Was the last Chopin Competition fair?

Was the last Chopin Competition fair?


norman lebrecht

September 23, 2014

The 2010 winner, Yulianna Avdeeva, was a student of the jury member, Fou Tsong.

Neither of them mentioned the relationship at the time. Claims were later made that the winner had *only* participated in Fou Tsong’s masterclasses. She’s a fine pianist but full disclosure should have been made. Second prize went to Ingolf Wunder, third to Daniil Trifonov.

We understand that Warsaw has tightened the rules for the next competition in 2015.

Here’s a trailer to Christine Jezor’s film made around the 2010 contest.


And here’s the winner.


  • Martin Malmgren says:

    The Chopin 2010 competition? Again, you’re a bit late to that party…

    Avdeeva was not the nr. 1 choice of most judges. But as their opinions were so divided about several other finalists, she had the highest average score. I believe the scorings are available on the website of the competition…?

    As for Christine Jezior’s movie, I can warmly recommend it, if you can get a copy. I was fortunate to meet her and talk about the movie some years ago.

  • MB says:

    The scoring of the competition is available here:
    (t/n – tak/nie, that is yes/no; s – student)

    1st stage:

    2nd stage:

    3rd stage:


    Fascinating to analyze!

    The rules for the 2015 edition were already published:

  • Nina Orotchko says:

    Please notice: Yulianna Avdeeva, was a student (6 years) and then an assistant of Konstantin Scerbakov, a great pianist and professor of the Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK) Konstantin Scherbakov http://www.scherbakov.ch

  • Fred Chopsticks says:

    Wrong, Mr. L. I spoke with Andrzej Jasiński about this. She was the favourite of only a small number of the jury. Politics sealed the deal.

  • pianowatch says:

    Avdeeva was the choice of the 5 most renowned pianists on the jury: Agerich, Entremont, Davidovich, Fou Ts’ong, & Friere. Why? Because her playing is HONEST: Avdeeva speaks the truth of the music, which is very rare these days. Unlike the other contestants, Avdeeva’s playing was devoid of traditional affectations & clichés (which unfortunately, audiences have come to expect in their favorite Chopin pieces.). The purity of Avdeeva’s musicianship was refreshing, and it set her apart from all the other contestants. But the naysayers out there need not worry: Cream always rises to the top — with or without a 1st prize. In 1955, Adam Harasiewicz was 1st prize winner over Ashkenazy — but it didn’t take long for justice to prevail. So: Stay tuned…

  • Olaugh Turchev says:

    The “selected” competitions reviewed in this new crusade are telling… What no Cliburn, QE, Rubinstein und so weiter? Ach!

    • Martin Malmgren says:

      Ach, but at the QE jurors are supposed to tell what competitors have been their students, and competitors are expected to testify with whom they have studied, and jurors are not allowed to vote for their own students – so, everything must be fair game at that competition, right?

    • pianoland says:

      Keep your eyes on the next Cliburn competition. Since 2001, Yoheved Kaplinsky of the Juilliard School faculty has had enormous influence there. At the 2013 Cliburn competition, 7 of her students were amongst the 30 selected entrants (yes, she was on the pre-screening jury), and 1 of her pupils always makes it into the finals.

  • Musicandmore says:

    As everyone knows, Martha Argerich doesn’t hesitate to speak her mind: She famously quit the 1980 Chopin jury, so had there been any dirty tricks at the 2010 competition, she would have walked out and broadcasted to the world her reasons for quitting. Avdeeva might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but clearly she won the 2010 Chopin Competition fair & square.

    • kino says:

      Argerich walks out only when there is her favorite and she/he didn’t win. That doesn’t mean she is fair.

      • kino says:

        Juries who have own pupils in the contest could give low scores to the enemys at the early stages to drop them. Argerich may not notice that.

  • Joshua says:

    I have an idea for jury selection.
    STOP INVITING the same old violin/piano teachers to be on the jury.
    Invite eminent teachers who teach a different instrument, invite young conductors, invite known soloists, invite a manager.

    Whoever thought it was a good idea to invite a teacher from Korea who has 6 students entering, a teacher from the USA who has 5 students entering, a teacher from Germany who has 4 students entering, you see how stupid this is?
    Little wonder so few of the winners actually get invited to play with big orchestras after they win their prizes. And even if they do, it rarely turns into a concert career.

  • Keyser Soze says:

    Chopin Competition Winner Avdeeva Fu T’song’s “successor” by The China Times daily, 2010-10-28

    The winner of the Chopin Piano Competition this year was disclosed recently. The first prize went to Russian pianist Yulianna Avdeeva whose teacher was pianist Fu T’song. Fu T’song said that during the preliminary, Avdeeva was almost expelled, and she almost couldn’t get into the first round of competition, “When I knew about it, I expressed solemn protest and proclaimed to withdraw from being a member of the jury.”
    The main reason why Fu T’song came forward to set the record straight for Avdeeva is not because that she is his student, more importantly is that he sees Avdeeva as his successor. “She has her own ideas; she is not my copy, but she and I have the same soul and the authentic attitude in the pursuit of music.”
    Fu T’song’s father once said, first is to be a (good) human-being, followed by being an artist, musician and pianist, “Avdeeva possesses these four elements. I only lack (the element of) ‘pianist’.” Fou T’song said, he taught himself since childhood, his pianistic technique is without the quality of ‘moving clouds and flowing stream’, and he always feels it is not enough and suffers for it.
    Fu T’song started teaching Avdeeva two and half years ago, “her progress was amazing, similar to a jump. In March this year I was still a little worried, but my worries completely dissolved one week before the competition.” Fou T’song said, the pleasant quality of Avdeeva is that secular influence doesn’t affect her, and she completely focuses on music, “even after winning the championship, she still keeps discussing with me the methods of proper interpretation of musical pieces.”
    Fu T’song said that this year the quality of participants of the Chopin Piano Competition is the highest in recent years, “the winners of the fifth, six place this year have the opportunity to become the first in the last few competitions.” Regarding why there are no Asian pianists in this year’s final, Fou T’song pointed out: “Most Asian pianists in this year only have technique, and lacks cultural attainment.”
    Avdeeva will be giving concerts in Japan in December this year, Fou T’song, who treasures talent, has called his friends in Taiwan to start arrangement; he hopes that Taiwan musical fans have the opportunity to witness his hand-picked “successor” at the end of this year

    • Robert Hairgrove says:

      I’ve seen this posted in various places on the internet, but it smells to me of “fake news” … is there any substantiation that this interview actually ever happened?

  • Elijah says:

    Speaking of 1980, the winner of that year’s Chopin competition, Dang Thai Son, who was also on the 2010 jury, gave his thoughts on Avdeeva, Wunder, Trifonov, and Argerich, amongst other things. Here: http://www.examiner.com/article/interview-with-pianist-dang-thai-son-part-i

  • Elijah says:

    Speaking of 1980, the winner of that year’s Chopin competition, Dang Thai Son, who was also on the 2010 jury, gave his thoughts on Avdeeva, Trifonov, Wunder, and the Argerich-Pogorelich controversy. Here: http://www.examiner.com/article/interview-with-pianist-dang-thai-son-part-i

  • Richard says:

    Yes, quite a “small number” for 7 (seven!) out of 12 jury members to give her the highest points in the final. Does it hurt to have read the official statistics MB posted, one hour before you did? Judging by the first round scores, it’s rather more telling Jasinski really wanted Avdeeva flown out of the contest right away.

  • Naysayer says:

    Ingolf Wunder also studied with Harasiewicz. Why doesn’t Norman Lebrecht mention this? Is it fair?

    I’m so disappointed by this post. Typical Lebrecht style: no careful research as usual, but full of clever suggestiveness that is nothing but misleading.

    Yes, it makes you look so cool to play the role of inspector, very much so, and pay no price. But I doubt if you always know how to be fair and responsible.

    • Martin Malmgren says:

      Thank you for mentioning these things – actually, a lot of people may be unaware of that Wunder studied with Harasiewicz.

      It is also somewhat misleading to say that Jezior’s (by the way very interesting) film was ‘made around the 2010 Chopin contest’ – actually, the primary focus of the movie was the 1980 ‘scandal’ with Pogorelich being eliminated and Argerich leaving the jury. Then, the secondary focus was around the 1975 when Zimmerman won, and it became rather apparent (according to other contestants) that ‘dangerous candidates’ were eliminated to make it easier for him to win – the Chopin competition wanted a Polish pianist to win, surprise surprise. Apart from that, the movie focused on competitions in general – Christine interviewed an extraordinarily wide range of jurors/students/teachers/etc, among them Pogorelich himself, discussing the scandal and the various outcomes of it. And in addition to all of this, the movie did indeed include interviews with quite a few jurors in the Chopin 2010 competition, many of whom were once participants of that competition.

      Has Mr. Lebrecht actually seen Christine Jezior’s movie, I wonder?

      • pianowatch says:

        It is worth revisiting the 1980 Chopin Competition-Pogorelich scandal, and it’s possible to so, as Pogorelich’s “controversial” performances have been uploaded on youtube. One immediately hears why the jury was so adverse to him: His warped, perverted musicianship served his own narcissism rather than Chopin’s music. Quite simply, he didn’t deserve to pass to the finals, while Dang Thai Son’s poetry and pure musicianship captured the 1st prize. In the words of juror Eugene List “His playing caused me to just put my pencil down and listen to him”. Mme. Argerich’s highly publicized walk-out was ill-conceived: Yes, dear Martha: Pogorelich was (and is) talented, but talent is NOT enough — it’s what you do with your talent that counts, and in 1980 Pogorelich used his gifts to negative effect, and for extra-musical purposes. And, what with Pogorelich’s shamelessly embarrassing, inept performances over the past 10 years, one can well imagine that Argerich now regrets her petulant behavior of 1980, which launched the career of a performer who demonstrates an absence of any musical integrity.

        • Brian says:

          Angerich was right about Pogorelich, and history has borne out her conviction about him – Pogorelich has had a massively successful career, especially in the 80s and 90s. Even if one disagrees with his playing, the public recognizes what a genius he is. Whereas Dang Thai Son has not had a career, despite winning the first prize.

          • Dorian says:

            “Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.”

            ― George Carlin

            If “having a career” is a qualification of musical ingenuity, Justin Bieber will be on par with Mozart.

          • Dorian says:

            Moreover, Dang Thai Son was a communist musician, while Ivo was a symbol of the West. In an interview Son had expressed his difficulties asking for visa and permissions from governments. That’s why only 9 years after winning the prize – in 1989 – had Son performed his first concert in the U.S. While in Japan and Korea, Son is much more popular.

    • kino says:

      >Ingolf Wunder also studied with Harasiewicz. Why doesn’t Norman Lebrecht mention this? Is it fair?

      It depends on the fairness of Harasiewicz and Fou Tsong. The problem is whether Fou Tsong was being tricky on others’ scores for Avdeeva to win.

  • Ari Stotle says:

    The website: http://chopin2010blog.com has interesting information about the 2010 competition. The part I liked was examples of how the scores were calculated.


  • Carl Hopkinson says:

    Andeeva plays with great clarity and emotion….I think she was a reasonable choice for winner.

  • Patrick says:

    Is any music competition really fair?

  • Jokka says:

    I am now hearing her performance at La Grange de Meslay and I am not at all impressed. Also obvious mistakes. Dark performance.

  • stephen bishop says:

    the 2015 contest seemed to have its share of attempted skulduggery. 1 judge tried to blackball the champ by giving him 1 point — his other scores were high enough to defeat that sordid effort. it’s hard to keep corruption out of this piano racket

  • Robert Hairgrove says:

    This is an old thread, but only about one year ago has the Chopin Institute started to publish the complete video clips of most of the competitors’ performances in the XVI Chopin Competition (2010) in ALL rounds, from the first till the concerto finals. Presumably, since there are also playlists of contestants who were eliminated in the first round, this will eventually become an exhaustive documentation of the entire competition.

    It is very interesting (and educational) to me to compare the performances of the prizewinners, many of whom chose to play some of the same repertoire. I felt like this deserves greater attention, now that it is so easy to compare and create your own “winners lists”.

    Wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/XVI_International_Chopin_Piano_Competition

    Links to the playlists of the finalists on YouTube (there are more playlists of other contestants, and other years’ competitions here):

    1st prize: Yulianna Avdeeva – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zu4GvDu3Lgw&list=PLTmn2qD3aSQs5S_ey0HQdBEpByk-h3Nxc
    2nd prize (ex aequo): Ingolf Wunder – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x1W7XHTq0BQ&list=PLTmn2qD3aSQsf8Uik7vBQPGDeypj7eXy4
    2nd prize (ex aequo): Lukas Geniušas – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DA1chCkeOzw&list=PLTmn2qD3aSQvX38DShrjkcXOYcGeKkg55
    3rd prize: Daniil Trifonov – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pIy8eC0bZMM&list=PLTmn2qD3aSQsp-gMd0pxHX4mbwB9aumyP
    4th prize: Evgeni Bozhanov – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EnIWx5TqRDQ&list=PLTmn2qD3aSQvgn43YG5qoPkfCrHHgIT1P
    5th prize: François Dumont – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CG-Rc_Y4QWw&list=PLTmn2qD3aSQvtORu09lz4ut9oEMREftYX

    Honorable mention: Nikolai Khozyainov – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kCgvMDeU98A&list=PLTmn2qD3aSQubKL2hzlXD02tNCKEHZ60_
    Honorable mention: Miroslav Kultyshev – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nvs_DyJ77ng&list=PLTmn2qD3aSQuHzqgf-XevP3silH-NYNl0
    Honorable mention: Paweł Wakarecy – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GN2hx39pEJk&list=PLTmn2qD3aSQtcH0yYnRvPPNbxHulTvI1L
    Honorable mention: Hélène Tysman – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JP4yt1gp1kA&list=PLTmn2qD3aSQt0logj7V05RkLdLTTasrhD

    I wasn’t able to check every single URL for accuracy, but merely copied and pasted the links from the YouTube page for the Chopin Institute.

    Unfortunately, the links in this thread to the jury scores are no longer active (https://slippedisc.com/2014/09/was-the-last-chopin-competition-fair/#comment-41064) … does someone have updated links?

  • Robert Hairgrove says:

    Merry Christmas, everyone!
    Here is a Christmas present for you.

    After listening to hours of Chopin from this competition, I had to do myself a favor. I suggest you do this, too…

    Rosina Lhévinne – Chopin Concerto No. 1 in E minor, op. 11:

    This is how it is done.

    Recorded in 1961, a year or so before she performed it with the NY Philharmonic. She was 81 at the time.

    I wonder what would she have said about this competition’s winners?

    • Robert Hairgrove says:

      When I saw that I had written: “This is how it is done.”, I felt the need to clarify that statement.

      Of course, there are myriad ways of playing something. But when you hear someone’s interpretation of a work and have that feeling, that “This is how it is done.”, or “That is how I would want to play it”, then that person has played well. They communicated their musical ideas successfully. And that is what we all try to achieve. That is what I meant.

      There is never just “one way” to play something!

  • Robert Hairgrove says:

    Interesting quote from a 2012 concert PR:

    “Up next was the Piano Concerto No. 2 (Op. 21) of Frédéric Chopin, with Russian pianist and 2010 Chopin Competition winner Yulianna Avdeeva as soloist. Avdeeva is the most recent rising star whose name is associated with the renowned International Piano Academy Lake Como in Italy, where she studied under its artistic director, William Grant Naboré, and continues to work with pianists Dmitri Bashkirov and Fou Ts’ong.