Claims of jury rigging at international violin competition

Claims of jury rigging at international violin competition


norman lebrecht

June 17, 2015

Prizes at the 9th Aram Khachaturian International Violin Competition went to two pupils of jury members and a third who is taught by the competition chairman’s mother. Here’s a independent account:

According to the contest’s official announcement, 25 violinists representing 17 countries participated in the competition. Five finalists shared main prizes, amongst them: 1. Iva Miletic, Serbia; 2. David Ardukhanyan, Russia/Andrea Obiso, Italy; 3. Pierre Frapier, France/Mariam Vardanyan, Armenia.

Two out of five finalists are the students of jury members: Iva Miletic is Igor Petrushevsky’s student and David Ardukhanyan is Sergey Kravchenko’s. Mariam Vardanyan, the third out of five finalists, is the student of Tatyana Hayrapetyan, Armen Smbatyan’s mother. According to the angry audience, experts, and music lovers who are deeply dissatisfied with the low level of the finalists’ performances, the third prize unfairly awarded to Mariam Vardanyan is Armen Smbatyan’s favour to his mother, while Pierre Frapier’s prize was, in fact, a reimbursement for Armen Smbatyan’s son Sergey Smbatyan’s French Medal of Arts and Letters, received in June, 2015.

Why would any sensible artist take part in such a sham? Read more here.

iva miletic


  • Samantha says:

    This is a shame if it’s true. I was on the jury last year for their piano competition and it was a full mix of pianists/piano professors and arts “industry” colleagues. (I am part of the latter.) It was a transparent process in each round, additionally validated by our refusal to name a first place winner. There was very little student representation of the professors in the jury.

  • Gary Carpenter says:

    And what would you expect?

  • Toss Can in Knee says:

    To quote a traditional ballad, there appears to have been frigging in the rigging.

    • Keith says:

      Well this is definitely not the case here . How dare you ! Throw away comments like that are damaging .These contestants work tirelessly and you bandy comments like these about with no truth in it whatsoever .

  • Robert Roy says:

    I honestly feel that, if, a second rate artist is awarded an unwarranted prize, then the public will soon find them out.

    • Keith says:

      You really have a hide . The contestant won because she played the best on the day .She is a fine violinist , very fine .

  • withheld says:

    History of Khachaturian Violin Competition at a glance:

    -1st competition 2005: 1st prize winner was student of a jury member.
    -2nd competition 2008: 2nd prize winner was student of a jury member (Mr. Tadevosyan, Chairman of Competition). No one got the 1st prize.
    -3rd competition 2010: Both 1st prize winners were students of jury members (Mr. Petroushevki & Mr. Kravchenko). Also they
    gave the 3rd prize to Nephew of a jury member (Mr. Aroutiounian).
    -4th competition 2012: Students of jury members (Mr. Kuschnir & Mr. Kravchenko) jointly won the 1st prize.

    You already know the rest about the 5th competition!

  • Olaugh Turchev says:

    Seeing the headline, I thought it was again about the previous violin competition we already commented on… LOL
    Who cares? In the end, despite all those wonderful reviews, we’ll find them out one way or another and decide for ourselves if the “best of their generation” are truly interesting or simply business pawns rehashing the repertoire.

    • Robert Hairgrove says:

      “Who cares”, you ask? All of those other immensely talented participants who wasted their time, money, nerves, and energies going to these events, only to be sent home in the preliminary rounds. They care, as do their teachers, friends, and family. Some of these would arguably be more deserving of a prize than the laureats — not necessarily a first prize, but at least better recognition.

      This is the great tragedy of these so-called “competitions”.

      • Olaugh Turchev says:

        Robert Hairgrove, what you write is painfully exact and a tragedy, and I reassure you that I fully agree with you.
        I made the point that the corrupt inbreeding that propels some of these kids to supposedly high career and keep them up for years enlisting the help of review writers, other celebrities photographic endorsement -you know standing by Martha Argerich…-, cannot hide their vacuity. They’ll be found out and with them, the entire system that supports them. Ever wonder about dwindling audience in the concert hall? They smell fakes miles away.

  • Philip Amos says:

    Mostly first-rate comments here and I thank the contributors. I think that what Robert Roy writes is true, but I must say that what the public thinks is of little importance re the futures of first-prize winners in competitions, as also winners of lower prizes and those eliminated. This is most decidedly based on the criteria of the reps of the handful of all-powerful media corporations who own the major record labels and the equally powerful artist management agencies. It is the say-so of such that determines who gets a major career and who not. Thus it is that for many years now, deserving first-prize winners have had no significant career, while lesser lights have — they are the more ‘marketable’, not least because the prettiest or most handsome. And just as often it has been precisely vice versa. I should like to see competitions gone, and I’m hardly alone in that.

  • classicmonsta says:

    There shall a worlwide law and regulation:
    1) No students of jury members in the same competitions.
    2) No friends, relatives either.
    3) Disqualification for Life for corruption.

    Everything shall be clarified by participants ss well. If they see there are students of jury members they better don’t participate

  • Marianna says:

    Hi there, I am just astonished and kind of mixed up….WTF? If you take this on your shoulders and want to participate in tough contests and to conquest high stages, you have to be a bit smarter and correspond to the context. One has to be able to lose with dignity. It’s a shame to order some f…in articles, to mix facts and circumstances, to waste everybody’s time and to get on nerves just because you have some mental diseases or you professional ambitions are not satisfied. Commmmmonnnn, dude, just relax and congratulate the winners!!!!! Be honest, i.e. start to be this kind.

    • Vardan says:

      you want people to deal with Corruption? Congratulate the unworthy winners? Try listening to the finalists of this damn competition- they are all undeserving of any prize whatsoever.

      • Marianna says:

        Davit, you can either congratulate the winner, or not – it’s your own decision. Just let the time judge. Several years ago some people considered Narek Hakhnazarian not good enough to be the winner of the same competition, but today they are the firsts among the ones buying tickets for his concerts.

      • Keith says:

        When you say undeserving It is simply not true and you must have some agenda going on . These contestants are seriously fine players .

  • Lia says:

    I really don’t understand what’s the fuss??? I want to remind everybody who is in a mess of hysteria that if you want to discuss smth you have to get an opposite side invited. What a monologue of insane??? In 2012 there was a violinist Fyodor Rudin, I bet you don’t remember him ‘cause it is not convenient at the moment. So this guy won grand prix and he was not a relative, neighbor or I don’t know who for any of jury members…..You want to misbalance the situation and to paint your own colors, well this is your deep-deep problem, so keeeep it, please.

    • Arsen says:

      Dear Lia, during these years we had two great violinists in the finals: Fedor as you mentioned and Jarek Nardzicki, both great violinists. During 2012 competition first prize went to students of jury. During the closing ceremony they announced Fedor won The Grand Prix, which technicaly does not exists if you look at the Rules of 2012 competition! We never heard that term again. By that time Fedor was a student of Zakhar Bron which has good relationship with Smbatyan family. This time we had a paticipant at the same level from Russia, also anothet 2 Virtuoso violinists from Kazakhstan and Korea….just watch the video of first and second rounds. Cheers

  • EVA says:

    NONSENSE! People if you are not aware what’s going on around you, there is no need to rewrite or comment under something so stupid and full of jealousy.
    One unaware and ignorant ass writes something and all others copy it without thinking…. without there own opinion.
    If you are not in it how you can be sure of and write things which are far from reality.
    This competition is of high level, with a jury members from different countries, and there is no possibility to be corrupted.
    Everyone must firstly judge himself before throwing stone on others.

  • Milka says:

    Yes , who cares….. this is not about music as much as how to make a future buck
    by winning some prize …serves no one except hucksters , contributes nothing
    to the art however low it has sunk …on to the next free for all in moscow …

  • levon says:

    Hi guys,
    I just want to invite your attention to the biased comments ordered by the competition office, eva, lia, and marianna – all non-native speakers obviously. All approximately at the same time.
    The original article is the most viewed and commented on, a magazine with a serious reputation and belonging to the World Federation of Investigative journalist, which means it never posts biased, unverified opinions.
    Why wouldn’t the competition post the performances of the “winners” and of those who didn’t make it to the final on their official site at this age of transparency and technology, instead of ordering replys and let the audience judge???

    • EVA says:

      Levon, It is clear that I am not a native speaker and you as well, so what????
      If I am a person who has been in all rounds during the competition and i have seen with my own eyes what’s going on there, why i have to close my eyes and let injustice be spread all around???Because you or someone like you can weave Information with no bases??
      It is obviously clear that the only order is this article, because it is not possible to have this much evil towards someone or towards a group of people whom you didn’t know.
      And even there is gossip spread who is the author of this order, who needs to put bullshit on competition and I can understand if the office people do not want to be involved in this wicked games!!!!

    • Keith says:

      Levon , Why are you doing this . The girl who won was the best on the day . You go way too far .

  • Marianna says:

    Dear Levon,
    I am not going to argue with you any longer. I just want to mention one important issue. If you consider that the belonging to the World Federation of Investigative journalists makes the the most impartial and fair source, why do you think that the competition which is the member of the World Federation of International Music Competitions can afford itself to be corrupted or unfair???? You contradict yourself!!!

  • levon says:

    My answer refers not to you, but to the impartial readers, to the international community, who have the right to be able to judge about winners of the competition and those who didn’t win according to the recordings on the official website. Recordings which don’t exist!!! I also would like to let the unbiased reader know that if an article is published on, belonging to the World Federation of Investigative Journalists it cannot be a random gossip, as you want to represent it. Moreover, it is the most viewed and commented!!! Obviously too many views and comments to be prescribed to a “group” of people.
    This is my final response.

  • David A. says:

    this article is full of lies. People who didnt watch stages of competition can’t judge. Level of organization was very high and it isn’t fair to convince jury members and organization committee in corruption. Believe me, everything were very clear. David Ardukhanian.

    • withheld says:

      David Jan,
      I don’t know you personally but have been present at your performances during 2012 & 2015 competitions & I must say that I liked your performance of the First movement of Khachaturian concerto. congratulations! you did a better job this time.
      the competition was not fair at all! I’m sure you have not watched all of performances of the first & second rounds. SYOA TV and Official channel of competition has not uploaded the complete videos yet! also as you may know the Live broadcast during the second round turned off for couple of hours.
      The first prize winner did a great job during the first round, I must highlight her brilliant performance of the Ciaccona. I’m sure If she was not a protege of Mr.Petrushevky, she had no chance of being present at the finals (you may counted how many wrong notes she played in Khachaturian’s Dance, Rondo Capriccioso, Caprice No. 24 etc.)
      She performed the best rendition of Mozart concerto in first day of finals, but the Performance of Khachaturian concerto – especially the 3rd Mvmt – was totally catastrophic! Obviously she didn’t know the notes!
      Do I have to mention the poorest possible performance of Mozart & Khachaturian concertos by Mariam (3rd prize winner)?
      Forget about the Intonation & ensemble with orchestra…

      IMHO the only finalist with good sense of Rhythm, ensemble playing & overall musicality was Andrea Obiso (2nd prize winner). The audience in Opera theatre gave the longest ovation to his performance of Khachaturian concerto.

      Wish you success in your career & life.

  • david says:

    The only fact that not all of recordings of all participants were broadcasted by the office and recordings are not archived on the competition website is already a fact indicating to corruption.
    Iva Miletic played very poorly on the 2 round, wrong text in Khachaturian’s Dance, Rondo Capriccioso, even forgot the text in Brahms sonata, I didn’t like her Mozart which didn’t respect the ur-text at all, and she terribly missed up in Khachaturian concerto, particularly 3 part!!! Not speaking about the gala where everone was laughing at her. Poor sound production, dirty intonation, and rhythmic mistakes – this is how she got 1 prize in Aram Khachaturian International Competition 2015.
    Because of her poor overall level Igor Petrushevski, her teacher who was jury member in Enescu Competition couldn’t push her to the final, but considereing that Armenia is a developing country, he pushed her here!!!
    I don’t even want to spaek about 3 prize winner Mariam Vardanyan’s complete ignorance and total illeteracy in all aspects of violin technique, not mentioning inability to learn texts.
    Andrea Obisio truly deserves the Audience Sympathy award which was again falsely awarded to Mariam Vardanyan, when the audience hated her performances and thought it was a disgrace to have her at the competition at all

  • David A. says:

    Dear friends! Every year every competition people can’t agree with final resultas. i played with Iva Miletic and didn’t get final with her in Enescu Competition but because of another reason . But in jury were Pierre Amoyal, Michaela Martin and other. So in final were musicians of them. It is absolutely typical situation. Tell me about competition in which audience absolutely agree with results.

  • Vardan says:

    It’s not about agreeing- it’s the simple fact that objectively speaking that it was a disastrous and corrupted event- this is not subjective. Just the fact that Mariam passed to the 2nd round is enough evidense- complete bullshit David.

  • Vardan says:

    I don’t want to argue with you, but I want everyone to judge themselves based on the recordings- which AREN’T there. In other competitions, the quality of the finalists is almost approximately the same- this competition was a disgrace.

  • sharon says:

    Dear David Ardukhanian,
    please don’t dare to use names of professors – Pierre Amoyal and Mihaela Martin who have very serious reputations and would never compromise their names by pushing such low level performers as Iva Miletic, Mariam Vardanyan, and yourself among them. Furthermore, they would never give advantage to any of you, finalists, against such professionals as Meruert Karmenova and Kim Yeokyung.

    • Keith says:

      Sharon , the winner was not a low level violinist and to say something like that is totally off.and would make the winner feel terrible . This is not fair to a young girl who is very talented .She won because she showed the judges she was the better on the day .

  • David A. says:

    I didn’t say about reputations of these amazing Professors. For me they are wonderful and great professionals, very interesting personalities and musicians. I just wanna say, that Every competition – the same story. Always many critics. Hope you the best.

  • Levon says:

    Dear readers, please find the updated version of the English translation which missed a paragraph on the poor level of performance of Iva Miletic, 1 prize winner, at:
    The following paragraph was published in the Armenian and Russian versions, but was missing in the English translation due to technical reasons: For example, Iva Miletic’s, 27, the first prize winner, overall musical skills correspond to her previous achievements in contests that are not certified by The World Federation of International Music Competitions, but in no ways to Aram Khachaturian Competition, having already acquired that status. Her first round, full of rhythmic, textual, and stylistic mistakes and reinforced by poor intonation, was followed by the technical failure of the virtuoso piece in the second round and by the poor performance of the sonata full of stylistic, rhythmical, and textual mistakes – a blunder unacceptable even for average level competitions. As a “prize” for failing the second round Miletic passed to the third one to surprise the audience, along with the international community, with her explicit inability to rightly interpret the musical ur-text in Mozart’s Violin Concerto 3 and with rude textual mistakes in Aram Khachatryan’s Violin Concerto. For the abovementioned achievements, Iva Miletic was awarded with the honorary first prize, 15 thousand American dollars, and the violin provided by Del Gesu Foundation.

    • withheld says:

      Dear Levon,
      would you please do some research about the “Del Gesu foundation” which apparently loaned antique instruments to Mr. Ardukhanian (before the competition) & Miss Miletic after the competition?
      according to gossips its somehow related to Wagner Konservatorium & the family which rules the culture of Armenia?
      during my professional life I have never heard of this swiss foundation!

      • Levon says:

        Dear Withheld,
        thanks a lot for your comment which I will indeed consider in my upcoming research.

      • Aram says:

        Dear Witheld! David Ardukhanian plays on the violin from Del Gesu foundation for two years. Not specially for competition.

        • withheld says:

          Dear Aram,
          Thank you for exact information. Actually I don’t care for how long they loaned that good sounding instrument to Mr. A.
          The thing which is really interesting is the connection of foundations, companies, jury members & participants which completely engineered the Aram Khachaturian Competition during these years.
          IMO the only possible way to save the competition’s name & reputation is to release all Video recordings of all participants starting, especially the last 3 (2010, 2012, 2015). also they can publish the score of each candidate received from each jury member.

          It’s odd that the competition committee only has upload videos of selected candidates from past competitions. For example one the best participant during 2010? competition was “Sergey Tsoy” from USA (student of Mr. Mikhail Kopelman) which performed almost everything in a very high level (as I remember the jury only did not like his performance of Brahms 3rd sonata very much). he performed the best rendition of Paganini caprices that year. as usual (according to traditions!) jury did not let him to play in final stage.
          Also I remember a very good & talented violinist from Mexico (student of Boris Belkin) during 2008 competition which I would like to watch & listen his performance of Ysaye No. 6 sonata in Khachaturian concert hall again.
          On the contrary, the competition office has not uploaded the recordings of poor performances from candidates of different nationalities (do I need to mention the names?).
          Best regards,

          • Levon says:

            Dear Withheld,
            could you please send (confidential if you want) all the information you have to for further investigation?

          • withheld says:

            Dear Levon,

            Unfortunately I don’t remember lots of things from past competitions, except the comments which you have already read. I think you are the first Armenian journalist who investigates the corruption existing in music (and in general in Culture) of RA, Well done!

            For your upcoming researches It would be great if you start a vast investigation on existing corruption in Yerevan State Conservatory; Professors, Deans, Heads of departments etc. which is related to our topic!

            As you may know famous professors (good ones!) are paid directly by students “Illegally”!
            Because of low existing salaries (around 100-140 Euros per month) professors found a new way to earn the money they need. It’s not a new story; as I remembers It has been started in 1990s after the fall of soviet union.
            In coordination with Rector, Vice-rectors & heads of departments, they decided to establish an unwritten rule: “Instead of 2 lessons per week (specialty, each lesson 1 hour) we teach one lesson, for the second lesson student must pay, like a private lesson.” In result the student goes to normal scheduled studio class but have to pay directly to his/her teacher, except the amount of Tuition Fee. If someone refuse to pay, the teacher will give him/her only one lesson per week. also It will influence on final Scores of each student directly!! this amount could be 100 to 500 euros per month depending of reputation and power/connections of each professor.

            We had some really talented & great graduates during last 20 years, but an enormous part of them have bribed the staff (jury, dean &…) in different ways in order to get a RED DIPLOMA (the diploma with honours) or to get a governmental scholarship, just like other Universities in Republic of Armenia.

            Everything happening in cultural life of RA is somehow related to Mr. S & his friends. starting from appointments of Ministry of Culture, Director of Music colleges, Rectors of Conservatories, giving titles & honours to musicians, appointment of principal conductors (except one case!) even appointment of director of the National opera theatre! If you’d like to know more you can interview Eduard Topchjan, Barseg Tumanyan, Gegham Grigoryan and professors of “less corrupted” departments in Yerevan Komitas Conservatory (most of composition, music theory, musicology, music history & general piano teachers)

            best regards,

    • Keith says:

      Levon your comments are disgusting not true at all . How dare you .The girl won because she is good , she is talented,she has the skills and showed this to the judges.Its disgusting how you can try and bring things into disrepute. Disgusting . The girl worked day and night and deserved to win and you lot trying to bring her down . This is not fair and is nonsense.You can say what you like but I know the truth .

  • Levon says:

    please beware of attempts to equal this competition to any other competition with a serious reputation. Whereas in other competitions, differences between finalists and those who didn’t make it to the final are arguable, the overall poor level of the finalists and their performances, in particular, here, made it objectively impossible for the competition office to broadcast or store the recordings of all participants.
    Performances, which made the discussion of a competition of only 25 participants a matter of a wide public discussion.

  • shirley kirsten says:

    You gotta wonder now about the XV International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow.. So far a second round SHAM except for George Li and Reed Tetzloff, plus the relentless, sleeping judge in the first row makes me wonder. I have pics..

  • withheld says:


    Finally the Official channel of Competition has uploaded the recordings of all 2015 candidates:

    Now everyone can compare performances of the finalists with every other participant which didn’t pass the 2nd round, specially: Еlena Tarosyan, Yeokyung Kim & Meruert Karmenova. Also if you have time, you can review the performances of special prize winners. I hope the competition office would decide to upload all recordings of past participants also.

    P.S. If someone wants to understand the overall level of this years’ competition, can watch performances of candidates from UK, Belarus, Iran, Lebanon, Austria & Russia (Mr. Leontyev, Ms. Drukh).

    Best regards,

  • Levon says:

    we are still investigating corruption cases concerning the competition, please send us an e-mail if you would like to make an official claim against Petrushevski. We wil respect your privacy if asked.
    to: Investigative Journalists of Armenia at:
    Thanks a lot,
    Levon Hayrapetyan