Star pianist quits competition jury over ‘dishonesty and fraud’

There is no finer living interpreter of Debussy and Ravel than the French pianist Pascal Rogé. He is not a man who seeks limelight or trouble, preferring to focus on the infinite impressionistic possibilities of his favourite composers.

So when Pascal speaks up – and walks out – the music world needs to listen. He resigned last night after declaring that the semi-finals had been tilted in favour of Italian candidates. Pascal wrote to us this morning: ‘What happened in Monza is a shame for the musical world in general and piano competitions in particular. I cannot face young students, working so hard and playing with all their talent and energy to finally being cheated by political and fraudulent people who are just there to serve their own interest.’

Here’s his full account of the fixing at Monza. (And see Updates here and here). Oh, and here.

pascal roge 2

 


I just resigned from the jury in Monza, Concours Rina Sala Gallo, after hearing the results of the semi-final.


There were 6 candidates: 1 Japanese girl, 3 Italians, 1 Korean, and 1 Japanese boy.
The 2 best candidates from the beginning of the competition were the Korean and the Japanese boy and when I say the best it is an understatement, they were both FAR ABOVE the rest of the candidates.


Today Yejin Noh (Korea) played a magnificent Schumann Sonata and a mesmerizing 3 Mouvements of Petrushka. Not only it was technically perfect but the character, the spirit, the sound, the articulation, the interpretation was of a real and genuine musician.


Yano Yuta from Japan played the most moving reddition of Rain Tree by Takemitsu, then a somptuous Rachmaninov 2d sonata, full of passion and temperament, but always controlled with a flawless technique and a very personal inspiration.


He even made me like a piece that usually I cannot take…the Bach Busoni Chaconne transcription ! He managed to make that piece sound like a masterpiece. I was thinking to myself, it is going to be difficult to decide in the final who will be the winner, very different personalities, but both incredible talents.
Now guess what….??? Neither of them were admitted in the final…..!!


They took 2 Italians and the Japanese girl who played today the most boring, tedious and dull Schubert Bb Sonata I have ever heard in my life, not to mention some poor Debussy Preludes without any “french touch”.
and do you want to know why “they” elected to take this one ?? because they are sure that she has no chance to “interfere” with the 2 italians!! Now let’s play a game ! I am betting 2 magnums of Chianti that this is going to be the final result on Saturday:
1st Prize Fiorenzo Pascalucci
2d Prize Federica Bortoluzzi
3d Prize Atsuko Kinoshita
!!!
Is there still anyone out there who wonder how this can happen…?! Does the word “Mafia” rings a bell ?!
It’s purely mathematic: you put 3 Italian jury members plus 2 more “very strongly Italian influenced” and then you have a “majority” that can manipulate the results to their whims. And should I mention also the system of votation…very amusing…! You use your iPad to send “online” your vote after each contestant, and at the end of the “prova” you are given a “result”…with absolutely no transparency, no total of the points, not any kind of information on the way the points were added or calculated. You just have to trust “Il Signore Presidente” who “juggle” with his computer, hidden in a corner and then comes to you with a big smile “here is the result”…take it or leave it ! Eh bien Signore et Signori I LEAVE ! OK I am not Martha Argerich leaving the Chopin Competition because of Ivo Pogorelich being eliminated, and it won’t have any repercussion whatsoever, but I have my ethical behaviour to respect as a musician and as a human being, and I cannot associate my name to such a shameful ridiculisation of what should be a Piano Competition.

pascal roge 1


I know that some of my collegues in the jury agree with me, one of them whom I trust completely told me “I cannot believe this” but they have their own reason to “swallow” and pass by, such ashamed disloyalty.
I am hoping and looking forward to go soon to the Hong Kong piano competition (if the actual events do not threaten the security of the competition) because there, I am SURE that such a thing would not happen because Maestro Vadimir Ashkenazy is the chairman of the jury and he would NEVER accept such fraudulence.

 

The jury at Monza are:

Riccardo Risaliti | Italia | Presidente
Vovka Ashkenazy | Islanda-Russia
Jeffrey Biegel | Usa
Nora Doallo | Argentina
Roberto Prosseda | Italia
Pascal Rogé | Francia
Graham Scott | GB

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  • Theodore McGuiver says:

    Pascal Rogé and Ashkenazy were my idols when I was young. I knew Ashkenazy had incredible integrity but I’m delighted that Rogé plays in the same league.

    Good for you, Monsieur Rogé. Your Ravel recordings are still top of my list of favourites.

  • Rodney Punt says:

    When Italy was Rome it ruled the world. When that empire collapsed, Italy proved it was still potent as it lead the Renaissance. In the nineteenth-century the integrity of Verdi and a few others gave the country’s reuniting one more chance at moral authority. But with the twentieth century and even more in the current one, Italy descended into near universal corruption, despite sporadic artistic achievements in music and film. Today that once great nation is cynical at almost every level, in many ways the laughingstock of Europe. As goes the big political picture, so goes the modest picture of piano competitions. Tragic.

    • Stefano Pierini says:

      Dear Mr. Punt, you ever heard these names: Carlo Rubbia, Italo Calvino, Luciano Berio, Carmelo Bene, Giulio Natta, Franco Modigliani, Guglielmo Marconi,
      Enrico Fermi, Emilio Segrè, Riccardo Giacconi, Giosuè Carducci, Grazia Deledda, Luigi Pirandello, Salvatore Quasimodo, Eugenio Montale, Dario Fo, Camillo Golgi, Daniel Bovet, Salvatore Luria, Renato Dulbecco, Rita Levi-Montalcini, Mario Capecchi, Amedeo Modigliani, Bruno Maderna, Maurizio Pollini (pianist), Claudio Abbado, Riccardo Muti, Mario Del Monaco, Beniamino Gigli, Ennio Flaiano, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Vittorio Gassman, Federico Fellini, Carlo Pavese, Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli (pianist) Sandro Pertini, Umberto Eco, Indro Montanelli, Arturo Toscanini, Umberto Boccioni, Giorgio Morandi, Giacomo Puccini, Luigi Dallapiccola, Claudio Magris, Massimo Recalcati, Italo Svevo, Alda Merini, Dino Ciani (pianist), Edoardo Sanguineti, Luigi Nono, Ennio Morricone, Umberto Saba just to name a few that lived in the Twentieth ‘barbaric’ italian century…? I am sorry but I am afraid that Yours is a very superficial and ‘ignorant’ comment, you should not generalize like that, is a lack of respect, respect that you owe to yourself (and to the people to whom you address your opinions…). Have a nice day, Stefano Pierini

    • PHD says:

      your lesson on Italian history is interesting, but extremely simplistic. The idea implied in your words that when Rome ruled the world there was no corruption is somewhat naive, and your equation of potency with integrity and moral authority needs rethinking. The state that you describe Italy now to be in – ‘cynical at almost every level and the laughing stock of Europe’ – does not, at least in my experience, include all its piano competitions. I was chairman of the Busoni Competition jury in 2013, and a member of the jury at the recent San Marino Piano Competition. On neither occasion was there any suggestion of manipulation by jury members or organisers. If you have better knowledge than I, tell the WFIMC, the Alink-Argerich Foundation and the Italian Police; either that of stop making absurd generalised accusations.

  • Boris says:

    Open scoring. The only thing that will solve this mess.

    • Paolo Tramannoni says:

      They did. Now, the jury awaits for many people in this discussion to apologize, and reconsider their prejudices.

    • PHD says:

      I think I agree with you basically, but open scoring does have its disadvantages as well. Some competitions certainly do have it. The competition in San Marino intended to publish, after the competition was over, all the individual marks for each competitor given by each jury member. However, the jury voted to lobby the competition organisers – who agreed and accepted the jury’s request – to instead simply publish an average mark for each competitor; this was NOT in order that we could avoid being held accountable for our marks – if that had been the only consideration I am sure that we would have voted to publish all details – it was because it was felt that it would negatively affect the honesty with which we would feel able to mark a candidate who was that in any way related to another jury member, if our specific marks were public knowledge; many of the jury were obviously colleagues in other situations beyond the confines of the competition. That was proposed very strongly by another member of the jury, and supported by a majority, including myself. If anyone believes that to have been a coverup for Mafia-style activities, please grow up.

  • Mary Brown says:

    Thank you, Mr. Rogé. It’s too bad that people like you are SO RARE in the music world! You have described exactly what goes on in these corrupt music competitions, and young competitors who are “working so hard and playing with all their talent and energy to finally being cheated by political and fraudulent people who are just there to serve their own interest.” I have witnessed on numerous occasions at competitions, where many weaker contestants passed the preliminary rounds instead of their stronger peers. This is the game they play so that they can make their chosen “winners” look stronger in the final rounds. Thank you for your honesty and courage!

    It’s no wonder your music making is so true and honest as well. The soul of the player is transparent in the interpretation of the masterpieces. I were not only the sole trustworthy judge on that jury, but probably the only true and qualified professional musician (one who is still actively and constantly concertizes) on that jury!

    • Theodore McGuiver says:

      I’m not sure Jeffrey and Vovka would agree with your last paragraph…

    • PHD says:

      if what you say in your first paragraph has happened, I am very sorry about it. It would be sordid and pathetically self-defeating if juries were guilty of that. I can only repeat myself in response: I have never done what you describe, I have never detected it happening on any of the juries on which I have served and I self-evidently do not believe that it happened on any of the four competitions I entered myself – the last of these given that I was a finalist in all of them, and had no relationship of any kind with any jury member – there were the exceptions to this last statement of Pal Kadosa and Vlado Perlemutter, who had both given me masterclasses and were both on the 1976 Bartók-Liszt Competition jury in Budapest – and I did not win….

      In response to your second paragraph: it is good to read of your admiration of Pascal Rogé. However, to dismiss the validity of the others in the way you do is crass arrogance. With that level of self-importance we can all thank God that you are yourself not on any competition juries. I myself am not familiar with the playing of all the jury members, but I am with some of them, and I am a personal friend and colleague of the Head of Keyboard of the Royal Northern College of Music, Graham Scott; I know from his work there that he tries at all times to be as fair as it is possible to be, and in his position I would be deeply offended by being regarded as unsuitable to judge because you had not heard of me.

  • Christopher Axworthy says:

    I was on the jury last time( substituting at the last minute an indisposed John Connor) and I too could not believe the result …………..it is worse in Bolzano ………..The jury must be able to recognise the talent they have in front of them and help and encourage rather than destroy them with politics as is obviously the case.The Keyboard Charitable Trust( of which I am part) tries to pick up the pieces and encourage and help great talent in the making.But first you have to be able to discern who are the great talents but also the future ones which is where these competitions come unstuck .The number game has no place here and is only for the professional jury members who go from one competition to another .It is enough to say that the first jury members in Leeds all those years ago gave their services to help and encourage young talent…..Clifford Curzon,Annie Fischer,Gina Bachauer,Nikita Magaloff ,Nadia Boulanger,Lev Oborin,Geza Anda….they all have something in common that certainly Pascal Roge has too …..they can all play better than the people they are supposed to be judging!And just look at the results in those first competitions not only the first prize winners …Murray Perahia,Radu Lupu,Rafael Orozco.Dmitri Alexeev…but in there too were Andras Schiff and Mitsuko Uchida,Victoria Postnikova.
    Strange he should mention the Hong Kong Competition where Vladimir Ashkenazy is the chairman …in Monza this year the new chairman is his son Vovka!!!
    From this it is easily to surmise that it is the quality that should count rather than the quantity and above all the music! Menahem Pressler and Fanny Watermann have something so important to tell us …..LISTEN isn’t that what music is all about,after all.

    • PHD says:

      many people have made the valid point that perhaps the marking system using points rather than a simple yes or no is dangerous, given that the different personalities of the jury members will make them more or less strict, thereby distorting the averages. I am inclined to believe more in the yes or no voting system, as the average is going to be a more reliable and genuine reflection of the way the jury members feel. But one must respect the rules, which have been created by all competitions as an attempt to produce a fair result, with varying degrees of success.

      As I was the chairman of the jury in Bolzano at the last competition, I have issues with the accusation nestling within your statement: ‘The jury must be able to recognise the talent they have in front of them and help and encourage rather than destroy them with politics as is obviously the case.’ If the Bolzano jury destroyed the talents in front of us with politics, I was unaware of it. You say it was obvious. Was it? Please explain your charge or withdraw it.

      Thank you for listing, in true British style, all the famous foreigners who have emerged from the Leeds Competition, including those who did not win first prize and gone on to win higher prizes elsewhere….

  • Mary Brown says:

    Revision of the last sentence to my previous post: Not only were you the sole trustworthy judge on that jury, but probably the only true and qualified professional musician (one who is still actively and constantly concertizing) on that jury!

  • Amit Yahav says:

    Hear hear! I wish more judges were so transparent about the goings-on at some competitions.

    • PHD says:

      Some of us are trying, I promise. You may recall that throughout the International Tchaikovsky Competition in 2011, there were many jury members tweeting – never inappropriately, but as openly as would have been fair – about how things were going. I have already mentioned the forthcoming blog from myself. Things are generally already a lot more open than they used to be. But please think about the negative long term effects on both jury members and competitors if everything was made public.

  • avi kujman says:

    The best pianist for Ravel and Debussy? I guess that one does not count Zimerman against the others, as, after all, he is occupying a space solely his own. But hey, I guess that this is true to this pianist as well, if indeed a true artist, qua true artist.

    Here is the problem: competitions became all-important when you have so many pianists, and so the radical growth in their number over the years, made with the hype of America god talent.

    Please tell me who generally goes to judge at this kind of competitions? Perhaps in a few and far between competitions, the well established ones, we could find those who could really judge. With all the rest, it is too much the case of the teacher of this student, and the father’s friend of the other pianist and so on.

    But maybe the last sentence goes, again, to the wonderful interview of the unbelievable Fleshier the other day; or to the same thing Rubinstein said many years ago or the lovely Pressler in an interview with you, Norman: the young musicians play perfect technique; the only problem is that most of them do not play music at all. I believe that when Argerich, Pollini or Zimermen would pop-up again in these competition, the possibility for this kind of dirt would diminish. The judges would simply be mesmerized by the music-making, at least as Brahms heard his concerto played for the first time by the great Huberman.

    “Went too far”? I know. With this kind of judges, it is more possible that the wonderful musicians that may still be there, around and in these competitions, would never be heard by us, as this means is yet the main route for being a concert-pianist.

    Maybe it is the responsibility of the current true pianists to help the young true pianists, i..e, true musicians, even artists. Some do it; they should do it more. But let us be true to ourselves; the true ones are as rare as the days in which there is no piano competition!

    • A cellist says:

      You think that talent and real personality, a person that has something to say, is going to win any competition nowadays? You really think so? Who did since 2000? Talented people, yes. Extraordinary: hell no. None of the few extraordinary ever made it to the finals even though they played wihlthout “mistakes”.
      Mistakes I do not ever care about; they make someone human. I witnessed Slava to really mess up and have to begin anew in a Dvorak Concerto. That Dvorak was the best I ever heard, no matter how often he had to restart movements.
      He had more to say in and with it than anyone else I ever had the pleasure to listen to yet.
      Imperfection can be a drug.
      Perfection without anything else is nothing but boring!!!

    • PHD says:

      You are in danger of making the same mistake that so many of us make: you assume that your opinions are fact: that all the artists whom you regard as great are great, rather than that in your view they are. I suspect the view that Argerich, Pollini and Zimmerman are wonderful pianists would be denied by almost no one, so there is no problem with your positive assumption about them. However, you by implication assume that everyone will also agree with you over the thousands whom you do not mention and are thus in your view not in the same league as those you do mention; that is a problem. That is why you would have to rethink your approach totally if you yourself were on a jury (I don’t know that you haven’t been, of course.) Greatness, excellence, mediocrity or uselessness are not measurable by anything that can ever be unanimous or factual.

  • Annett andriesen says:

    Is this competition a member of the World Federation of musical competitions?

  • Martin Malmgren says:

    I’m glad that Pascal is speaking up. I thought I’d share my own experience of participating in a piano competition in Italy (have only done one there so far, and declined an invite to Bolzano this year, where 150 pianists get invited to do a 20-min program each, after which about 25 or so get selected to the ‘real’ competition). The experience I had is indeed similar to what Pascal describes above.

    This happened many years ago in Rome, and the first two rounds of the competition were held, supposedly open to public, but in a room not much bigger than a normal livingroom, where we participants performed on a poorly-tuned baby grand, with the jury just a few steps away. I took note of a couple of things during these two rounds – the jury was mainly Italian, with a few exceptions, and the Italians would listen somewhat attentively when you played something fast, like etudes. Whenever slow music came into the picture, I took note that their attention drifted – they would scratch papers, sigh LOUDLY, breathe loudly, one juror got up from his chair and kept walking from one end of the room to the other. Rather ridiculous, considering it took about a second to cover that distance. There were also a few listeners in the room who did little good but join the sighing choir whenever it got started. Most of them had a student or two in the competition, and when their students would have sudden memory slips in Bach fugues or whatnot, they’d sigh and try to correct them, telling which note came next. Very interestingly, one of the Italian jurors was also convinced that Bach and Beethoven needed to be played metronomically – whenever a competitor speeded up or slackened the tempo, he would beat the tempo with his pencil and look at the other jurors, showing his disapproval. His student, who I’ll get to and who won 2nd prize, played Waldstein with no tempo changes whatsoever, same for his Bach.

    The jurors would all give their votes to the chairman, who then went to his room in secret and ‘counted’ the votes, and came out with a big smile and announced the results. The first round basically eliminated people fairly, but the surprise came after the next round. Though four pianists were supposed to go to the finals, only three names were announced, and though many jurors admitted voting favorably to a fourth candidate, his name did not appear on the list. Later, I understood that as each of those three finalists had a different teacher in the jury, for the Italian jurors it would appear ‘unfair’ if two students of one teacher would pass to finals. Two Italian pianists were in the finals, and one from Latvia.

    The ‘mafia’ within that jury were noticed having secret meetings just prior to the ‘official’ meetings of the whole jury. Not so surprisingly, one of the Italian finalists was a student of the academy where the competition was held. The finals came, and it was VERY clear to everyone that this Italian pianist was significantly weaker than the other Italian candidate, who did have his teacher on the jury, but who was not a part of that ‘mafia’. Fortunately this time, the significantly more talented pianist of the two ended up winning. The 2nd prize winner should not have been admitted to the finals at all. He banged his way through Scriabin 5th and Chopin 3rd sonatas in a most un-sophisticated manner, and whenever the music wasn’t fast or loud, he seemed clueless about how to shape it.

    The first prize winner was a then still very young Federico Colli, who went on to win the Leeds competition not too long ago.

    • Anon says:

      So what you’re saying is that despite all appearances to the contrary, the winner was in fact a very worthy of the accolade, in spite of your feeling that the ‘mafia’ would win through. Or in other words, the anticipated fixing didn’t happen, at east to affect who the winner was.

      • Martin Malmgren says:

        There was a fix in the sense that the 2nd prize winner should not have been in that final round at all. He played Chopin and Scriabin as though he wanted to bang the hell out of the instrument, it was loud throughout – poor understanding of phrasing, sound, color, tempo, structure, not to mention that it was metronomical playing throughout. It was bad enough he got a highly undeserved 2nd prize, but indeed, the first prize was given to the right pianist. Federico Colli was indeed far ahead of any other pianist in that competition. My point was that there were more worthy candidates in the second round than the guy who won the second prize, and there were indeed enough jurors who were in favor of at least one of of the other semifinalists. Perhaps I didn’t make that clear. In any case, the chairman of the jury ‘counted’ the votes, and came with the result, which only included three names, though four were supposed to go to the finals. Several jurors remarked that they had voted for a candidate that was not on the list, and still, he somehow did not pass to the finals.

        • Pianobrain says:

          As if Colli has any understanding of phrasing and tempo! However, he does have great technical control, but fails to make music.

          • Donohoe says:

            With an unsubstantiated snipe like that, you should at least have the courage to name yourself. You diminish yourself.

          • Pianobrain says:

            Hardly unsubstantiated, but if you agree to keep it in confidence, I am more than happy to reveal to you who I am. Someone close to me even ventured to say that Colli’s pianistic control was not even that special, but I begged to differ.

    • PHD says:

      What you say about the competition in Rome is very interesting. Jury members are beseeched in my experience to never openly show their enthusiasm or distaste when listening, but to respond respectfully, and in some cases to applaud equally – the latter being something I particularly support. The jury you mention would seem like a bunch of self-centred and self-important amateurs who should not have been allowed to have been involved. Again, it is something I have absolutely never experienced.

  • Koji Attwood says:

    To paraphrase Juvenal, who judges the judges?

    • avi kujman says:

      In an age where the judge at the competition is also the teacher, maybe “who would educate the educators” of Marx goes as well.

  • tatiana says:

    isn’t Vovka a clarinetist? why a chairman of a piano jury? don’t understand

  • Peter Donohoe says:

    What a fascinating insight.

  • What a Shame!!! says:

    All the system of competitions is corrupted and it’s helps only jury members …they made a real system of reaching money thanks to their students!
    Of corse there is somebody more and somebody less corrupted .
    If you are in a jury , you help your student.. if you have no student , you help your friend student in a way to be invited in another jury as an exchange.
    If you have no student , no student of friend, well…The answer belongs to the fantasy of who is reading this comment.

    I think it would very useful if any jury composed by teachers it would be under a supervision of a comity of real musician out of more up of those problems… As Mr Askenazy or Alfred Brendel Radu Lupu Andrass Shiff or Maria Joao Pires …

    And just a couple of questions… why do we need so many competitions under the world federation ? it would not be enough to have once a year a very important one? Like Chopin , Tchaikovsky , Queen Elisabeth and Van Cliburn ?

    Second one: in any trade in the world if somebody stilling money or does not pay taxes must go to prison ( in Usa at least , don’t know in Italy 😉 ..
    Why for a corrupted jury it would’t be possible to pay an amends for their corruption if it is possible to prove it by a international hight level comity?
    At least it would be necessary to interdict them from this profitable work !
    But maybe this is a question to ask Mr Alink of the Alink Argherich foundation.

    Anyway forgot to thank you Mr Pascal Rogé ! An example for everybody!

    • PHD says:

      [All the system of competitions is corrupted and it’s helps only jury members …they made a real system of reaching money thanks to their students!] Really? Perhaps you would like to see copies of my bank statements?

      Perhaps some jury members have been guilty of this, but if they have, I have never experienced it, and I am not prepared to be tarred with the same brush. Neither am I prepared to be silent when others are being slighted and insulted like this.

      You are wrong to imply that we are all the same. You are wrong and paranoid to imagine that it would even be possible to create such a situation. And you are wrong to use a pseudonym and take advantage of the anonymity provided by the Internet to lash out.

      The system is definitely not perfect, but we jury members, organisers and performing artists try our best to do the right thing and to improve the situation at every turn. If some spoil it for the rest, it is very sad, but they had better not try it when and if they appear on a jury with me, whether I am chairman or not. And if you accuse me of it to my face, or if I work out who you are, your feet will not touch the ground.

      [If you are in a jury , you help your student.. if you have no student , you help your friend student in a way to be invited in another jury as an exchange. If you have no student , no student of friend, well…The answer belongs to the fantasy of who is reading this comment. ] What??? Please tell me where I fit in.

      I rarely teach, although I have given many masterclasses. However, I have very occasionally encountered a competitor with whom I have had prior contact in some form; under those circumstances, I have been required to declare it and to forego the opportunity to vote for or against that competitor. Being a Facebook ‘friend’ is rightly enough to render the jury member unable to vote either for or against that competitor – [Facebook users take note….]

      Your assumption that I would help a friend’s student in order to be asked back is insulting; if there are those who do that sort of thing, it does not mean that we all do – I certainly don’t, and I have not encountered anyone who does.

      For the most part, I have no student and I do not know more than a small few students of friends: it is not a ‘fantasy’.

      Do you really think that it is practical for juries made up teachers to be supervised by your list of famous recording stars, and even if it was, do you think that being a famous performer makes you immune from prejudice and subjectivity? Are you serious?

      Regarding your two questions: there’s a lot of competitions for sure; they are here to stay, they provide a platform for young musicians, they force older and established musicians to put their opinions into coherent form, they attract the interest of the media and public and they give young musicians something to practise towards and to aim for. To reduce the number of competitions would be to reduce those opportunities. However, even if it were practical to do so, who is going to decide which ones should stay? You list some of the best known, as you do pianists. Yet you omit the Leeds and Rubinstein Competitions from your list, as you omit Martha Argerich and Grigori Sokolov from your list of pianists. Do you think you are in a position to decide which should stay? If not, who is? If so, on what basis are you the arbiter, and how do you come to your conclusions?

  • ARFAEL says:

    In 2012 Risaliti was the president of the jury of the Friuli Venezia Giulia International Piano Competition where Pascalucci won the first prize…

    • Gustav Alink - AAF says:

      Risaliti did not chair the jury at the 2012 FVG Competition, He was a jury member, as was Vovka. Lya de Barberiis was chairperson.

  • I doubt that the Van Cliburn is much better. Earl Wild adjudicated for it in 1981 (filling in for an indisposed Gideon Waldrup, the dean of the Juilliard School) and found the whole experience revolting. He told me the other judges “were not to be believed”. Maurice Abravanel in particular came in for some harsh criticism, as he had declared to the other judges that it was “an affront to the jury” that Panayis Lyras, whom Earl thought should have won the gold medal (“he had a nice sound”), had chosen to play Balakirev’s Islamey. “And the only money that sonofabitch [Abravanel] ever made was from a recording of ‘A Night in the Tropics’ by Gottschalk!”

    • PHD says:

      Congratulations on being one of the few on here who is prepared to use what I imagine is your real name. Your Van Cliburn Competition story seems to indicate that there was a gossip-monger judging. ‘An affront to the jury’ that someone chose to play Islamey?…. As for the comment about Abravanel, what an irrelevant remark! I would have thought he would have done all right out of having been the first conductor to ever record a complete Mahler symphony cycle, but even if not, what is his income to do with anything? Sounds like bar talk and silly bitchiness to me.

      I promise you that, even at small competitions, let alone one of the prestige of Van Cliburn, juries do not behave like that these days, and chairmen would surely not tolerate such idiocy – not at least in my experience; again I cannot comment on them all.

  • Pericle says:

    Great, good, finally someone who speshit out all the shit which is very often, too often, in jury at competition. Go ahead Maestro Roge´, well done, but let´s say the truth till the end: this “mafioso” behaviour happens evrywhere, not only in Italy, everywhere! I have travelled a lot and auditioned and attended competitions throughout Europe, and almost always I have seen if not the worst, some really mediocre candidates…I lived in Sweden for Three years, and what I have seen there, especially at the orchestral audition, is much much much worst than any “Maifa”. Anyway, good that an eminent personality in the Music as Roge´ came out with this!

    • Pericle says:

      errata corrige: I meant “…I have seen if not the worst, some really mediocre candidates win the competition or the audition just because they were the friend of/the pupil of…”

    • PHD says:

      [This ‘mafioso’ behaviour happens everywhere?] Really? As often stated before, the system itself often produces what appear to be illogical results. Sometimes, a jury member may get a wrong idea into his/head about the marking system or some other aspect of what is expected. Occasionally you may get someone who is simply not a good enough judge to be there, in the same way as a concert promoter or record company sometimes employs a soloist or conductor who is not so good, hopefully with the result that they are not employed again. All we can do is to try to keep the standard up by evolving a system that does not throw up anomalies, and by hoping that competition organisers will continue to choose fair-minded jury members. I claim to be one of those – or at least that I try to be – and I repeat that I have not so far worked alongside one who was not. I cannot answer for those I have not sat with, but I think you have to be carefully of hurling accusations unless you really know what happened.

  • Johnny be good says:

    Old story, if people were not afraid we would listen to those stories every day. I play double bass and in March 2012 at a Double bass competition held in Michaelstein (inside an yearly event called “Kontrabass Kaleidoscope”) I have seen the most obscure things going around. The Winner at the end was Franziska Petzold whose father, Stephan Petzold (dbass teacher at Eisler Academy in Berlin), was in the jury (what an absurde thing!). This Stephan Petzold was the most uncorrect and bold person on the Earth, letting win her daughter who in the final round performance stopped Three times to play due to mistakes. The other prized were two chinese extremely mediocre players who were pupil of a chinese double-bassist member of the jury…Maestro Roge´ is in right. He speaks right when name these “mafiosi”.

  • Pericle says:

    but why my comments were deleted? I wrote that I live in Sweden and in Sweden is the same, more than Mafia. At orchestral audition is the same, jury let win only their pupil or their friends…pure mafia style.
    Applause to Mr Rogé! Schumann would have written: “Hats off, a gentlemen!”

  • susan lofthouse says:

    Unfortunately, this is nothing new. But many many thanks for doing what you have done and explaining why. Many young pianists will be very grateful to you. To be honest, pianists should boycott such competitions, but they always hope they will win something and that the resultant publicity will help their career.

    • PHD says:

      Absolutely right. Young artists have little alternative, unless there are other extra-musical reasons why a particular individual shoots to fame. A competition prize can provide them with an opportunity to prove themselves – both during and after the competition itself.

  • Olaugh Turchev says:

    How about that jury member who hammered students at a competition in part because their teacher, years earlier, had had an affair then married this jury member’s mother leading to a messy divorce that traumatized him?

    • Martin Malmgren says:

      Who…..???

      • Olaugh Turchev says:

        If I wished to name him, I would have done so. But I assure you the story is real, and shows how weird things can happen utterly independent on a candidate’s will.

        • Martin Malmgren says:

          I have no doubts it is a real story, and I’ve heard so many similar stories. Like one where an accordionist friend went to a competition in Spain which happened to be organized by an accordionist who was strongly against the teacher of my friend. I don’t know the reasons for that, but she was out in the first round, and by the feedback, it was pretty clear the juror had little against her playing as such, just that he would never pass on a student of his ‘rival teacher’ to the second round.

          What a wonderful world…

    • PHD says:

      And aliens from outer space ate my hamster. So what? Unless you are prepared to name the person who did this – and yourself whilst you are at it, assuming your real name is something else – and you can prove it, there is no point in your story; it is pure tittle tattle.

      • Edvinas Minkstimas says:

        Dear PHD,

        Would you mind revealing your real name to us? After all, so far you seem to be one of very few fierce defenders of international piano competitions I have seen here. As far as I am concerned, your comments are biased, since you seem to judge in quite a few competitions yourself.

        Best

        • Donohoe says:

          I don’t think I ever re-lied to this, for which apologies. My name is Peter Donohoe and PHD are my initials. I have indeed appeared on several juries and stand by what I have written. If I am biased, it is not through the wont of trying. It is a very much more difficult subject than most of those contributing to this site every single time there is a competition.

  • pianoland says:

    Pascal Roge was the only pianist of stature on this jury. Artistically, the rest of them don’t rise to his ankles.

    • PHD says:

      Deeply unpleasant, utterly without foundation, entirely irrelevant and totally embarrassing to Pascal Rogé, if my feeling about his personality is accurate. In addition you remain anonymous, which adds ‘cowardly’ to the above. Grow up.

    • Pianobrain says:

      Rogé is indeed an excellent pianist, but so are Risaliti, Scott, Vovka Ashkenazy, Biegel, and Prosseda. I have never heard of Doallo. I read that alm the scores were published and, as a result, the French hothead had to withdraw his statement and apologise to the Italians.

  • irene says:

    In the interview with Mr. Vovka Ashkenazi he mentioned that when he was young, he was advised against entering competitions. Yet he performed with London SO. Here is the question: if you dont have a father, or somebody who knows somebody, etc, how DO you get to play with a good orchestra? Is not it one of the main reasons all these young pianists work their hardest to enter all these competitions? For these kids without right connections the medal became the only way to get noticed. Then they come to a competition, where jury members bring their students and vote for them, naturally, or this case with Italy. So, if you do enter a competition, it is tilted (on many more occasions, than it is written about), and if you do not go, there is no way you can get through the door, unless you meet somebody who knows somebody etc. Forget the managers, they only answer the phone. Then what? A sad result. Young pianists, who DO get on stage with the leading or even not leading orchestras are the products of this messy situation. The consequences? People dont buy tickets to the live concerts. Why to spend the money to hear somebody hacking his way through the Brahms no. 1, when there is a CD with Rubinstein and Reiner.
    Thank you, Monsieur Roget and Mr. Lebrecht. At least the discussion about a current, quite tragic situation, has began

    • PHD says:

      Thank you Irene for injecting some reasonableness into this ‘discussion’. It is indeed a well-documented serious issue, given the vast increase in the number of young musicians trying to make a start to a soloist’s career, plus the decrease in the number of concerts worldwide – at least in the Western World. This subject is so important, not just for the future of professional music-making, but also for the music-loving public. If the contributors to this thread would like to talk about that, instead of hurling abuse, it would be a great improvement.

  • Jeff says:

    Kudos to Mr Roge! I remember giving him a copy of a Debussy piece which he did not have (to his astonishment). I hope to see him again in the HK competition in a few weeks time.

  • XXIII Rina Sala Gallo International piano competition says:

    From the Jury members and Committee of the XXIII Rina Sala Gallo International Piano Competition

    Reply to Mr. Rogé’s personal opinion on the facts at Rina Sala Gallo in Monza (“full account of the fixing at Monza”):

    Monza, Oct. 4th 2014 – The international piano competition “Rina Sala Gallo”’s is a highly respected, beloved and historical institution whose aim isn’t to spot international stars but rather to help deserving musicians pursue their effort in building an international carrier, at an early stage.
    Its functioning and rules are published on the competition’s web site:

    http://www.concorsosalagallo.it/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=170&Itemid=11&lang=it

    Its juries and winners since 1970 are also published on the site, and their reputation is the best guarantee of this competitions’ reliability.

    The competition jurors are chosen by the Artistic Director (this year, pianist Vovka Ashkenazy from Russia) on an international basis and enjoyed till now an excellent personal and professional reputation: Jeffrey Biegel (USA) Nora Doallo (Argentina), Pascal Rogé (France), Graham Scott (UK), Oleg Marshev (Russia), Roberto Prosseda (Italy), plus the head of jury M° Risalti. Apart from M° Prosseda, only M° Riccardo Risaliti comes from Italy.

    Mr. Rogé has read, understood and undersigned the competition’s voting system and its regulation and, by accepting to become member of this jury, he has implicitly recognized its integrity. But now, he accuses his colleagues jurors of cheating.

    As it is written in the regulation, our voting system, and therefore each of the candidates’ scores is the mathematical average of the jury member’s votes, as collected and processed by an electronic device. The jury’s President (this year, Riccardo Risaliti) could not – never – have modified such data, because it is read only and controlled by our ICT staff. Accusing him to “juggle” with votes is a very serious accuse that should have been demonstrated before discrediting publicly the competition and his colleagues work. The others jurors that were in fact, as Mr. Rogé states, surprised by the marks obtained by candidates might also have remembered that those were the average of seven, singular, personal, very subjective, sometimes idiosyncratic points of view on a somewhat subjective matter as is music and interpretation. The fact is that votes (the average of the jurors’ judgements obtained during a week, in three different challenges) have proved to be constant, in time.

    Furthermore, the allegations of “mafia” with regards to the competition are of such severity as to be totally inadmissible. It is clear that none of the persons (Mr. Rogé together with other bloggers) that used the term “mafia” with regards to our institution have the slightest idea of what “mafia” is and how improper is the use of such term in this context. We assume that these persons base their judgements on cliché and platitudes with the same superficiality with which they take their selfies.

    The post’s title highly discredits the Rina Sala Gallo, well before the final verdict on this affair has passed. And before that, facts must be ascertained and the truth must come to light. And it will, by publishing on the competition’s web site each of the jury’s members votes.
    We would have appreciate that Mr. Rogé reciprocates Rina Sala Gallo competition respect for being an esteemed colleague and such an interesting interpreter of Debussy and Ravel. He could have explained why he didn’t agree on numbers, for instance, before leaving without notice the competition, yesterday evening, and discrediting it internationally.

    Our opinion is that Mr. Rogé’s is only a somehow clumsy move to gain publicity from the occasion. But none the less, the Rina Sala Gallo Association will undertake legal actions against him and those who will discredit our reputation with more, absurd “mafia” allegations.

    Each of the jurors’ votes, on each challenge, for each candidate will be published on the competition’s web site at the end of the competition, as to preserve their tranquillity during this delicate, final, stage.

    That will be an occasion for Mr. Rogé to check if he is as good at mathematics as he is in piano. At this point, we think that an official, public, and international apology would be appropriate.

    http://www.concorsosalagallo.it/

    • pianoworld says:

      yet you are not providing any real evidence to support any claims of transparency. That mention of a “Electronic Device” is very ambiguous and is not described yet in any way. Until you provide real docummentation backing up your statements, we have no reason to believe that your procedures were indeed clean and just. I feel sorry for the competitors though, however it’s possible that because of a couple of people jugding this year’s competition the whole competition will loose prestige and credibility.

      • PHD says:

        [yet you are not providing any real evidence to support any claims of transparency. That mention of a “Electronic Device” is very ambiguous and is not described yet in any way. Until you provide real documentation backing up your statements, we have no reason to believe that your procedures were indeed clean and just.]. Neither do we have any reason to believe that they were not. Have you heard of ‘presumptions of innocence’ – a protocol that is seriously undermined by the opportunity provided by the Internet for people to write whatever invective they feel like – anonymously. [I feel sorry for the competitors though… ] Yes, indeed. The whole sorry farrago does nothing at all to help the competitors, for whose benefit the competition world exists.

    • Nitra says:

      I think the best thing the Competition should do is to upload the performances of every semi finalists on public sites such as youtube so that people can be their own judges as to whom they should believe.

      • PHD says:

        It is indeed a good idea. In fact, several competitions, including the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, live stream all stages, which surely helps to allay fears that dirty deeds are done during the early stages.

  • pianista español says:

    It’s the same history here in Spain with Mr. Morales who, with the help of his gang (Fröhlich, Herrero, etc.) Has established a kind of monopoly in the the competiton scene of the country. It’s laughable to see his system of masterclasses and competitions where, the ones who are prizewinners are almost always the ones that had to previously attend and pay for a couple of lessons. It’s the perfect musical business and a sad reality for the young talents who attend without knowing the real circumstances behind.

  • Emanuele says:

    Congratulations and thanks to Maestro Roge’ for being so honest. The world, but in such a critical politic period above all Italy needs such kind of people who still respect the art and the truth.

  • Kim Sommerschield says:

    Before so readily joining the chorus condemning the Monza competition’s ethics, might I suggest you have the courtesy to read its balanced reaction to Rogé’s resignation: https://www.facebook.com/rinasalagallo?hc_location=timeline
    Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent… Oh, and in case you’re wondering, I was present this afternoon for the final.

  • Hans says:

    Got to love the snobacracy that is the classical music world (as it toils in bankruptcy). On one side “mafia” and the other “selfies”. Wouldn’t surprise me if its corrupt when they appoint people with suspect reputations like Jeffrey Biegel to make decisions.

    • PHD says:

      Hans – What a contemptible post. You don’t attempt to explain what you are referring to, you don’t analyse the relevance of whatever it is to the specific issue, and you remain anonymous.

  • Nitra says:

    Oh wow, the final results are as accurate as Monsieur Roge’s prediction.

  • susan lofthouse says:

    whose aim isn’t to spot international stars but rather to help deserving musicians pursue their effort in building an international carrier, at an early stage. – See more at: https://slippedisc.com/2014/10/star-pianist-quits-competition-jury-over-dishonesty-and-fraud/#sthash.X4d39nVc.dpuf

    I don’t quite understand this. Does that mean you rate “deserving” over “star”?

    Might explain a lot. Yes, do stream the performances, and from the beginning. An excellent idea.

    I should also add that Roge isn’t the first to speak out.

  • maciej piszek says:

    Bravo! Everyone should take the example of Mr. Pascal Roge.

  • Paul Scott says:

    As nice as it would be if the classical music business were about love, truth, and beauty, it is not. It is a business, and no different from the rest of life. Why would it be?

    Perhaps it is a blessing that because of the web, we are entering yet another era of the gifted, if not brilliant, amateur. If you can, become your own patron. Find a safe harbor with kindred, inclusive, musical souls. World wide musical web based communities have the numbers for critical mass, for live performances, criticism, streaming high definition broadcast and downloadable recordings. Identify and avoid disagreeable political bottlenecks. Practice and performance are not enough. Monolithic agreement in taste is not possible. Or even desirable?

    Sure, the $$$ may not be there (like it’s there now?), but as nice as acoustically wonderful large venue halls and $500 an hour recording studios are, small tech is very very close in quality, for much less, especially if you creatively use your ears.

    Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose….

  • Peter Donohoe says:

    I am in the process of writing a long blog on the subjects of: 1) my experience of having been through the competition system as a young pianist and the aftermath of success, and 2) having by now had the honour of appearing on several juries (around 15) of international piano competitions and the experiences therein. This latest farrago has prompted me to share some of that forthcoming blog now.

    There are many things to say on the latter, but the main one is that it has thus far been obvious to me that almost everyone involved – jury members and organisers alike – has had their hearts in the right place. Every competition I have encountered from the ‘other side’ has been characterised by a sometimes confused, but genuine endeavour to find the best system to produce the fairest possible results. It has often failed, with sometimes what appears to be stupid placings, unfortunate eliminations and incredulity on the part of the public and the candidates, but it has not in my experience ever been because of corruption, manipulation or cynicism on anyone’s part. I am not saying it doesn’t happen; merely that I have not experienced it. If there do exist people who do that sort of thing on juries, we must not assume that the whole competition world is blighted in the same way.

    Competitions are here to stay, so there is no point in imagining that some higher power is going to ever be able to create a music world without them; it is naïveté of the highest order to think that possible.

    They do, however, perhaps have a long way to go in terms of finding a reliable system. I have always wondered about the wisdom of the process of gradual elimination through different rounds. I have also had trouble reconciling myself to the process of vetting the original applicants by a separate committee to the main jury, so that by the time of the first round many applicants have already been effectively eliminated. Both are obviously necessary in order to keep the numbers down to a workable level – so that the competition doesn’t go on for months, and that there is a reasonable possibility of getting a good jury that is available for the whole period. It is also important for all manner of reasons to remove those who most obviously are not in the running at all. Both of these processes are vulnerable to manipulation – that is plain. But the people running the competitions with whom I have worked are doing their best.

    That the above have been used to malicious ends has been claimed time and time again across the whole of the time I have been aware of competitions; however, it has never been proved, and in my own personal experience, never happened. The colleagues with whom I have worked on every jury upon which I have served have been honourable, sometimes to the point of agonising over the decisions they have had to make, and often looking back at the results of the various rounds and agonising again about what has happened. My conclusion has been that the system sometimes does not work, not that the people involved are criminals.

    Those running competitions are constantly on the lookout for ways to improve the systems they operate – which is at least one of the reasons why the rules keep changing – and they are also, as far as I have been able to tell, vigilant about any chicanery by jury members.

    The reputation of each competition will ultimately stand or fall on the results and their long-term effects. In turn, that will to some degree depend on the standard of the jury members – but only insofar as the system will allow. I would not like to enumerate the times in my experience when the members of a jury consult each other with alarm about the results that they have themselves democratically come up with, wondering how on earth they could come about – i.e. the results can often be something that nobody on the jury wanted, but which the system has thrown up. Sometimes the first prize winner has been an obvious winner from the start, but often not so obvious. In all cases, however, the placings below the first prize have been subject to strange distortions caused by the system. Democracy in all its forms has this weakness – how else could some of the world’s leaders have been elected? Why would a music competition be any more reliable? It is a source of endless discussion amongst organisers, jury members and ex-prize winners such as myself – how to improve it so that the public and the promoters can trust the results, and so that we can rid ourselves of the sort of angst demonstrated in this episode at Monza.

    • Martin Malmgren says:

      Peter, these postings are worth hundreds more than all of the previous ones together, and coming from someone who has had a great deal of experience in competitions on both sides of the fence. I’m very curious about your upcoming blog post, and might chime in with a few remarks on all that has been said here, when I’m less tired…

    • A pianist says:

      Dear Peter,

      You seem to have forgotten our joint jury-experience of manipulation in a recent the P. Spring Contest when … somehow points never counted and one other contestant who happened to be much prettier than the plainer winner by right — and a protected student of a respected juror — was awarded 1st prize ex-æquo and was the one who received all the recital or orchestral dates on offer, for her media-pleasing looks!

      I”m sure you, as diplomatic and revered as usual, never spoke up unlike I, a female, from an incensed and hurt pride… And possibly you HAVE even been invited back. Whereas, I stay true to myself and get smitten as “persona non grata” wherever such injustices are committed to poor young musicians who remain unaware of the “goings-on” bacstage …

      Farces, farces…

      • PHD says:

        It is not the right thing to do for ex jury members to discuss after the event the rights and wrongs of a result that they were part of awarding. Whatever one feels about the prize winners and the competition in general is a private matter as it can serious affect and embarrass the prize winners.

        Having said that, I will say that I did not agree with you then, and I said so, and I don’t now. I have the greatest respect for the way you felt, but I did and do not.

        My private thoughts about the result remain just that – private. My feelings about the way every competition that I have been involved have been run have been expressed in private to the organizers, and will continue to be.

        If I ever had even proof, let alone suspicions, that there was skulduggery, I would officially complain to the organizers and their sponsors, and I would not openly air my thoughts on the Internet. Perhaps I am wrong to do that, but it is the way I feel rather strongly. What I will air on the Internet is – again – I have never experienced any deliberate manipulation at any of the competitions I have either entered or adjudicated. Again – silly results yes, stupidity, yes, unworkable marking systems yes, manipulation, no. If I ever do I will do everything I can to stop it, but it must first of all be provable, and what we do about it must not be at the expenses of any competitors.

        Let us us not forget that amongst the worst victims of any manipulation – or for that matter stupidity – would be those who win against the general will of the public or anyone else with a voice. I have seen that happen many times, but it has been the result of stupidity or a marking system or both, not criminal behavior.

      • Gustav Alink - AAF says:

        At the 2011 Prague Spring Competition, the first prize was not awarded. The second prize was shared.

    • Cristina Ortiz says:

      Backstage, I meant to say..

      The “A pianist” above, was an attempt at changing — when I saw “A cellist” get away with it.. Nothing to hide but… please don’t be so ‘know-all’ and attack me — like Pascal did following as he said “the disgusting result” of the last Leeds.. as if I had anything to do with it! — or deny the point I made just now!

      I respect you too much to see you change sides or even just .. “for keeping up appearances”!

      Big hug, C*

  • Peter Donohoe says:

    As for the comments in this thread – rarely have I ploughed through such an ocean of self-opinionated, chippy, unfounded tripe. In amongst all this nonsense, there is the extremely important and sensible comment by Kim Sommerscheild, urging people to have a look at the competition’s own response to the highly embarrassing incident. And indeed, his quoted remark ‘Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent…’ Exactly right, and it applies to me as well; I was not there, and I have little knowledge of the candidates in question, although from other competitions I do recognise one or two names. It is thus true that I cannot offer an opinion on the specific event – that may make me sound like a politician sitting on the fence, but it is nevertheless true that if you were not there you should keep your opinions to yourself about the specific candidates and the behaviour of the jury members – actually you have no right to have opinions at all.

    I cannot comment on Pascal Rogé’s resignation and the reasons he has given for it, except to say that his accusations are of criminal fraud, which might be – or perhaps should be – subject to police investigation. Thus, when he accuses other jury members, and in particular the competition President, of being puppets of the Mafia, he had better be very sure of his ground. I have the greatest respect for Rogé’s piano playing, and I would, I imagine, have the same for his integrity – although we have never met – but I cannot imagine resigning in such a public way, thereby humiliating and undermining the reputation of the prize winners, the other jury members, the competition itself and indeed the whole world of competitions, unless I was absolutely sure I could prove wrong-doing.

  • Peter Donohoe says:

    Theodore McGuiver: the fact that Pascal Rogé’s recordings of Ravel are amongst your favourites is very rewarding to read, but it has damn all to do with what happened in Monza.

    Rodney Punt: your lesson on Italian history is interesting, but extremely simplistic. The idea implied in your words that when Rome ruled the world there was no corruption is somewhat naive, and your equation of potency with integrity and moral authority needs rethinking. The state that you describe Italy now to be in – ‘cynical at almost every level and the laughing stock of Europe’ – does not, at least in my experience, include all its piano competitions. I was chairman of the Busoni Competition jury in 2013, and a member of the jury at the recent San Marino Piano Competition. On neither occasion was there any suggestion of manipulation by jury members or organisers. If you have better knowledge than I, tell the WFIMC, the Alink-Argerich Foundation and the Italian Police; either that of stop making absurd generalised accusations.

    Mr. Stefano Pierini: Thank you – I could not have put it anywhere near as well as you have.

    Ishtar: You merely diminish yourself by being proud of not having heard of those people. I have not heard of all of them myself, but I am not proud of my ignorance. I have, however, heard of Michelangeli, Puccini and Abbado, to name just three. If you haven’t, why are you contributing to a high-level discussion on an artistic event in Italy?

    Boris – I think I agree with you basically, but open scoring does have its disadvantages as well. Some competitions certainly do have it. The competition in San Marino intended to publish, after the competition was over, all the individual marks for each competitor given by each jury member. However, the jury voted to lobby the competition organisers – who agreed and accepted the jury’s request – to instead simply publish an average mark for each competitor; this was NOT in order that we could avoid being held accountable for our marks – if that had been the only consideration I am sure that we would have voted to publish all details – it was because it was felt that it would negatively affect the honesty with which we would feel able to mark a candidate who was that in any way related to another jury member, if our specific marks were public knowledge; many of the jury were obviously colleagues in other situations beyond the confines of the competition. That was proposed very strongly by another member of the jury, and supported by a majority, including myself. If anyone believes that to have been a coverup for Mafia-style activities, please grow up.

    Mary Brown: if what you say in your first paragraph has happened, I am very sorry about it. It would be sordid and pathetically self-defeating if juries were guilty of that. I can only repeat myself in response: I have never done what you describe, I have never detected it happening on any of the juries on which I have served and I self-evidently do not believe that it happened on any of the four competitions I entered myself – the last of these given that I was a finalist in all of them, and had no relationship of any kind with any jury member – there were the exceptions to this last statement of Pal Kadosa and Vlado Perlemutter, who had both given me masterclasses and were both on the 1976 Bartók-Liszt Competition jury in Budapest – and I did not win….

    In response to your second paragraph: it is good to read of your admiration of Pascal Rogé. However, to dismiss the validity of the others in the way you do is crass arrogance. With that level of self-importance we can all thank God that you are yourself not on any competition juries. I myself am not familiar with the playing of all the jury members, but I am with some of them, and I am a personal friend and colleague of the Head of Keyboard of the Royal Northern College of Music, Graham Scott; I know from his work there that he tries at all times to be as fair as it is possible to be, and in his position I would be deeply offended by being regarded as unsuitable to judge because you had not heard of me.

    Christopher Axworthy: many people have made the valid point that perhaps the marking system using points rather than a simple yes or no is dangerous, given that the different personalities of the jury members will make them more or less strict, thereby distorting the averages. I am inclined to believe more in the yes or no voting system, as the average is going to be a more reliable and genuine reflection of the way the jury members feel. But one must respect the rules, which have been created by all competitions as an attempt to produce a fair result, with varying degrees of success.

    As I was the chairman of the jury in Bolzano at the last competition, I have issues with the accusation nestling within your statement: ‘The jury must be able to recognise the talent they have in front of them and help and encourage rather than destroy them with politics as is obviously the case.’ If the Bolzano jury destroyed the talents in front of us with politics, I was unaware of it. You say it was obvious. Was it? Please explain your charge or withdraw it.

    Thank you for listing, in true British style, all the famous foreigners who have emerged from the Leeds Competition, including those who did not win first prize and gone on to win higher prizes elsewhere….

    Amit Yahav: some of us are trying, I promise. You may recall that throughout the International Tchaikovsky Competition in 2011, there were many jury members tweeting – never inappropriately, but as openly as would have been fair – about how things were going. I have already mentioned the forthcoming blog from myself. Things are generally already a lot more open than they used to be. But please think about the negative long term effects on both jury members and competitors if everything was made public.

    Avi Kujman: you are in danger of making the same mistake that so many of us make: you assume that your opinions are fact: that all the artists whom you regard as great are great, rather than that in your view they are. I suspect the view that Argerich, Pollini and Zimmerman are wonderful pianists would be denied by almost no one, so there is no problem with your positive assumption about them. However, you by implication assume that everyone will also agree with you over the thousands whom you do not mention and are thus in your view not in the same league as those you do mention; that is a problem. That is why you would have to rethink your approach totally if you yourself were on a jury (I don’t know that you haven’t been, of course.) Greatness, excellence, mediocrity or uselessness are not measurable by anything that can ever be unanimous or factual.

    Martin Malmgren: what you say about the competition in Rome is very interesting. Jury members are beseeched in my experience to never openly show their enthusiasm or distaste when listening, but to respond respectfully, and in some cases to applaud equally – the latter being something I particularly support. The jury you mention would seem like a bunch of self-centred and self-important amateurs who should not have been allowed to have been involved. Again, it is something I have absolutely never experienced.

    What a shame!!! : [All the system of competitions is corrupted and it’s helps only jury members …they made a real system of reaching money thanks to their students!] Really? Perhaps you would like to see copies of my bank statements?

    Perhaps some jury members have been guilty of this, but if they have, I have never experienced it, and I am not prepared to be tarred with the same brush. Neither am I prepared to be silent when others are being slighted and insulted like this.

    You are wrong to imply that we are all the same. You are wrong and paranoid to imagine that it would even be possible to create such a situation. And you are wrong to use a pseudonym and take advantage of the anonymity provided by the Internet to lash out.

    The system is definitely not perfect, but we jury members, organisers and performing artists try our best to do the right thing and to improve the situation at every turn. If some spoil it for the rest, it is very sad, but they had better not try it when and if they appear on a jury with me, whether I am chairman or not. And if you accuse me of it to my face, or if I work out who you are, your feet will not touch the ground.

    [If you are in a jury , you help your student.. if you have no student , you help your friend student in a way to be invited in another jury as an exchange. If you have no student , no student of friend, well…The answer belongs to the fantasy of who is reading this comment. ] What??? Please tell me where I fit in.

    I rarely teach, although I have given many masterclasses. However, I have very occasionally encountered a competitor with whom I have had prior contact in some form; under those circumstances, I have been required to declare it and to forego the opportunity to vote for or against that competitor. Being a Facebook ‘friend’ is rightly enough to render the jury member unable to vote either for or against that competitor – [Facebook users take note….]

    Your assumption that I would help a friend’s student in order to be asked back is insulting; if there are those who do that sort of thing, it does not mean that we all do – I certainly don’t, and I have not encountered anyone who does.

    For the most part, I have no student and I do not know more than a small few students of friends: it is not a ‘fantasy’.

    Do you really think that it is practical for juries made up teachers to be supervised by your list of famous recording stars, and even if it was, do you think that being a famous performer makes you immune from prejudice and subjectivity? Are you serious?

    Regarding your two questions: there’s a lot of competitions for sure; they are here to stay, they provide a platform for young musicians, they force older and established musicians to put their opinions into coherent form, they attract the interest of the media and public and they give young musicians something to practise towards and to aim for. To reduce the number of competitions would be to reduce those opportunities. However, even if it were practical to do so, who is going to decide which ones should stay? You list some of the best known, as you do pianists. Yet you omit the Leeds and Rubinstein Competitions from your list, as you omit Martha Argerich and Grigori Sokolov from your list of pianists. Do you think you are in a position to decide which should stay? If not, who is? If so, on what basis are you the arbiter, and how do you come to your conclusions?

    Arfael : Is there some implication to your observation that I am not understanding?

    William Goodwin : Congratulations on being one of the few on here who is prepared to use what I imagine is your real name. Your Van Cliburn Competition story seems to indicate that there was a gossip-monger judging. ‘An affront to the jury’ that someone chose to play Islamey?…. As for the comment about Abravanel, what an irrelevant remark! I would have thought he would have done all right out of having been the first conductor to ever record a complete Mahler symphony cycle, but even if not, what is his income to do with anything? Sounds like bar talk and silly bitchiness to me.

    I promise you that, even at small competitions, let alone one of the prestige of Van Cliburn, juries do not behave like that these days, and chairmen would surely not tolerate such idiocy – not at least in my experience; again I cannot comment on them all.

    Pericle: [This ‘mafioso’ behaviour happens everywhere?] Really? As often stated before, the system itself often produces what appear to be illogical results. Sometimes, a jury member may get a wrong idea into his/head about the marking system or some other aspect of what is expected. Occasionally you may get someone who is simply not a good enough judge to be there, in the same way as a concert promoter or record company sometimes employs a soloist or conductor who is not so good, hopefully with the result that they are not employed again. All we can do is to try to keep the standard up by evolving a system that does not throw up anomalies, and by hoping that competition organisers will continue to choose fair-minded jury members. I claim to be one of those – or at least that I try to be – and I repeat that I have not so far worked alongside one who was not. I cannot answer for those I have not sat with, but I think you have to be carefully of hurling accusations unless you really know what happened.

    Susan Lofthouse: Absolutely right. Young artists have little alternative, unless there are other extra-musical reasons why a particular individual shoots to fame. A competition prize can provide them with an opportunity to prove themselves – both during and after the competition itself.

    Olaugh Turkev: And aliens from outer space ate my hamster. So what? Unless you are prepared to name the person who did this – and yourself whilst you are at it, assuming your real name is something else – and you can prove it, there is no point in your story; it is pure tittle tattle.

    Pianoland: Deeply unpleasant, utterly without foundation, entirely irrelevant and totally embarrassing to Pascal Rogé, if my feeling about his personality is accurate. In addition you remain anonymous, which adds ‘cowardly’ to the above. Grow up.

    Irene: thank you for injecting some reasonableness into this ‘discussion’. It is indeed a well-documented serious issue, given the vast increase in the number of young musicians trying to make a start to a soloist’s career, plus the decrease in the number of concerts worldwide – at least in the Western World. This subject is so important, not just for the future of professional music-making, but also for the music-loving public. If the contributors to this thread would like to talk about that, instead of hurling abuse, it would be a great improvement.

    John Humphreys: I should declare an interest in your case, given that not only are we colleagues, but also I am on the jury for the finals of D.I.P.C. However, bravo for your comment. I will look forward….

    Pianoman: [yet you are not providing any real evidence to support any claims of transparency. That mention of a “Electronic Device” is very ambiguous and is not described yet in any way. Until you provide real documentation backing up your statements, we have no reason to believe that your procedures were indeed clean and just.]. Neither do we have any reason to believe that they were not. Have you heard of ‘presumptions of innocence’ – a protocol that is seriously undermined by the opportunity provided by the Internet for people to write whatever invective they feel like – anonymously. [I feel sorry for the competitors though… ] Yes, indeed. The whole sorry farrago does nothing at all to help the competitors, for whose benefit the competition world exists.

    Nitra: It is indeed a good idea. In fact, several competitions, including the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, live stream all stages, which surely helps to allay fears that dirty deeds are done during the early stages.

    Hans: What a contemptible post. You don’t attempt to explain what you are referring to, you don’t analyse the relevance of whatever it is to the specific issue, and you remain anonymous.

    • Martin Malmgren says:

      Peter, just a brief response to what you wrote to me:

      I may be very wrong of course, but I believe that a part of the reason why your experiences in competitions have been far from for instance the experience I laid out in brief is that you have, for all that I know, mostly judged the ‘big competitions’ out there. More money is invested into them, more is at stake, and it is much less likely that there will be fraud in them. In smaller competitions however, where the outside world isn’t really paying attention and a competitor has nowhere to turn if there is a fraud…that’s all a bit different. I’ve been to competitions where rules were not adhered to in various ways – competitors were supposed to play a ‘modern’ work written after 1945 in the finals, but two finalists didn’t bother to program such a work..This was a small competition, it was supposed to be limited to 25 pianists, but they only received 22 applications, and only 19 pianists showed up…Naturally, for the competition, it was out of question to exclude anyone. And so on.

      In another competition last summer, where I decided not to participate, the chairman of the jury had her student in the competition, and was behaving extremely unprofessionally, clapping with ridiculous enthusiasm for her own student only, and in a reserved and polite manner for everyone else. When her student ended up ‘only’ claiming 2nd prize, she made a post on her facebook wall, saying that if the decision would have been hers only, there would have been no doubt that she would have given the award to her student. This student, by the way, did a very poor Kreisleriana in the finals, and some other jurors, competitors and audience members were a bit surprised.

      I believe that a lot of smaller competitions get away with a lot of things that the big ones never would, simply because nobody really cares about the smaller competitions anyway. The first competition I mentioned used to change the monetary awards into something lower, sometimes as late as on the day of the finals! Imagine that, in the Chopin competition…

    • Benedetto Lupo says:

      Dear Mr. Donohoe, thank you so much for the wonderful insights contained in all your posts. Lots of food for thought, something that really makes worth reading through all this.
      Benedetto Lupo

      • Cristina Ortiz says:

        Dear Benedetto ,

        Would you be pleased to hear that although you should have won the 1989 Van Cliburn, were it not for the Russian contingent who somehow got the ‘unfortunate’ (due to his sorry too-early a demise) Russian candidate Sultanov (tipped from the word GO to be the winner even before the Competition started!! to come up tops — so much so that ,Abbey Simon put forth a Motion that if Sultanov came up as top 2nd prize (somehow NOT 1st), there should NOT be a winner, motion which I and a few more members of the jury seconded — but which of course, was immediately dismissed. “The Computer had already come up with the result” — was their excuse!

        So .. never say never, dear. There is NO perfect way of judging such a subject Art which is OURS!

        Hugs, C*

        PS: how is Pamina? 🙂

  • Peter Donohoe says:

    I would just like to finish with the thought that when people hurl generalisations about the corruption levels amongst jury members and teachers, they also undermine the prize-winners who have done well from competitions. If it comes as a surprise to you that someone – like myself – who owes much of his or her success to competitions, reacts badly to that, you need to take a step back.

    No one from my own country, let alone a teacher of mine, was on the jury of the International Tchaikovsky Competition in 1982, yet somehow I got to win the joint Silver Medal. That they withheld the Gold is something for which there has never been an authentic explanation. However, there has been the most extraordinary variety of assumptions masquerading as explanations – sometimes that it was a political decision of the Cold War variety, sometimes that the jury was manipulated by Soviet teachers, and sometimes that the jury was correct (which perhaps they were – who am I to say?).

    None of those people had any more idea of the reality than you lot do about Monza. I am pretty sure I know from long-term retrospective guesswork plus a goodly amount of reliable instinct what really happened in Moscow. I now believe that one of the eminent Soviet members of the jury was incensed by my performance of the Liszt B minor Sonata on interpretative grounds, and refused to go along with the rest of the 14 man jury – at that time, open discussion in a jury meeting room was the norm. It was a conflict of interpretative ideas, and in the end, a compromise was reached, which was to share the silver, rather than award the gold.

    I have since experienced as a jury member the same feeling of horror at someone’s interpretation; it is an inevitable manifestation of subjectivity by a committed artist. I try, as I think we all should, to be more objective when a competitor plays a work for which we are ourselves highly respected, and to see beyond our interpretative differences through to the fundamental talent; but it is sometimes virtually impossible, particularly with major seminal works such as the Liszt B minor, which have the potential for huge variation in approach.

    That is the way it goes; after 32 years, I am very grateful to that competition for what the jury did give me, rather than determined to sling mud and groundless accusations because they could have given me more. [In the event, the publicity surrounding that particular competition and its results was worth far more than its weight in gold, and no jury could ever have done me a greater favour.]

    Partly because I am a competition veteran – but only partly – I object to the implication that the prize-winners can only get there by means of corruption. The reason for the above reminiscence is that it illustrates that we really do not know what goes on behind the scenes at any competition (unless someone is indiscreet), that there is no reason why the jury should be subject to a tribunal by the wider world – particularly if the challengers are anonymous – and that there is no reason to question how they come to the conclusions they do.

    What you can do, as audience members, promoters, agents or other pianists, is to assess whether or not the pianists put forward by the judges are as good as the results imply. If not, don’t make silly accusations that you cannot prove – anonymously or otherwise – but don’t go to their concerts and don’t buy their CDs. The long term result will hopefully be that different competitions will acquire different reputations, and the organisers will employ the right kind of jury members in order for the competitions to gain credibility, unfettered by absurd and self-important sniping. Let us not forget that the competitions themselves are in competition with each other.

    The way so many people hurl abuse at the very existence of competitions on the basis of results with which they do not agree gives the impression that, by definition, the results will be wrong. This is almost to ignore the ones that we feel have been proven to be right, which we accept to have been good competitions with good juries – suddenly the system works, there is no manipulation, no Mafia, no stupidity. It is similar to the way we dismiss critics as a whole as ignorant and jealous because of the bad reviews we receive – that they should not be allowed to exist – and suddenly realise how wise and well-educated musically certain critics are when we land a rave.

    At the moment, it is probably fair to say that the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow remains the most challenging and prestigious in the world – that is on the basis of its results. [That, at least during the Soviet era, it was subject to perhaps the most extreme assumptions of corruption of all is one of those anomalies that comes about when people don’t know what the hell they are talking about.] The recent prize winners were totally deserving – I know I could be accused of bias here because I was on the jury, but Daniil Trifonov and Yeol Eum Son seem to have been accepted by the world at large as major artists. However, there is no logical reason why a competition in Italy should not gradually become a world leader, if its record of prize-winners is consistently on a similarly extremely high level. If any competition allows Mafia involvement, or any other kind of corruption, the results will be consistently embarrassing, and the competition will suffer ignominy. So they need to get their acts together, or they will disappear. Corruption does not pay in the long term. Simples.

  • john humphreys says:

    Bravo Peter for such a comprehensive overview – and a necessary rebuttal of much which has been said. One could not have wished for a more compelling statement of belief, experience, hope and intent. I also look forward to working with you at the Dudley Competition. Incidentally I was commissioned to write a brief…very brief article about piano competitions for the next edition of ‘International Piano’…let’s hope that it hasn’t been edited into oblivion!

  • John Brown says:

    For those of you touting Pressler’s integrity; you should know he taught the winner, Haochen Zhang at the sacrifice of his own students who lost their lessons a few months prior to the Cliburn Competition.

  • PHD says:

    Thank you Mr. Pierini – I could not have put it anywhere near as well as you have.

  • PHD says:

    I should declare an interest in your case, given that not only are we colleagues, but also I am on the jury for the finals of D.I.P.C. However, bravo for your comment. I will look forward….

  • PHD says:

    Thank you for your extremely important and sensible comment, urging people to have a look at the competition’s own response to the highly embarrassing incident. And indeed, his quoted remark ‘Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent…’ Exactly right, and it applies to me as well; I was not there, and I have little knowledge of the candidates in question, although from other competitions I do recognise one or two names. It is thus true that I cannot offer an opinion on the specific event – I know that makes me sound like a politician sitting on the fence, but it is nevertheless true that if you were not there you should keep your opinions to yourself about the specific candidates and the behaviour of the jury members – actually you have no right to have opinions at all.

  • Benedetto Lupo says:

    Dear Cristina,
    I could not imagine that we would have been in touch after so many years because of this topic!
    Regarding the Russians and Ft Worth in 1989 –when perestroika was in full swing and the entire world was watching all the changes in Russia very closely- it is true that most medias were for Russian contestants even before one single note had been played. Of course I have a vivid memory of all this and I have to admit that, after reading an article on a local newspaper upon arrival, where contestants were really treated like horses (every one of us had been assigned a number of chances he had to win, even before he had played a single note!), I seriously considered going back home on the first available plane. However I am glad that I didn’t and, after so many years, I think that, somehow, the results at the Cliburn gave me in any case many unexpected opportunities to grow as an artist, playing in many wonderful venues and enlarging my repertoire, so I am finally very happy with it. In any case, you gave me some informations about that Cliburn competition which I never heard before. It is true that I never asked for the stories “behind the scenes” at the Cliburn; in some ways, I probably wanted to put all this rather behind myself and forget. However, after so many years, I have to admit that your post made me curious, although there are parts of it which I did not fully understand; hopefully one day we’ll meet again and perhaps it will be interesting to know more about it!
    Um abraço,
    Benedetto
    p.s.: Pamina is doing well and today (Oct.9) it was her 22 birthday, which is on the same day as Pedro Burmester

  • Martin Malmgren says:

    Some hours ago, Pascal Rogé posted the following on his facebook page:

    “Message to Rina Sala Gallo Competition:

    I got carried away by my emotions and by the deep impression some of the semifinalists made on me.
    Since I am not so frequently a jury member at international piano competitions, I gave my voting as an artist and I must confess that I did not realise sufficiently that my votes could be eliminated if they were higher or lower than the votes of the other jury members.
    Looking back on my comment, I must admit that it was written in a moment that my enjoyment and expectation of fine music had suddenly been disrupted. Some of the words and qualifications which I used in my comment were indeed inappropriate, for which I would like to apologise.
    I remain a dedicated musician and I hope that we can all make our own contributions to the fine art of classical music.

    Pascal Rogé”

    Norman, hello! People are STILL posting, sharing and discussing Pascal’s original post, people are still cheering him on without being aware that there’s a continuation of the story, without being aware that Pascal now has offered this apology for his words – of course, a rather poor and shallow apology, but nevertheless. (please note that he has not contacted any juror or competitor personally for an apology, which certainly would have been appropriate) In the light of all of this, is it really appropriate that this post of yours remains the way it is without an update? It’s misinformation that is being spread.

    Also Norman, I don’t know if you are aware of that the person that suggested that you’d be awarded the Cremona Music Award for “Excellence in Journalism” happens to have been Roberto Prosseda. Prosseda sent you an email informing you of the prize; shortly thereafter, you posted Rogé’s inflammatory report, slandering Prosseda’s name….

    • Gustav Alink - AAF says:

      In fact, Pascal Rogé had also sent a copy of his apology to Norman Lebrecht, but it cannot be found on Lebrecht’s blog.

      • Martin Malmgren says:

        Gustav,

        By the time he posted this on Facebook, and many hours after, he had still not contacted them, hence my comment. If that has changed now, good. And still, in his public comment he offers no apology to persons he called ‘mafioso’. He offers no apology to the Japanese pianist that he denigrated (in spite of having given her 8.50 out of 10.00 in the semifinals!) publicly. If some people consider this far from enough, I am not surprised. Let’s see what they lawyers will say.

  • John says:

    Norman doesn’t seem at all keen to update the story any more, now that it has created the sort of controversy that sustains this blog. “Star pianist exposes deep-seated corruption in music industry” very much supports his narrative. The reality has obviously turned out to be different, so Norman’s not interested any more.

    Some of the younger generation, competitors themselves, have some of the most insightful things to say on this topic, I believe. This article is one of the best I’ve read recently:

    http://www.limelightmagazine.com.au/blog/sydney-international-piano-competition-pianist-speaks-out

    Although Ms Go doesn’t deal with corruption and voting procedures, it critiques the role and typical design features of competitions in the kind of mature and considered way that Mr Rogé might benefit from studying.

    • Martin Malmgren says:

      Glad you’re mentioning Aura’s thought-provoking article! The article mentions how most of these competitions have such similar repertoire requirements, making it perfectly possible for musicians to go from one competition to the next for years without changing their repertoire…I cannot understand how anybody who loves music would want to do such a thing, but alas, I see ‘competition pianists’ doing it all of the time.

      Repertoire requirements aren’t necessarily problematical, but they shouldn’t make the candidates feel entirely stifled. After all, one of the most revealing things about a musician is how well they structure their concert programs. Are there meaningful connections between the pieces, does the program have a natural flow? Whenever I glance through competition programs, I get the feeling that most musicians don’t pay nearly enough attention to meaningful programming.

      I would also recommend looking into Christine Jezior’s very fine movie, “Why competitions?”:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4X6PIGTcYjM

  • Gustav Alink - AAF says:

    In fact, Pascal Rogé did contact the organisers and the jury members and sent them a more elaborate letter of apology.

    • John says:

      Waiting for it to appear here, Gustav, where the original allegations were published. Until it is, and until it’s possible to see exactly what he considers he is apologising for, the jury is out, if you’ll excuse the pun.

  • Cristina Ortiz says:

    Norman,

    It would indeed be preferable if you updated your correspondance re this Rogé x Monza — it is no longer news.. alot has happened and you must portray it at the point it has got to when everyone expects that Pascalwill come clean and APOLOGISE properly to all comcerned…

    Pathetic if he thinks he will get away with such shallow, miserable inappropriate written excuse and .. on Facebook?????

    We ll trust that you will follow the developping trajectory of this saga,, rather than just drop it like the “no longer imteresting/news breaker”…

    I trust you will come good. Best wishes, C*

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