Maestro relaunches violin competition – with no teachers on jury

Maestro relaunches violin competition – with no teachers on jury


norman lebrecht

September 19, 2014

Next year’s prestigious Paganini Competition in Genoa, Italy, is under reconstruction.

Fabio Luisi, music director of Zurich Opera and the Danish radio orchestra, is to be its artistic director.

He has decided not to allow major teachers onto the jury. Instead, he tells Slipped Disc, ‘I will put people who really can help the winners to build up a career: general managers of orchestras (e.g. Filarmonica della Scala), agents, conductors, journalists’ – plus – a former winner of the competition and the concertmaster of an orchestra.

Like many of us, Fabio Luisi is disturbed by the whiff of insiderism arising from Indianapolis, where four finalists out of six are students of members of the jury.

It is not uncommon for teachers who appear on international competition juries to charge $1,000 per 45-minute lesson.

The revitalised Paganini Competition could help break the mould, and the racket.

paganini competition



  • Martin says:

    Seems a reasonable approach.

  • Takis says:

    In the prestigious Parkening guitar competiton there is not a single teacher in the jury, only managers, performers, journalists.

  • Mick says:

    Question is, do folks like managers, agents and journalists are qualified to be judges in a classical music competition, or is it going to open other avenues for even more corruption (and confusion)?

  • Mick says:

    Regarding my own last comment, is it possible to add a feature to edit the text once it’s been posted?? 😉

  • Sal Rosenberg says:

    I think it is safe to say, Miriam Fried will not be sending any of her students to this competition…

  • But- says:

    Mick, you are giving the teachers a lot of credit here in assuming that they are actually qualified to judge! Many of them do not have distinguished solo careers themselves, let alone prestigious (or at least what used to be prestigious) recording contracts that their own students aspire to. Then they spend their time training students to be technical machines with no risk-taking, no imagination — what great musicians would want to produce that kind of student?

    And then of course, when you throw those students into the competition mix, how can you expect them to judge fairly?

  • This sounds reasonable. I’m curious to see how the works out.

  • Dashman says:

    The political horse-trading among teachers who serve as jurors in these competitions is well known – (as to whose student will be favored in a meet). And if I have a teacher who is buddies with an influential teacher/juror, then I get a prize.

  • Milka says:

    From the frying pan into the fire..
    it gets worse with every posting .

  • thekingontheviolin says:

    The alleged corruption of individual teachers on juries is one thing but to attempt to solve the issue with collective corruption whereby individuals with no expertise whatsoever serve on juries is quite another.
    This is UTTER MADNESS!

    Surely it would be better to appoint Simon Cowell and call classical competitions

    “The World’s Got No Talent”.




    • William Safford says:

      I not think that “corruption” is the correct word for your complaint (irrespective of its merits), unless you allege that the “individuals with no expertise whatsoever” would be themselves fixing the results.

  • Gaspard says:

    To suggest that artist managers and concert presenters have no expertise is insulting and stupid. Juries pick winners of competitions but competition wins do not build careers. They give a round of first engagements and ultimately it’s up to the presenters and their audiences to build the careers. Talent and technical prowess is only half of what makes a career. Better to have a jury made up of a variety of people involved in the music business

  • Milo Fultz says:

    For previous commenters: to assume that only people who play music understand music enough to judge is why music is so unapproachable and incestuous by anybody but musicians. Also insulting to the people who will get you paid.

  • Musicandmore says:

    Presenters & audiences build careers? Hardly. The name of the game is CONDUCTORS, period. If the conductors hire you, everyone else will hire you. If conductors don’t hire you, you’re toast. BTW, the world is filled with contest winners who are sitting at home with their trophies & medals, wondering why they don’t have a career. The “teacher-cliques” that dominates international competition juries are simply pushing their students into obscurity by manipulating competition results. Does anybody care to name the last 10 winners of the Paganini competition — or ANY competition?

  • Eric Roter, M.D. says:

    Wow, 1k for 45 minutes. And I thought I made a good career decision!

  • iStrings says:

    Having lot of experience in competitions (as being candidate and winner at several competitions before and seeing my daughter doing the same now) I think the only benefit is that we make our self’s to do all the preparation work, learning repertoire and having this unique experience playing in nervous conditions that are not to compare to any other performances.

    In my opinion competitions are always corrupt; of course if teachers of candidates are in the jury that’s the worse. But I believe, if someone has studied for example with Bron (and Bron not being on the jury) that will be for many jurors enough not to vote against. (there are in all genres the big teacher-names, big either because they are really great or because of any other reason) And since the music world is nothing else but a big political garbage can, we will never find out the exact scenario of the decision making of a jury.
    It doesn’t really matter how candidates play, usually they are all really very good especially technically, (asians or who ever else) musically less so, and that makes competitions more and more useless. In addition, there are also genres where the jury members are in the same age group as the candidates, creating a great conflict of interest too.

    Having agents, managers, journalists conductors etc. instead of teachers on juries seems to be a good idea, but think about, what will be then the criteria for them?? Perhaps bigger show, better chance? I’m not sure if that will be ideal…

  • Novagerio says:

    Just a reflection regarding for instance conductors: Franco Ferrara, Karl Österreicher and Jorma Panula just to mention 3 famous conducting teachers, had at least 1000 students each through 40+ years of teaching. Now, if those 3 gentlemen were/are to be excluded from a conductors competition in order to avoid eventual partiality and be replaced by managers, career builders and stock speculants, then I honestly don’t see what competitions in music are for. The Maazel/Vilar competition that launched guys like Dudamel had prestige because of the first name. The 2nd provided the money…

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