How fair is that? Chair of Toronto Piano has five students in the competition

The second Toronto International Piano Competition opens next week. Juilliard’s Yoheved Kaplinsky is chairing the jury once again.

Five out of 24 contestants are her students; three belong to fellow-judge Fabio Bidini.

toronto piano


Kaplinsky’s students:

Maxwell Foster

Rachel Kudo
Brian Yuebing Lin
Yang Liu
Wenting Shi
Hyejin Kim
Rodolfo Leone
Jaemin Shin

How fair is that?

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    • I disagree. Fine, let’s not think about all those people who never applied because Kaplinsky is the head of jury. Let’s not think about people who got cut in the preliminaries. Let’s just focus on what will happen.

      Kaplinsky won’t be (or rather, shouldn’t be) able to vote on more than 25% of competitors. Does that make sense to you? She should resign if she wants that bad name on her to be cleansed away. By staying on the job she is only confirming everyone’s suspicion.

      Don’t believe me? Just look up ‘Kaplinsky corruption’ on Google. 4 documents on Kaplinsky’s corruption on the first page alone. And you naively assume that she is all fair?

      • Right, Google is the authoritative source. I think those posts are from a very uncentered, past music student who couldn’t cope with the competitive nature of school. It sounds like this person became very narcissistic and broke down with the criticism and hard truths that exchange between the students and primarily the teachers and students. Whomever posted that content most likely had deep emotional problems that would have surfaced in any environment that required maturity. If you going to ‘Google’ look up how Kaplinsky’s privacy was threatened as hate letters were slipped under her hotel room door while participating in competitions in Israel and in Fort Worth. Blogging is one thing, threatening someones’ personal space and obsessing about them in an extremely negative vain is unhealthy. She has all the license in the world to sue for libel and/or slander. She has all the right in the world to do so.

        • Google isn’t the source. Google merely shows you what is out there. Just look at the numbers. If you think they look normal, you aren’t.

          • Yoheved Kaplinsky is scrupulously honest. She is kind. She is a superb teacher. That’s why her best students do well. Period. All else is typical sour grapes from a disgruntled former student and outright lies. And really, Google is a source of unbiased information? That’s like doing a Presidential vetting process through the TMZ website. Grow up! Veda Kaplinsky knows great piano playing and how to teach the piano. That’s why her students do so well. And the last time 25% of her kids got into a major competition where she was a judge, she resigned from ths jury to recuse herself. Enough with your slander.

  • If you look at it carefully –it is a “Chinese “piano competition held
    in Toronto . One suspects it has little to do with music as it has with identifying
    the large Chinese population of Toronto .

    • it says clearly in the competition rules:

      “Competitors age 35 years and younger as of November 1 (Sat) 2014. Pianists of all nationalities are welcome.”

      So this doesn’t look like a competition designed as solely a promoter of the Chinese population of Toronto (or elsewhere).

      • Yeah right… Read between the lines.
        Funny when they talk about a fresh competition and their chairwoman is… Juilliard’s Kaplinsky, somehow the interest goes down in flame.

        • You said it! I know many young musicians who decided not to apply for this competition simply because Kaplinsky was involved. Guess what: she was the head jury the previous time, too! And guess what: her student won the whole thing the previous time! No wonder when you google ‘Kaplinsky corrupt’ you get so many results!

          • Jiayan Sun played extremely well during the 2010 competition. He is very gifted and looks forward to a solid career performing and teaching. I’d see him play no matter where he was. I am thrilled to have this gifted pianist in my life. That is mutually exclusive of who his teachers were, what competitions he participated in or placed in.

          • I am not going to make a judgment on Sun’s playing. But many people felt that the performers in the finals were not stellar. And that’s putting it mildly. I have seen people complain out loud at Koerner Hall after the concerti. It was mostly mediocre. Not just general public’s opinion (which was pretty much the same by the way) but also experts’ opinion.

    • Milka, I think THAT is reading too much into it. Yes, I see that the previous winner was Chinese, but there are enough Chinese winners in the competition world so that doesn’t say much. It is simply organized and supported by the Chinese community in Toronto but it is the same as to say that Chopin Competition is only for Polish musicians because it is organized by Poles. Let’s focus on the Kaplinsky issue.

  • Mrs Kaplinsky is a world class manipulator, but a very low class musician.
    This is a fact known by all the music circles.Why students are enrolling? Simple calculation.
    Better to be on her side when you are a student in this wild wild business.
    Mediocrity is everywhere!!!

    • This argument reminds me of a trend in my own profession. The hackers assess the computer scientists as not effective or capable. If only the hackers knew that the computer scientists built the platform and theory onto which they can “hack”. Where have you performed publicly recently? Do you have an holistic understanding of music or do you have short term tricks up your sleeve. My hacking friends combine their quick agility and quick study with their huge (fragile) egos and demand that no one else can develop the codebase as they do. All I know is that combination of shallow knowledge and ego creates a dangerous instruction set for real time execution on a computer cpu array. Go find some depth – or better yet – get the insight that someone like Kalechstein, Perry, Kaplinsky or O’Conner frighten you because they reflect back to you the fact that your lack ownership and insight into your own depth.

      • Thanks for letting us know that you basically disqualified yourself in the discussion. You don’t know what you’re talking about. Just liking music and thinking that you can play some Rachmaninoff pieces don’t make you an expert in this. Please step aside and keep quiet.

  • It’s a little different when your first prize winners seem always to be Chinese.
    The Chopin Competition while not as insular has always attracted a different
    breed of player and the competition has
    had its troubles and squabbles as
    competitions go.The Poles never considered the competition a Polish
    thing except when someone was playing a mazurka, then the claws came out . On the world scene the
    Toronto competition means zilch ,
    as do all competitions .

  • Yoheved Kaplinsky’s own playing never rose to the level of a concert pianist, because her training was so poor: Her principal teachers were Irwin Fruendlich (a 3rd rate pianist) and Dorothy Taubman (who was simply NOT a pianist!). It was irresponsible of Juilliard president Joseph Polisi to allow himself to be manipulated into appointing Kaplinsky as chairman of Juilliard’s piano dept (which didn’t automatically transform her into a master piano teacher), and even more irresponsible of ignorant piano-competition administrators to hire Kaplinsky to chair their juries. Kaplinsky’s proven ability to manipulate conservatory administrators, artist managers, and competition juries is a scathing indictment of the corrupt piano world — a phony world that convinces naïve young talents that if they win enough competitions, they will have a career. However, when they reach age 30, those sadly deceived individuals are kicked out of the system, left with nothing more than a pile of medals, a stale repertoire, and no career whatever. Kaplinsky’s piano world produces “piano-players” — of which the world has FAR too many. In reality, careers go to the real MUSICIANS, not to mere piano-players, and certainly not to competition winners. Kaplinsky and her ilk lead our naïve, talented youth down the path to heartbreak and despair, as they are perpetually replaced by the next contest-winning 7-day wonders. It’s a shameful state of affairs, from which only Kaplinsky profits. By contrast, one need only to recall Rosina Lhevinne — one of the most popular and successful teachers of the 20th century, and a first rate pianist herself: Lhevinne NEVER sat on competition juries, as her personal integrity prevented her from accepting such invitations. Frequently her students won competitions, but it was due to their playing alone.

    • How many piano competitions were there when Rosina Lhévinne was teaching in the 40s & 50s? Kaplinsky is a critical part of the Juilliard faculty – just like both Josef and Rosina Lhévinne were. Are you having difficulty with change? The Lhévinnes have been gone since ’44 and ’76 respectively. I’m thrilled that Kaplinsky is running the piano department at Juilliard. Just as I value the influenced from all of her peers at Curtis, San Francisco Conservatory, Indiana/Jacobs and Eastman. She’s only one teacher of an entire group of talented, gifted pianists and teachers.

      • Good. Tell me ONE recording of Kaplinsky’s or an important concert that she played. Good luck with your ‘Google Search’. How dare you juxtapose the Lhevinnes with Kaplinsky?

        No argument. Just give me an example of Kaplinsky’s performance and/or an important pianist she produced. Hint: Helen Huang doesn’t count.

  • It does appear that Yoheved Kaplinsky is training young talents to do what in fact she was never trained to do, and therefore what she has certainly never done herself. However, I’ll certainly stand corrected if Ms. Kaplinsky would kindly supply a list of conductors and orchestras who have engaged her (and I’m not talking about the occasional “one-off” concert that most piano students manage to get here and there). From what is known of her training, it can be compared to language teaching, whereby one can teach someone to speak a foreign language phonetically – to the point where the students pronounce the words well, but they have no idea what they are saying. Perhaps this is the reason why, after 40 years of teaching gifted students, not a single Goode, Perahia, or Serkin has come out of her class.

    • not that Wikipedia is that solid of a source …. but ….

      `At last free to leave Germany, in 1919 the couple moved to New York City, where Lhévinne continued his concert career and taught piano at the Juilliard School. Regarded as one of the supreme technicians of his day by virtually all of his more famous contemporaries (even Vladimir Horowitz admired his vast pianistic command), he never achieved their level of success with the public, perhaps because he made it look and sound so easy, but mostly because he enjoyed teaching more than performing.`

      • You condemn me for using Google search as my source but you have the audacity to use Wikipedia? That shows what kind of person you are. Thanks.

  • What arrogance is displayed by the
    founders of this Toronto International Piano Competition !! A Canadian Musical Olympics ! – how stupid -music is not
    about athleticism- while sending out
    invites in Cantonese and Mandarin “to bring Toronto & Canada onto the world stage ” the founders of this “musical olympics” might take note
    that Canada and Toronto were on the world stage long before Toronto International Piano Competition or Musical Olympics arrived on the scene
    It is so blatantly transparent that one can only wonder why any self respecting pianist would bother with this .

  • Of the 6 semi-finalists, 5 of them were listed in this article: Wenting Shi, Rachael Kudo, Yang Liu, Hyejin Kim, and Rodolfo Leone. This is beyond hilarious!

  • That the music world needs to be revolutionized, goes without say. That there is something intrinsically wrong with the way competition/colleges/juries go about their business is also a very serious matter.

    Unfortunately, this post has really nothing to do with either, and instead Mr. Labrecht has chosen to lead everyone on what can only be described as a character assassination.

    For the protocol: I’m a proud Dr. Kaplinsky student. And no, I have not won any competitions while I was studying with her, in fact, I wasn’t allowed to enter a competition she was a judge on.

    I feel I can say honestly and without any hesitation that all your accusation are baseless and false. Having known Dr. Kaplinsky for 20 years I can personally attest to the following:

    1. She is a phenomenal piano teacher, bar none. Which is the reason why so many talented students from all over the world come to study with her.

    2. She is an expert in helping pianists with hand injuries, and has helped hundreds of people with severe hand pain to get back on track. Like in my case, she probably saw them day after day without any compensation just out of the kindness of her heart and the pure desire to be of help.

    3. She is an incredible musician and pianist. I heard her play both live and on recordings. Solo pieces, chamber music and concertos (Bartok Sonata for two pianos, is a personal favorite!) Her musical intelligence is superb and is really the secret to why so many of her students do so well. She has made a decision to teach and not to concertize, because she felt that was her calling. And thank God for that.

    4. She is one of the most honest people I have ever met. There is no way she would ever even dream of manipulating the results of a competition or a jury to help her students get a better score. Anyone who suggests that has never met her.

    5. She is probably one of the most kind and generous people I have ever met, as I have been there time after time to see her help students in need. Her door was always open to everyone.

    In Judaism, the act of slander (leshon h’ra) is considered “worse than the harm done by stealing or by cheating someone: money lost can be repaid, but the harm done by speech can never be repaid.”

    These accusations are baseless and false.

    • Mr Avni, No accusation has been made. If you want to quote theology, allow me to remind you that in Judaism it is as important to be seen to be clean, as being clean itself. By allowing competitions that she judges to be stacked with her own pupils, Ms Kaplinsky fails on at least one of the se counts. NL

      • It’s clear from the content of the two posts on this matter, that you and the people posting (incognito mind you), are implying or insinuating that Dr. Kaplinsky is responsible for who enters these competitions and how many of her students actually get accepted. If that is not an accusation, I don’t know what is.
        Could it possibly be that these pianists are talented enough to be admitted to these competitions based on their own merit? That maybe they are talented and deserve to be heard? That maybe Dr. Kaplinsky is a really wonderful teacher?
        I have serious issues with the way competitions are run and judged, but in this particular case and since I know the person involved, I can be the character witness who says you people are off, wayyyy off.

        • Just in case it was not made clear before: on multiple occasions Dr. Kaplinsky submitted her resignation when she discovered how many of her students wanted to enter, and in each and every case the competition committees have refused and implored her to serve.
          Not because she “intimidated them” but because they she is an honest, trustworthy and “clean” person.
          Implying otherwise, without proof, is called slander.

  • I shall reiterate: Yoheved Kaplinsky is a scrupulous, honest musician,teacher, and person. Her performances with Zubin Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic and with Julius Rudel aside, she has devoted a career to the instruction of talented students. Having known this fine person over twenty years, I can honestly say that she does not engage in gossip, backbiting, or back-slapping for personal gain. You may engage in all the silly speculation about her you want. She knows what she is doing as a teacher. And she’s humane. You people just hide behind your keyboards and write masrurbatory nonsense about people you think you know. Good luck to you! You’ll need it.

  • Kaplinsky’s main fault is that she works too much and doesn’t know how to say no to the hundreds of talented pianists who flock to her studio. She is the most coveted teacher at the most coveted school, so of course her students are overrepresented at competitions. Unless they figure out a way to eliminate all conflicts of interest between judges and entrants, there will always be the danger of people perceiving bias. That’s the system’s fault, not Kaplinsky’s.

    If you’ve spent any time with Kaplinsky, you know that she is an honest person who has great respect for the talents of other teachers and their students. The slurs in these comments about her own musicianship and teaching style are not only irrelevant, but reveal the shameful pettiness and jealousy behind much of this fuss.

  • The vitriolic and baseless personal attacks in many of these comments, many made behind a curtain of anonymity and by those who do not know her, are dismaying to those who know Veda Kaplinsky as a dedicated, intelligent, sensitive, astute teacher and a kind, compassionate, gentle, and wise human being.

  • As a Juilliard alum who plays cello, I had direct contact with both her students and with her. I played the Franck Sonata with one of her star students who was a prodigy. He has had a career without entering a single competition, due to being just that good, and meeting many conductorsand auditioning directly for them.

    Kaplinsky students all exhibited a fluidity of the wrist and arm that is almost mesmerizing to watch, and creates a very attractive and creamy tone from the piano. This is obvious to anyone. She also taught a wide range of musical personalities, from the demonic Liszt-like technical powerhouses to gentle souls to those struggling with injury. Just like any great teacher. Dorothy Delay is an example of a violin teacher who was accused of similar bad actions and had a similarly wide range of personalities and abilities studying with her. The fact is that with a few notable exceptions from other studios (like my friend Stewart Goodyear), the most engaging and brilliant musical personalities and exciting pianists were all Kaplinsky students, and even the ones who were less meteoric all sounded zounds better after working with her. All the string students who I hung out with noticed this and occasionally commented on how amazing it was that she managed to do this and also avoid the stress in her students that so many Delay proteges suffered.

    In the lesson I had with Kaplinsky, she spoke primarily of musical and structural details to the two of us, but there was one moment that I still remember vividly because it was so remarkable. She wanted to demonstrate a special touch to the pianist in the upper register, and came over to play it. Standing up, with a nearly vertical arm, she played a few notes showing what she was hearing and then what she hoped for. Her demonstration was completely accurate to what my pianist was doing (which sounded amazing to me already, keep in mind) and then her rendition was life changing in its beauty and control. Then she did it again to be sure that he understood. I have played with many pianists, and for many teachers, and have never seen or heard anything like it, except perhaps watching Yo Yo Ma demonstrate a passage while standing up, and sounding even better than when he was seated (pure coincidence about both being in awkward positions, it was the sound that sticks with me).

    Now, it is my turn to do some character assassination. Every single one of you who is posting these baseless accusations is full of malicious and useless bile, and contribute to the downfall of classical music in a time when all hands need to be on deck. For shame, Norman Lebrecht! Are you a simple clickbait whore? Your reporting on the Minnesota Orchestra was valuable journalism, but this is pure bogus tripe. Stop it. You’re better than this.

    As for the rest of you maligning her and her students, put up some actual evidence or shut it. Calling other commenters unknowledgeable is not evidence, that is the rhetoric of bullying and worse, not of reasoned debate and persuasion. If you are angry, take a walk before commenting. Don’t poison the well any further than you already have.

    • The evidence is in the numbers. The competitions she judges are fought mostly by her students, one of whom usually wins.

      • Correlation versus causation. The numbers are a fact. But there are a couple of possible explanations.

        1) she is a good teacher, and her students reflect that and therefore get into and win more often.
        2) she is a good manipulator and her students get in and win because of this.

        How would one test which hypothesis is correct? Compare the percentage in competitions she is not involved with to those she is involved with. Compare the careers of all competition winners to her former students’ careers. If there is a statistically significant difference in the former and a large majority of the latter have floundered, then you have a news story.

        You have done none of the rigor above before posting this article, and thus have neither moral nor scientific high ground, and as a result, nothing but poor journalism to show for it.

        I challenge you thus: if the numbers show it, then prove it. Do the study of competitions over the past 10-20 years and see if the data speaks in favor of her teaching prowess or in favor of a conspiracy theory.

        I don’t care either way except that I want to see real stories and this ain’t it. You owe us this much: publish allegations with strong caveats, and facts as facts. Blurring the line is a dangerous path and you risk hurting a lot of people in the process for no gain to anyone.

        • I am sure this particular teacher is a person of the highest ethical values. The problem is that the entire competition sector is corrupted by insider trades on the part of influential teachers. All who take part risk being tainted by the process.

        • I am sure this particular teacher is a person of the highest ethical values. The problem is that the almost entire competition sector is corrupted by insider trades on the part of influential teachers. All who take part risk being tainted by association.

          • And your proof? You are aware that the head of a jury never listens to the tapes that determine who is accepted? I am sorry to keep hammering but this is the 6th article I have read insinuating some kind of cabal in international competitions but without any numbers to prove it. Stop it. Post real proof please. I will be the first to call for the heads of the corrupt. I never much liked the competition process, as anyone who knows me can attest, but it is not because of the conspiracy theories that are being pushed through your blog, it is because they tend to get the answer wrong a lot about who will be a valuable musician, and because they focus attention away from innovation and creativity by necessity. But I digress.

            Show me the money! Where’s the beef!

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