Tchaikovsky piano final: It’s Lucas vs Lukas

Tchaikovsky piano final: It’s Lucas vs Lukas


norman lebrecht

June 25, 2015

We asked our Moscow observer Marina Evreison Arshinova for an assessment of the piano finals, the only part of the 2015 Tchaikovsky Competition that has yielded big personalities and public involvement.

Here’s Marina’s report:


The second round of the Competition included 2 stages: solo program and a Mozart’s concerto. In his solo program Lucas Debarque of France absolutely won the spectators’ love. His interpretation of a rarely performed Medtner sonata was vital and fresh, and his Garpard de la Nuit was stunning. This performance was fabulous and became the high point of the competition.


Debargue plays in the legendary style of Samson Francois. Debargue’s Mozart concerto was also beautiful, beyond any comment, and deserved standing ovations. The Moscow audience was full of praise. Almost all days of the second round the hall was sold out.

Maria Mazo (32, Germany) didn’t pass to the final. She represented quite sophisticated program which included, apart from Beethoven’s and Skryabin’s Sonatas, Igor Stravinsky’s Danse infernale de tous les sujets de Kachtchei, Berceuse, and Finale from The Firebird, transcribed for piano by Guido Agosti. Her playing was impeccable in many respects, she was one of the prospective finalists and was liked by many listeners.

George Li (19, USA) is the pianist of post Lang Lang’s era: he adds such new dimensions to piano playing as fantastic brightness, feeling of endless possibities. ‘His innovative attitude to piano structure made it sound like in the new сoordinates,’ wrote Rossiyskaya gazeta.  At the same time, it’s quite distant stylistically and aesthetically from the respectful format of standard European music’s practice.

lukas geniusas


Lukas Geniusas and Daniel Kharitonov remain among the race’s leaders, although Geniusas’ playing in the second round satisfied neither himself nor his numerous fans. His performance was perfect but rather cold. By contrast, 16-year old Kharitonov seems to be full of spontaneous enthusiasm. He possess splendid technique. He is a real artist, immersed in his work, if still immature.

UPDATE: The other finalists, Sergei Redkin and Dmitry Masleev, studied at the Piano Academy Lake Como where Dmitry Bashkirov, a jury member, teaches. Redkin played better in the first round, Masleev played well throughout.
On TV news it was announced that Masleev’s mother died just before the Competition. We wish the young talented pianist strength through the healing powers of music.

(c) Marina Evreison Arshinova/Slipped Disc


Marina graduated from the StPetersburg Conservatory as a pianist, is a winner of international piano competitions and worked at the St Petersburg State Phiilharmonia (in the PR department). She is now an independent author and producer, living in StPetersburg.


  • Erwin Poelstra says:

    I agree with her about Debargues, unless something goes very wrong in the finals, he derserves the first prize.
    Mario Mazo, in my opinion, didn’t belong even in the second round…I found her Mozart for example totally uninteresting.
    No word about Masleev here, but he could be in the top three, too…his Liszt in the second round was enchanting.
    George Li: what does this sentence mean: “His innovative attitude to piano structure made it sound like in the new сoordinates”? He has a very secure, polished technique and finished pianism, but he doesn’t move me for one second.

    • Erwin Poelstra says:

      Sorry for the typos, *deserves*, *Maria*

    • Una says:

      So pleased you are able to hear all these fine pianists at the Tschaikowsky, and make such a measured a judgement. Enjoy!

      • Erwin Poelstra says:

        Thank you, I will!, together with the organization of ‘Tch15’, really did an excellent job, the live streaming website is well designed and the sound quality is pretty good!

    • Sanda Schuldmann says:

      COULD not agree more with the above comments. MAZO, really? Agree with the Li comments! I am surprised no one is standing up for Mr. Masleev, my personal favorite!
      Also does anyone know who Eric Trahan is? Why is he there. IS a completely ignorant person who talks too much, and often find his remarks offensive.

  • Karen says:

    Who is Marina Evreison Arshinova ? May we know about her credentials and classical music training and background please.

  • Manfred says:

    Daniel Kharitonov was outstanding with his Mozart interpretation. No show but much substance!

    • La kuma says:

      Kharitonov – First of all, simply he is beautiful. With both of sound and vision!!
      Maskeev also my best fav. Want to hear his Tchaikovsky 1..

  • piano man says:

    Ms. Arshinova’s comments about George Li are offensive. Li’s playing is about as remote from Lang Lang’s as one can get. Li’s training stems from Steuerman, who taught Li’s teacher Russell Sherman — whose wife/pupil/disciple Wha Kyung Byun has been Li’s primary teacher. Lang Lang did not possess Li’s musicianship, control, intelligence and discipline at age 19. Also, George Li is American. Ms Arshinova’s racial bias against George Li is malicious and repugnant, and just another facet of her shallow commentary.

  • Alex says:

    Could you guys get the name right… It’s not Lucas Debarque, it’s Lucas Debargue!

  • Rebecca says:

    Love French Lucas! (my nick name for him). He should win! His music speaks, tells stories, and paints. Never mind the music styles or interpretations, his music triggers the emotional and imagining side of you. It moves you. Isn’t it what music should be doing to us? I don’t see this ability even in some big-name pianists. If you agree, please echo.

  • Peter Donohoe says:

    Oh where oh where is Milka when you need her? Oh lackaday forsooth. Surely this is a prize opportunity for a snipe?

  • tatiana says:

    and you were right!

  • Miguel says:

    It is a mystery to me as to how George Li got 2nd prize with such a jury.
    Yes, he has exceptional finger technique.
    Yes, he choreographs his emotions / interpretations.
    He must be careful not to rely on the above or to emulate the way of Lang Lang, because that would send a wrong music making message to future generations of musicians.

    • David G says:

      I am glad you understand! I feel the same way – the Prokofiev performance at the Gala was not to my liking at all and I sense the same ‘put on’ choreography which means it doesn’t convince or move, just as Erwin Poelstra says above. I know we all have our opinions, and it’s not to take away from the hard work they have all put in or their character, but I can’t comprehend this placing, as what I’m hearing, especially as the competition went on, is a lack of an essential ingredient I would have thought the panel was after, and which one other competitor gave us each time: originality and thought-provoking performances showing deep personal involvement. I wonder what the ultimate deciding factors were in these decisions? Again, I’m happy for all of them, and all these thoughts are only our opinions, and questioning of our own aesthetics, not attacks on the competitors are people.

  • Jim says:

    is there a link to the Medtner and Gaspard performances?