Has the Tchaikovsky Competition found another Pletnev?

Has the Tchaikovsky Competition found another Pletnev?


norman lebrecht

July 02, 2015

A final comment on the Tchaikovsky Competition from our observer, Marina Evreison Arshinova:


A few days ago,  one could read in «Izvestia», the biggest Russian newspaper:

It’s a matter of fact that Tchaikovsky Competition has become The Star Factory. A winner takes a tremendous prize – $130,000 and gives his life for the hard work of constantly playing concerts. Valery Gergiev needs a strong, wiry winner, almost like himself, to take him play everywhere with – in undying glory of music and probably sometimes in glory of Russian music tradition.

These words describe quite well why Dmitry Masleev was named the first prize winner of the XV Tchakovsky piano Competition. He is A really good pianist but he lacks individual features. Although not everybody thinks the same: some audience’s circles, especially Michail Pletnev’s naive fans, see in Masleev a talent of Pletnev’s range. Maybe they are perplexed a slight facial similarity?

dmitry masleev


Below is Mikhail Pletnev playing at VI Tchaikovsky Competition. One can compare. The program itself was very modern for that moment and included lot of contemporary music: Prelude and Fugue by Schostakovich, Seventh Sonata by Prokofiev, and also Rodion Tschedrin’s «Prologue and Horse-Racing from the Ballet “Anna Karenina” arranged by young contestant Michail Pletnev. He was 21 then and no one could suspect in him lacking individuality

dmitry masleevpletnev young


  • Adam Distler says:

    Given the mainly stodgy musicianship of many of the jury members
    ( Hellwig, Beroff, Ovchinnikov and Donohoe spring to mind ) it is the perfect winner that was chosen.
    Compared to them Gergiev is a first rate musical genius.

  • Prix D'Excellence says:

    That may well be the case, as we’ve seen in his promotion of both Matsuev and Trifonov. Alas, even Gergiev will soon learn, that you can fool some of the public some of the time, but you’ll never fool them all of the time. Even his under rehearsed recent concerts have shown a certain “lack lustre”, and his appeal to many concert goers is now wearing a little thin. I wish him well in Germany, where the public are a little less diplomatic in their reactions compared to the British. The “Russian music tradition” has for years now been churning out technicians, as against musicians. Unfortunately in the real world of music making you can not trade one off for the other. The Pollini’s, Perahia’s, Argerich’s and Freire’s of this world have both qualities in abundance, flawless techniques and deep musicianship. Maybe that is why they’ve lasted the test of time ! Machines you can buy in a shop, works of art at the auction. I think I’ll head for the auction, as at least something of worth is available there.

  • Jeffrey Biegel says:

    Many musicians of all instrumental categories play proficiently, and some bend a phrase perhaps slightly different than the next, or maybe someone has a more singing sound because they know how to draw a beautiful sound from the piano strings or the violin strings. A jury ends up being a composite of many votes, so not everyone is happy all of the time. It is what it is. The problem is most play the same repertoire. It is not only competitive in a single competition, but in the world. For pianists, if 20,000 pianists play Tschaikowsky 1, or Rachmaninov 3, or Mozart 21, how will they distinguish themselves to set upon a career which they can maintain over a lifetime? I have my own answers, but am curious to see what other readers have to offer these young up-and-coming performers to help them set themselves apart from their colleagues and not be compared. This goes beyond any competition, and these young people need to figure out how they can make it in the world where everyone plays what they play.

  • A.Ganchik says:

    I am very interested to know if you exercise censorship here. Or, is it a technical glitch that made my writing dissappear.
    I wrote nothing offensive, just the true. It all can be found on classicalmusic.ru
    I shall try once over again. In a separate window in order not to embarrass your site if the problem of a technical nature.

  • A.Ganchik says:

    Peculiar that you call truth a defamation. I stated nothing but facts and questioned the wisdom of relying on a bitter and nasty person to report on young innocent musicians. [redacted]. These are not facts, they are gossip. If you would like me to publish your real name, we might discover the true reasons for your malice.

  • Octuel says:

    Addressing the great pianist Biegel’s blog whose legafcy goes back to Josef Lhevinne….It’s incredible what the order of the day is ( as displayed for the most part in Tchaikovsky Competition):
    Blunt music making, loud, brittle, noisy , uneven voicings, no true conception
    of color and timbre and quality of singing tone, no true legato,
    No imagination ( God forbid!), and no sense of phrasing or rubato
    like a great singer….and facial expressions to rival Marcel Marceau that don’t seem to improve the lot.
    Talent, yes loads of, with the advent of Internet, many can try to copy
    …misguided yes.
    The great teachers of the past valued patience and you had to pay dues
    for the great qualities of great piano playing, but also you had to be well read, have knowledge of other arts, literature, languages, history and even science and even try making your own transcriptions or cadenzas in the tradition of Liszt or Mozart.
    A personal stamp.

    Social media is not terribly helpful especially to a jury and public that might be
    prone to it and many of the uniformed opinions piling one atop the other.
    End result : superficial, quick and worth little.
    In these arenas expect the most meaningless to shine.

    To produce a Van Cliburn, Horowitz, Cortot, Friedmann, Moiseiwitch, Kapell,
    Schnabel, Richter, Ginsberg, Sofronitzki, Rachmaninov, Arrau, Rubinstein, Rosenthal, Michelangeli and such would require many sacrifices that the world is no longer possibly capable of addressing because it has no time …too busy.

    • Vovka Ashkenazy says:

      Van Cliburn, Horowitz, Cortot, Friedmann, Moiseiwitch, Kapell, Schnabel, Richter, Ginsberg, Sofronitzki, Rachmaninov, Arrau, Rubinstein, Rosenthal, Michelangeli? This list makes no sense, as not all of them were true greats. I would have put Van Cliburn, Gilels, Friedmann, Moiseiwitsch, Kapell, Argerich, Richter, GINZBURG, Merzhanov, Rachmaninoff, Arrau, Rubinstein, Rosenthal, Michelangeli, Lipatti, although I have my favourite, who is not mentioned above.

  • 110 says:

    when you practice for 12 hours plus a day ,the spirit gets numb
    I think the competitors ale playing totally from reflexes.no thinking,no creativity ,at the border of collapsing.
    Is more pain than the ” joy of music”
    Kentucky derby!!!!!

  • 110 says:

    Kentucky derby!!!!
    How you can create and enjoy music when you need 12 hours of practice?
    Your brain and heart gets numb

  • 110 says:

    Ovchinnikov was a contestant at the Montreal competition when Pogorelich got first price.
    I do not remember what he played but I remember his octaves.So fast,so many for so long and with such easiness and precision that the jury in front of us was standing in order to see better the fenomenal creature.
    Unfortunately was not enough to beat the young Pogorelich
    That happened shortly before the famous Chopin competition.

  • 110 says:

    Masleev’s mother died during the competition.
    Imagine what a superman!!!!!

  • Sanda Schuldmann says:

    IMHO the 2 greatest musicians of this competition are the bass baritone from Mongolia and the exquisite violinist Juliette Kang. That she did not get the gold is outrageous! My husband says that she was not chosen because she is a member of the Philadelphia Orchestra for 10 years now, and she got labeled as an orchestra musician.
    It does not matter. She shined and is absolutely a superb musician and violinist.
    The rest- well there were no Argerichs, or Egorovs, they are products of what competitions deliver: machines, some with more personalities than others. Such a waste of great technical equipments!

  • Sanda Schuldmann says:

    I got the incorrect Ms. Kang! Blame it on my husband!
    the contestant who was absolutely wonderful is:Clara-Jumi Kang!

  • M2N2K says:

    My hope is that this really is the “final comment”. By my unofficial count, this is post number 22 about this competition on this blog during the last three weeks, in addition to several preliminary posts about the jury rosters. Other major international competitions usually get no more than 4 or possibly 5 total posts at most. Why such disparity? Is the “Tchaikovsky” 4 or 5 times better or more important than all others? Does it have 4 or 5 times better record of its winners becoming great musicians? In my opinion, this glaring imbalance of coverage seems utterly unjustified.

    • Tweettweet says:

      The nice thing about this competition is the coverage: there were millions of views! So it is widely known over the world. The juries consist of the best musicians of the world. So I think it is quite reasonable to give attention to this quadrennial event.

      • M2N2K says:

        Of course it is reasonable. But nearly six times more attention than to any other competition? No way!

        • Tweettweet says:

          Oh well, I liked it as I was following the competition 🙂

          • M2N2K says:

            But did you like it six times more than any competition you have ever followed before? By the way, new posts about the TCH15 keep appearing on this blog almost daily and most of them are not related to the accessibility of the event at all, so the imbalance is still growing.

  • Vovka Ashkenazy says:

    It is absolutely amazing that nobody has responded to the revelation that Bashkirov, a jury member at the XV Tchaikovsky Competition is one of Masleev’s teachers………is everyone asleep????

  • Vovka Ashkenazy says:

    Hallo, everyone, why has nobody discussed the fact that Bashkirov is one of Masleev’s regular teachers? Is everyone asleep?

    • Karen says:

      Sheesh, I didn’t know that. I hope Norman will do some digging and let us know the whole story. Masleev did not play well at last night’s Gala (the 2nd gala at St. Petersburg).

  • Hilary says:

    I’m not stuck by much physical similarity between the young Pletnev and Masleev.
    Between the young Glenn Gould and Pletnev I see can see a connection. What do you think?