a great honour! ”

    A. Aranovskaya, chairman of the jury, Professor at Wichita State University (USA)
    – “In November 2012, I was called by my former classmate, Petersburg’s famous violinist Alexander Yakushev and invited to head the jury of the II International Violin and Quartet Competition named after Auer. I gladly accepted the invitation. In April 2014 I was registered at the International Association of Leopold Auer. The goal of the Association is to preserve and convey the posterity; everything connected with the biography of this man, his family history and famous pupils, as well as organizing creative workshops, master classes, competitions. It is very important for the current aspiring musicians to have the opportunity to strive with the unique heritage of Auer – a truly brilliant teacher in the fullest sense of that word- and achieve their own victories! I look forward to meeting the young talent, I hope participants will surprise us with new interpretations of well-known and familiar pieces. As the Chairman of the Jury, I promise that the competition will be fair and independent.”

    V. Tretyakov, People’s Artist of the USSR, Professor of Moscow and the Cologne conservatory, 1st Honorary Member of the Association of L. Auer, a member of the board of trustees of the Competition
    – “It is impossible not to support the historic Competition – the tradition established by the great Auer in Russia, in the city where he lived and taught for more than 50 years, stood at the cradle of the Russian violin school and educated the brightest stars – Heifetz, Elman, Poliakin, Zimbalist. .. ”

    During the Festival, we invite you to selective auditions, participants’ master classes and recitals by outstanding musicians – members of the jury and the winners of the Competition. See you there!