Gergiev’s sister will judge Tchaikovsky Competition

The names of next summer’s judges have been released to Russian media (but not posted on the competition’s website).

The competition’s chairman is Valery Gergiev, its artistic director Peter Grote.

The judges include:

Piano: Denis Matsuev (Gergiev and Putin pal), Vladimir Ashkenazy, Michel Beroff, Verbier director, Martin Engstroem, Peter Donohoe.

Violin: Yuri Bashmet (Gergiev and Putin pal), Maxim Vengerov, Salvatore Accardo, Victor Tretyakov, Ilya Kaler, Maxim Fedotov, Liana Isakadze.

Cello: Antonio Menezes, Lynn Harrell, Alexander Knyazev, Michael May, David Geringas, Sergei Roldugin.

Voice: Thomas Quasthoff, Geneva opera director Tobias Richter, Scottish conductor John Fisher, Elena Obraztsova and, wait for it, Gergiev’s sister, the pianist and opera coach Larisa Gergieva.

larisa gergieva

The organising committee is chaired by a deputy prime minister, Olga Golodets. The Putin regime’s footprints are all over this show.


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  • and so what? there are only a very few of them, never more than one between many others in one discipline. Look at other competitions, there are always certain connections. Putin is not the devil, he is a polititian in a very big country with big problems and no democratic past. And Europeans are really not the right one’s to judge this, giving up themselfes that little democratic rights they once did have. The european union is not much closer to Democraty than the Sovietunion …

  • Not endorsing Putin here but, Mr. Lebrecht, you are advised to ponder the increasingly undemocratic ways of your own UK. And the rest of the world for that matter, including the US.

  • And? Putin Friend Gergiev also chaired the 2011 competition, which gave us your “Pianist for the Rest of Our Lives.”

  • “Piano: Denis Matsuev (Gergiev and Putin pal), Vladimir Ashkenazy, Michel Beroff, Verbier director, Martin Engstroem, Peter Donohoe”. – Well, Ashkenazy and Beroff are respectable — but the others have no business being there. Anyone with half an ear realizes what a terrible musician Matsuev is, and Engstroem is a professional administrator. Donohoe is a decent pianist, but hardly amongst the greats. They could have done much better here.

  • FACT: 3 out of 23 judges… and “the Putin’s regime footprints are all over”…
    Just like envy, hatred is a poor master.

  • Larissa Georgieva well deserve to judge. She’s a great pianist and knows vocal repertoir better than any solo singer. Juror of piano competition most don’t teach, so we hope of fair choices.

  • [sarcasm alert]

    I had no idea that Putin is both a serious pianist and a serious violinist with intentions to enter the Tchaikovsky competition, and that he is taking lessons with Matsuev and Bashmet! Clearly, this a very serious problem insofar as the fairness of the competition is concerned, comrade, sorry, colleague!

  • With the likes of Ilya Kaler, Lynn Harrell, and Thomas Quasthoff on the panels, I hardly see the pro-Putin cabal that you are implying in your post.

  • We perhaps should be surprised even some Putin pals are on the juries, given his stance against homosexuality. Are they rewriting text books in Russia to state that Tchaikovsky was a happily married composer?

  • So I see the new “Do not buy from Jews” campaign, the one where now the Russians (those majority who not openly oppose the political rulers) are the new Jews, continues. World class, Mr. Lebrecht, world class.

  • Excuse me, but is what so hard to grasp about the fact that if you’re the competition’s chairman, you cannot co-opt your family to make them the judges? Well, you can, but you WILL look corrupt and you WILL be thought of like this. I’m actually very glad someone noticed. Good job.

  • Before the main part of my contribution, I should state my interest. Firstly my knowledge is largely limited to the piano section, as that is my own area of specific musical interest. I have never contributed to a music-based website before, so forgive my inexperience. However, I feel that I have to write something, as I have always taken a very keen interest in the piano competition world, and in particular the ‘Tchaikovsky’.

    I am a huge admirer of Ashkenazy, Beroff and Donohoe in the particular areas of the repertoire in which they excel, and have briefly met and been impressed by the genuineness of all three. I am not so familiar with Matsuev’s work, but I have no reason to believe that he is any less talented than his success indicates. And surely we can all agree that Mr. Engstroem’s Verbier Festival is an outstanding showcase for all that is best in the world of piano performance, and therefore that Engstroem is in an excellent position to be a jury member.

    But far more importantly, my feeling is that Ashkenazy, Beroff and Donohoe are not only good pianists, but also conscientious people who will put the interest of the competitors first, before any political considerations. Vladimir Putin’s influence over the results, even if he wished to involve himself, will surely not be a consideration.

    I can entirely understand Mr. Lebrecht’s suspicion that Valery Gergiev’s personal connection – along with Denis Matsuev’s – with the President opens up the possibility of a stitch-up. But the same could have been anticipated at the last Tchaikovsky Competition in 2011, at which Daniil Trifonov won the Gold Medal. Trifonov has been hailed by many with no connection to the competition to be potentially one of the finest artists in the world. That result was obviously not a stitch-up. Can we not all agree on that? The jury then also included Beroff, Donohoe and Matsuev – and wasn’t Ashkenazy there too? So surely we can again trust them not to be swayed by inappropriate influences.

    I do not believe that Russia’s foreign policy and Putin’s political intentions have anything at all to do with this competition. Except of course that without Gergiev’s connection with Putin, the competition may have disappeared altogether. It is likely that neither the will to organise it properly, nor the government finances, would be available without it. After all, during the twenty years following the breakup of the Soviet Union, the competition’s reputation seriously suffered, as for some reason it was engulfed in scandal in the same way the whole of Russia was. There is also the obvious fact that the Tchaikovsky Competition always existed to demonstrate Russia’s cultural dominance. But what the hell? That is basically what all competitions are there for, in whichever country they are based.

    Maybe we should be happy that Putin has made it possible to resurrect it. We should not assume that its results are pre-determined, when – certainly not to my knowledge – there is no evidence. If evidence does emerge, that will be a different story, but surely for now, we should reserve judgement.

  • Regarding the appearance of Larissa Gergieva on the vocal jury: I know little of her, so cannot pass an opinion, but ESFIR ROSS assures us – presumably from personal experience – of her expertise and experience. That she is Gergiev’s sister is hardly a reason not to invite her. Presumably it is Gergiev himself who chose to, and perhaps he is risking accusations of nepotism by doing so, but it is equally possible that he believes her to be the best available for the job. Unless there is a rule that the chairman’s family is precluded, or evidence of wrongdoing, I see no conflict.

    I do notice that all four juries show a degree of male dominance. Now that WOULD have been a valid point worth mentioning. Gergieva, Obratzova and Isakadze appear so far to be the only women out of the twenty three jury members announced.

    Gergiev has found himself in the position, for many reasons, including that he is one of the world’s most successful and influential conductors, of being charged with reviving the flagging fortunes of one of the world’s truly great competitions. He seems on the whole to have made a great a job of his first in 2011. Why is there an implied accusation of corruption in advance of his second one? Is it because of the political situation in Crimea, which has arisen since the last competition, and in which Gergiev aligned himself with his country’s government? If so, it is a separate issue, and one that should have no place in this discussion. Politics and the arts are always intertwined, so there is no reason why this example should be singled out for such invective.

  • You do think you are an important expert, don’t you? What you write about Matsuev is appalling: ‘Anyone with half an ear realizes what a terrible musician…’…!!? That is deeply unpleasant. Why should anyone have to read that about themselves from someone who doesn’t even identify themselves? Even if true, a little respect is called for, particularly if you remain anonymous.

    You merely diminish yourself by trying to diminish others with such arrogant nonsense. ‘Respectable’ is not an adequate word to describe either Ashkenazy or Beroff – two of the most formidable musicians of the present day and the last few decades – and ‘decent’ is an unacceptable term for someone whom I believe is indeed regarded as one of the ‘greats’ by many Russian musicians and music lovers. But your description of Matsuev’s abilities is simply insulting. Matsuev, Donohoe and Ashkenazy have all won major prizes at the Tchaikovsky Competition, whilst Beroff has for years been a major force in the piano world for most of my lifetime. Maybe this has something to do with their being invited???

    ‘The others have no business being there’….!!?

    Either you are an inexperienced and immature music critic, a self-important pianist or teacher suffering from sour grapes that you are not on that jury yourself, or a complete amateur whose taste in artists is based upon recent commercial success. The stupid arrogance of your judgement of others is further enhanced by your anonymity and your unintentionally apposite nom de plume. Who, then, in your “opinion” ought to be on the jury? The usual list of the most hyped contemporary recording stars? Is that it?

    • I was going to keep silent on this subject, but I now realise that to do so would be to be ungracious towards Arthur Parker. His words almost entirely echo my own responses to some of the playground comments of others in this thread, so I would like to thank him for his contribution, and in particular for his defence of my position.

      However, Mr. Parker, please do not spend any more time on this subject – you have clearly already gone to a lot of trouble, and I assure you that from experience – particularly after the recent debacle in Monza Italy, and the subsequent series of ignorant, prejudiced and axe-grinding posts that were thrown up – it is not worth going any further. I am sure you already realise that the one response you have received so far to your posts indicates that intelligent debate is out of the question. Anonymous insults seem inevitable, so don’t bother.

      My suggestion also applies to anyone else who believes this is a place to put a point of view regarding competitions. It isn’t, because so many people are intransigent on the subject, anonymous people feel it is acceptable to judge from an unknown position (I was going to write ‘from on high, but that would be wrong, as they mostly remain unidentified), and to write a point of view that they don’t like as coming from someone chippy, or a ‘toady’. Very, very lame, but that is the price we pay for having the Internet.

      Thanks again.

      • And that is the price we pay for having prissy anonymous putdowns from a non-musical town in the north of England. Many in the music world have told us how thrilled and relieved they are that Slipped Disc is allowing everyone to shed light at last on the corrupt competition sector.

        • Norman – agreed – that is, if I understand you correctly, and if there is genuine corruption. I have written in this site many times that I have never encountered it, but that is not a denial that it exists.

          Which non-musical town in the North of England do you refer to?

          • Norman – some one just suggested to me that it is obvious that it was me you were having a go at. I was being slow – apologies. I didn’t realise that I was appearing anonymously as PHD – apologies again.

            I still hold to what I wrote, but it is not the site discussion that I was objecting to, as you must know full well – it was the ignorance of some of the comments. You don’t need me to tell you how fruitless they are, and you don’t need me to tell how offensive I find having my work dismissed as remarks such as ‘the others have no business being there …. ‘ etc by someone who doesn’t say who she/he is.

          • Peter – I do love Pete – I worked out it was you from a later comment. Invariably, some comments will be ignorant and others prejudiced. But among them are valuable contributions to a proper discussion and a potential cleanup, insights that cannot be found elsewhere. Sorry if I was a bit peremptory, but the whole field is in dire need of an airing. As you know far better than I do. all best, N

          • No problem Norman. The question does for sure need an airing because there are so many who are convinced that the whole competition world stinks.

            Three somewhat incompatible points to make, and then I will go away:

            1. I have never encoutered corruption personally – either as a jury member or a competitor – not to be confused with stupid jury decisions, prejudice or a system that doesn’t work properly.

            2. That does not mean that corruption has never taken place – so many people have said it has that the old proverb about smoke and fire comes into play.

            3. Far too many people are ready to cry ‘corruption’ when a jury decision is reached that they don’t agree with. And we must be very careful not to assume corruption months before a competition even starts, on the basis of the choice of jury members.

            I have made the promise before, and I will again: if I detect anything like that going on when I am a member of a jury, I will make it public and I will resign. I have also written this before: the time I spent on the 2011 Tchaikovsky Competition jury was a particularly satisfying and rewarding experience, partly exactly because there was no suggestion at all of anything untoward, and partly because the results spoke for themselves, and are still doing so.

            All the best to you Norman, and thank you for your message.


            Oh – there was a point number 4: what was that about a non-musical town in Northern England?

          • Peter, your own conduct has always been above reproach and it may be that, as a result, the bent competitions take care to avoid you. Even so, are you always aware when a chairman or fellow-juror has stacked the contestant list with his/her pupils? Sometimes in collaboration with the organisers? How often has the chair’s student won? How many of your fellow-jurors actively solicit pupils by telling them take five lesons with me for ten grand and I will get you into the X competition? It seems to me that all these abuses are prevalent. There is one famous teacher who only chairs competitions that his own students win. And yes, Peter, I trust you to blow the whistle if you come across anything like that. That’s once of the things Slipped Disc is here for.

            Non-music town in the north of England? Google turned up Sheffield.
            best, Norman

  • I would expect that in the Russian manner,
    Mr. Parker at some point takes off
    his shoe and start banging it on the
    table .Me thinks the gentleman protests
    too much .It is interesting how the
    toady shows up at the slightest
    criticism of anything mother Russia .
    How quickly an opinion good or bad elicits a personal attack from the toady with words such as inexperienced , immature,sour grapes etc . Seeing the list of judges’ names is enough to sigh for the sad future of music .

  • Forgot to mention:

    In 2011, Denis Matsuev and Michel Beroff were, along with myself, amongst those on the jury (Vladimir Ashkenazy was indeed to have been on that jury, but did not appear owing to illness). There was not the slightest sign of pressure to vote in any direction from anyone, and the results and their long-term consequences speak for themselves.

    Enough from me now – over to the snipers.

  • I see that STOPTHEMUSIC and MILKA have become silent, at least in this thread. Thank God for small mercies (and non merci for small minds).

    MILKA has an axe to grind against competitions, probably because she/he did badly in them – I see he/she has banged on similar vein in other places on your site.

    I believe STOPTHEMUSIC is probably the sort of snob who won’t drink wine unless it is French.

    In both cases it seems they haven’t got the guts to justify their stupid comments, but, again, thank God.

  • Mr. Parker – please don’t allow this to descend into the usual hurling of insults. I am very grateful for your supportive words, so thank you very much, but it is unnecessary.

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