Dreary outcome at the Tchaikovsky Competition

Dreary outcome at the Tchaikovsky Competition


norman lebrecht

July 01, 2015

There were four exciting finalists in the piano contest, the only one that really matters.

The winner was not one of them. He ticked all the boxes, was a safe choice, and Russian besides. He never set the hall or the audience alight.


I prize and gold medal: Dmitry Masleev

dmitry masleev



II prize and silver medal: Lucas Geniušas; George Li

III prize and bronze medal: Sergei Redkin; Daniel Kharitonov

IV prize: Lucas Debargue



Once again no first prize was awarded in the violin section. The judges showed unbelievable indecision by splitting the bronze medal into three:

I prize and gold medal: –

II prize and a silver medal: Tseng, Yu-Chien

III prize and bronze medal: Kazazyan, Haik; Conunova, Alexandra; Milyukov, Pavel

IV prize: Kang, Clara-Jumi

V prize: Kim, Bomsori



Nor was there anything to get excited about in the cello section:

I prize and gold medal: Ioniță, Andrei

II prize and silver medal: Ramm, Alexander

III prize and bronze medal: Alexander, Buzlov

IV prize: Ferrández, Pablo

V prize: Kang Seung Min

VI prize: Roozeman, Jonathan


  • Rainer says:

    I thought the IV prize was shared by Clara Jumi Kang and Bomsori Kim…
    What’s not to like about the cello results? Ionita is a fantastic player, proved himself well. If anything, Pablo Ferrandez should have placed higher but otherwise the results make sense.

  • Pianoman says:

    A heads up – George Li is taking part in the Chopin competition this fall, so let’s keep an eye on him. I was hoping that either he and Geniusas would reach far, and they did – but not far enough.

    From what I could see, Bashkirov and Feltsman were applauding with their hands raised, while Peter Donohoe appeared to applaud with much less enthusiasm.

  • Boring Fileclerk says:

    Not giving Lucas Debargue at least the bronze was an outrage. Further evidence that these competitions are more political than artistic in nature.

    I do think that the violin section was a valid outcome. There was nothing especially fresh or exciting here. All of the violinists where average at best.

    The cello section outcome as the most difficult section to judge. It was unusually strong this year across the board. Flip a coin and it really could have gone to anyone.

    Cannot comment on the vocal section as I did not bother to watch it.

    • Martin says:

      What is political about not awarding a medal to a pianists who only did the recital part of the competition well?
      Doesn’t change that this Frenchman will set me back a few bucks a few times when I attend some of his recitals and I’m pretty sure I will think the money was well spent.

    • Tweettweet says:

      I think Lucas won’t have to worry about his future, he was beloved by many. But calling the violinist ‘average’? I think that is quite an insult for young people who are putting great effort in this competition. That they have not moved you, I could understand, but in my opinion many of them are great artists. Especially in the recitals and the Mozart concertos that could be heard.

      • Boring Fileclerk says:

        Yes, the violinist where average at best. I would have been happy if no medals where awarded for the section.

  • Karen says:

    Unfortunately, my worst fear came true: Russia-U.S.geopolitics at play here. They are not going to award the gold medal to an American, in the midst of U.S. economic sanctions and aggressive stance against Russia. George Li should have been given the gold medal. To thousands who have been following the competition and posting on Facebook, George Li is the winner. BRAVO, George Li !!!

    • Pianoman says:

      Oh, really? Care to recall the story of the American that won the first Tchaikovsky competition, in the midst of the cold war…? Li has a bright future, with or without the first prize, and making the assumption that his non-winning has something to do with geopolitics is just absurd. Especially if you consider that several Russian jurors emigrated to the West under difficult circumstances (Feltsman and Toradze – the latter basically fled the country while on tour and was hiding somewhere in the US for a month. His dad was killed as a result of Toradze fleeing).

      • Ted says:

        They may have fled from the former Soviet Union but that does not mean that they are not Russian Nationalists. They may have great dislike for the former regime but that does not mean they are not devoted to Mother Russia, especially in the face of present U.S. economic sanctions. We would hope that politics did not play a part but the only way to ever know is to have a blind competition where the nationality of the pianists are not known but that ofcourse never happens. So one will never know with any certainty. These things often do happen, as in the Olympics, especially where subjective judging is involved.
        Overall though, great artistic and musical achievements by all prize winners and competitors.

      • Ted says:

        They may have fled from the former Soviet Union but that does not mean that they are not Russian Nationalists. They may have great dislike for the former regime but that does not mean they are not devoted to Mother Russia, especially in the face of U.S. economic sanctions. We would hope that politics did not play a part but the only way to ever know is to have a blind competition where the nationality of the pianists are not known but that ofcourse never happens. So one will never know with any certainty. These things often do happen, as in the Olympics, especially where subjective judging is involved.
        Overall though, great artistic and musical achievements by all prize winners and competitors.

        • Pianoman says:

          Well, I absolutely think that a competition of this magnitude should avoid having too many Russian jurors, but I’m afraid it’s too late to complain about that now. But I’m afraid I would need some more solid evidence to the claim that geopolitics had ANYTHING at all to do with the decision to not award Li the first prize. As for Li himself, he said recently via his Facebook fan-page that he would be more than happy with any prize at this point. A lot of people are drawing far-reaching conclusions here, but it seems that Li isn’t one of them.

      • Andrys says:

        Unfortunately, Toradze had to leave after an initial round to go on a tour. One he had voted for was Emilio Rimaldi, who was not one of the bangers who tend to be so enjoyed by some of the nationals among the jurors. Dennis Matsuev took his place at the end near the end.

        Wikipedia says (ref Wash Post + Star Telegraph citing Khruschev’s son’s memory):
        “When it was time to announce a winner, the judges were obliged to ask permission of the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev to give first prize to an American. “Is he the best?” Khrushchev asked. “Then give him the prize!”

        That they felt ‘obliged’ to ask permission of the soviet leader is interesting, but we were in a ‘cold war’ and this year we have the U.S. currently threatening Russia with economic sanctions etc. and it’s Putin who is at the helm. So it’s not a far reach.

        • Pianoman says:

          Perhaps a few words from one of the jurors, Peter Donohoe, would be fitting to quote here. Recently posted on his Facebook page.

          “Been reading masses of online comments, tweets and FB messages re ‪#‎TCH15‬ results.
          Many thanks indeed to all for the positive ones.
          Re the rest, all I can say is thank God that we didn’t have the Internet in 1982. [Qualification added later: I am not referring to the opportunity to listen and watch live provided by the Internet, which has allowed access to the competition to literally millions of people. I specifically mean the opportunities to snipe provided by websites, blogs, and social media. Hundreds of people have been constructive and absolutely not in agreement, which is great and welcomed, but many more have sniped insensitively. When I was a participant in 1982, the only snipers I had to contend with were contributors to the British classical music press – in no other country that I was aware of, btw – but they were very few in number. Now there are far more opportunities for that kind of chippy nonsense, and these young musicians need lot more thick skin than ever before.]
          You may say what you like about the jury members – although it would be less tiresome if we could cut out the accusations of fixing it beforehand on the basis of the Russian/Ukrainian situation.
          But do be a little more sensitive with what you say about the prize-winners; anyone hoping for a First Prize/Gold Medal in any of the four Competitions – which surely everyone who made it to the finals will be – who did not make it, will be feeling vulnerable right now. Indeed, those who did win Gold will be very sensitive to bald statements that it wasn’t deserved.
          We do not all have to agree in order to be respectful.”

    • Martin says:

      I have no words as a reply other than letting you know that I am shaking my head in disbelief about what I just read.

    • joseph says:

      Karen: I can’t agree with you more. I don’t know why this year’s piano competition is called “international competition” when 6 (including a former Russian) out of the 12 jurors are Russian. Can you imagine if it would have the same set-up in the upcoming Chopin competition in Warsaw in which half of the jurors would be Poles!

      • Diana Ventura says:

        The Chopin Competition is even more “stacked” with Eastern European jurors or European jurors. Not even one of the jurors of the Elimination round were non Europeans at the Chopin Competition. It seems they are out to make sure the Asians will not dominate and win top prizes at the major competitions, which they are clearly doing these days. In the Chopin competition, even with all European jurors, 37 out of the final 84 competitors were of Asian decent.

      • Pianoman says:

        Funny indeed that you’d mention the Chopin competition. If I recall correctly, there are 14 judges in total, and 7 of them are Poles. Actually, since the very beginning of the competition there have been roughly 150 Poles in the jury:


        • vincent sparry says:

          well let’s not get carried away with perceptions of anti-asianism. nwo that chopin is over, 1st place and 3rd place went to a south korean and a singapore-born american.

  • Martin says:

    Masleev’s 1st round recital was among the best, if not the best. His Prokofiev concerto in the final got him a standing ovation and is among the best renditions of that concerto I have ever heard. His Mozart concerto was the best – rightfully awarded with the chamber concerto prize. He might have won in 3 of the 4 parts of this competition.
    A very rightful winner in an extremely deep and strong field of very talented pianists.
    Watch again!

    I had Dubargue as another favorite until I listened to his 1st round again today, adding that to the concerto rounds, I am not surprised at all that he missed out on medals. A very special guy, though I’m not sure concertos are his thing. I guess he’ll be more a project and recital guy and a excellent one at that! His 2nd round recital for me was the best one and left me satisfied and unwilling to listen to any other music for the rest of the night.

    Li/Kharitonov – very talented. One could hear that they are not yet ripe, not able to bring the “soul”. They will both have long and fruitful careers, but were mistreating the piano as a drum in their youthful excitement. They’ll calm down and bring us joy.

    Geniusas – well, hmm. I am not a fan, but can’t find any fault either. Here I need to listen again and I will!

    • Karen says:

      Very unfair comment regarding George Li. For me and many others, we were left speechless by Li’s rich warm tone, impeccable technique, poetic shaping, and breathtakingly beautiful performances on all 3 rounds. I completely disagree with you. Support Masleev all you will, but there is no need to make disparaging remarks about the other prize winners.

      • Martin says:

        I think it is about what you want to hear in a pianist. I need more that hamming the piano in emotion. A reason why I liked Redkin, who many describe a boring.
        Btw, I didn’t mean to be overly critical, was just a tiny bit too angry about Norman’s “He never set the hall or the audience alight.”
        I apologize and want to make it clear, that I truly like all finalists and hope to hear more of them and quiet a few more others.

      • Alvaro says:

        Dont take it personal Karen, its not disparaging at all. The comment acknowledges Li’s talents, bit outlines a reason for which he is not 100% there yet. I happen to agree. Every round I was most surprised by him, yet I also felt the only way he could lose is because of a lack of , how should we call it, depth. Not that he has none, please, nobody is saying that. You cant make it to the first round of this contest without depth, but if there is something left for this young man to better, is a tad more depth. He was the most clear in virtuoso passages, head and shoulders above the rest. The structure, the constructions, the ideas, it was all there, but I only felt amazed in the super virtuoso passages. If he is able to make us jump our fert in a more subdued passage, we have a new Ax, or Van Cliburn! He’s extraordinary!

        • Karen says:

          Give him time, George is only 19. He has a long successful musical career ahead of him, which will be very gratifying to follow. George is full of exciting new possibilities, ready to unfold. If you compare him to how he performed from even a year ago, his musical development has been just phenomenal. One gets the feeling that he will continue to reach greater heights for a very long time to come. In that sense, he is an artist deserving of our attention and admiration.
          Masleev, on the other hand, gives the feeling that he is already fully formed and may have plateaued — I could be wrong, but he may play pretty much at this current level from here on, perhaps only with some minor variations here and there – to many listeners, his performances are safe and uninteresting. To me, George’s superb artistry, superior talent, jaw-dropping technical excellence and electrifying musical performances better represent what a gold medal truly means.

    • Pianoman says:

      Masleev’s 1st round certainly didn’t stick out in any way at all. His Bach was lifeless, Beethoven had quite amateurish moments and was overall uninspired, and while he happily banged his way through Wilde Jagd at a high pace then it was at the cost of lots of unnecessary missed notes and very little under mezzo forte (there are quite a few pp markings, as well). He had a great deal of show-pieces in the 2nd round but again seemed more interested in playing in a loud and undifferentiated manner in pieces like Totentanz, which nevertheless is a piece that needs a good balance between the frantic and the meditative/calm stuff. He seemed to show little interest in the latter aspect of the piece.

      Just for fun, compare Li’s Beethoven with what the much-older winner offered in the first round. It’s pretty clear who is most convincing at least here, if you ask me.

      • Shirley Kirsten says:

        So well put… exactly as I felt about Masleev’s Round one, which I revisited today following the awards ceremony.

    • Frank says:

      Totally agree on Masleev… Best advice: go to medici and listen again! I personally predicted him winner already after first round… Like I did with trifonov in 2011. This is not about politics at all, it’s about musicality…

    • Giovanni says:

      Let’s review the violins.

      Malyukov, “beat the violin black and blue” in both the Tchaikovsky AND the Shostakovich!!! although Hanslick was clearly only referring to the Tchaikovsky in his review after it’s premiere….and raising the instrument aloft at the end of his performance…what was that about?

      Conunova, clearly a passionate and intense player but the phrasing in her Sibelius, to me, was erratic and disconnected and intonation often sharp. Her Tchaikovsky brain freeze in the 1st movement cadenza never saw her recover.

      Kim, thought she should have placed higher in Queen Elizabeth, sensitive player, but also a little safe. It seemed she found the prospect of back-to-back concerti daunting and it showed. Fatigue in Brahms caused orchestra to slow up and flat intonation. I’m amazed frankly she even made it through the Tchaikovsky.

      Yu-Chien, started his Sibelius really well although somewhat robotically which I think actually defined him.Then came the 2nd movement which was SO deathly slow that I thought the music had stopped, Simonov could have helped here. I was unable to watch more.

      Clara Jumi-Kang, What was that Beethoven?? Was she attempting some kind of Debargue French post-modernist interpretation?? Mess with this concerto at your peril…too cute and self conscious (see Nilsson quote about artists forgetting themselves in previous post)

      Kazazyan, thought he might save the day, a gallant knight, which he was for a few moments then seemed to tense up. Agressive vibrato and an unstable bow arm particularly high on the E string caused some really unpleasant moment (Sibelius) Probabaly the most “honest” player in the finals though.

      Overall, no complaints about no gold medal. Distinctly average violin finals.

      The piano finals on the other hand were full of intrigue and although none of the finalists delivered a complete 2 concerto gold winning display, there were at least 4 standout individual performances. But more on that later…

      • Andrew Condon says:

        And Malyukov skipped a beat at the end of the Shostakovich cadenza – the conductor, half asleep, made no effort to save a real disaster going into the finale (which is marked attacca, and certainly wasn’t on Sunday). A more quick-witted response might have saved the day. Throughout these violin finals I felt he didn’t follow the soloists quite as closely as he might have done and as stated elsewhere, the orchestra were sluggish.

    • Ronald Greidanus says:


      Opinions are opinions and thats what makes us human….thank God! I too watched this piano competition with great interest. I think your feelings for the first prize winner Dmitry Masleev are way off the track. No his first round wasn’t the best, intact as always in these piano circuses others should have gone on i.e.. Dinara Klinton! His recital round two was absolutely not the best, no one could compare to Debargues and you clearly point that out. Playing a transcription of Totentanz was the stupidest thing in the world, and he didn’t even do that convincingly. As for the Mozart, again no way! His Prokofiev…please, did you look at George Li playing the glisses as the composer intended them to be played, let along the slow tempi that Masleev took…come on! Masleev’s Tchaikovsky in the final Gala was simply amateur and embarrassing, thats not a winners performance of that piece, fatigued or not that pianist should not have won let alone be in the finals.

  • All Keyed Up says:

    The whole thing stinks of an inside job, what with Gergiev sitting next to Matsuev (so unprofessional!), etc. The long-distance runner here is George Li. Stay tuned….

    • Carey says:

      Did everyone watch how after Masleev finished his concerto, Gergiev went backstage to congratulate Masleev, shaking his hands. I believe a few other jurors also went backstage to congratulate Masleev. I don’t remember seeing Gergiev attending on any other days of the piano competition, except on the very last day when Masleev performed. Regardless of what was ‘really’ going on and we will never ever know, don’t you think the old aphorism should apply to these piano competitions, ie. “Not only must justice be done; it must also BE SEEN to be done.” Having Gergiev attend backstage to congratulate Masleev even before the jurors have completed their voting does not look ‘kosher’ to me.

  • Anon2 says:

    So disappointed in the cello results. They make very little sense and must be the result of behind the scene politics. Ferrandez of Spain and Ramm of Russia were leagues above the other candidates. Ionita was a just a safe choice, nothing exciting.

    Regarding the 3 way violin tie for third place, it seems in other catagories as well there was a push to get the Russian candidates into the top 3 no matter what. It’s the only reason that comes to mind why Alexander Buzlov took 3rd place in cello. Notice that the 3 way tie in violin were all Russian.

    Very disillusioned after watching the Tchaik this year. Will probably not follow it in the future. There are clearly politics at play and it doesn’t seem to be a fair evaluation of the candidates. It breaks my heart to see gifted young musicians fall prey to this, to be judged for political reasons rather than for their talent and abilities.

  • violin fanatic says:

    I think Dubargue’s inexperience of playing with an orchestra showed. But he has brilliance and character and I hope he can continue to inspire. George Li did very very well throughout all rounds, and the Geniusas took risk by choosing the most demanding program in the final.

    Violin placement was utterly unbelievable. I don’t know what to say. Clara Jumi Kang is a special musician who should have placed higher. Haik was very solid throughout and very polished, and Yu Chien also methodically played. Bomsori’s 2nd round program and performance were great.

  • Arthur says:

    The results in violin category were not so surprising, except giving a Bronze medal to Milyukov (his teacher were sitting in the jury) which he didn’t deserve at all.
    No one was good enough for getting the Gold medal. Personally I liked three competitors: Tseng performed a brilliant Tchaikovsky & very good Sibelius concerti, but wasn’t equally good during the first round. Conunova Played very beautiful specially in first and final rounds . And the third one is Gaik(haik) Kazazian who performed with great musicianship in second and final stages.
    Bomsori was really good in first and second stages, but didn’t perform very good in final stage.

  • Richard says:

    Please explain how on earth is this “He never set the hall or the audience alight.” part true, when the crowd gave him the biggest cheers during almost the entire event (even if for dubious reasons). Rhythmic applauses during his concertos. Rhythmic! It’s on tape, for Christ’s sake. You are taking what your reporter said for granted and publishing this article as your own views on things.

  • Jeffrey Levenson says:

    Kang was the only artist cellist IMO. Six million folks heard her so she will get
    engagements and perhaps a solo cello position. Be great in a trio or quartet.

    • Matteo says:

      She is a tremendous player indeed, but if you listen closely to her performance in the final round you can hear lots of mistakes. I felt very sorry for her because she was among my favourites (I mean, her Schnittke in the second round was truly amazing!) and she was evidently having a very bad time.

  • Matteo says:

    While I can’t say in all honesty that I would have picked Masleev as the winner, he’s a reasonable choice (impressive technique, fantastic Mozart and really nice concertos in the final round).
    I don’t share at all the enthusiasm about Li’s performances: I found his recital repertoire ridiculous and his interpretation of most of the pieces he played shallow at best. Sure, he plays fast and has a pleasant touch, but he’s kind of an all-smoke-and-no-fire type.
    Instead, I really liked Kharitonov and I would have liked to see him win: I see a lot of potential in him and he seems to be much more musical and profound than his american counterpart, but to be honest I also think that he could really achieve even more with maturity and experience.
    I’ve also liked a lot Geniusas, whose elegant and superbly crafted interpretations really made him stood out as a complete musician (plus his was one of the hardest program on the final round).
    Debargue gave indeed a stunning performance of Ravel in his recital and a very interesting and refreshing Mozart (which I liked even more than Masleev’s) but his Beethoven sonata had a semi-preposterous second movement and he sure doesn’t know how to play with an orchestra (which is not a problem per se, but can’t be ignored in the final round of such a prestigious competition).
    I am really happy about the gold medal being awarded to Ionita in the cello section: his Shostakovich concerto was truly magnificent and deserving (even if he wasn’t really at ease with neither the Rococò Variations nor the Haydn concerto, at least from a stylistical point of view).
    Broadly speaking, I’ve really enjoyed the cello competition this year, but while the average quality of performance was rather high, I missed that kind of exuberant and apparent mastery of some of the previous winners.

  • A guy says:

    Masleev banged away all through the competition. I was afraid he would get the first and he did…in any case he really did not deserve the chamber concerto prize. Debargue played beautiful Mozart but his final round was disappointing. Needs to bulk up or choose different competition/concerto. Tchaikovsky concerto isn’t his thing.

    • Ronald Greidanus says:

      I totally agree with you, I think choosing Masleev was absolutely ridiculous omg. But hey I don’t think the “Dying damsel” Trifonov should have won either. I saw him in Toronto two years and thought I would never attend a recital again. I had too look at the back of the hall cause of his pained face was driving me to insanity. i don’t know who is worse lang Lang or Trifonov.

  • Tweettweet says:

    I do not believe there are politics involved consciously. I have the impression that the jury members are integer. However, the prizes could be a result of an ‘acceptable choice’. As for the pianists, I think for most contestants there could be a reason why he should be awarded a first prize. That’s the consequence of a very high level and it is merely a matter of personal taste.

    As for violin, I would have ranked Clara Jumi Kang among the top. But I also could understand why some jury members ranked her lower, as she was sometimes a bit rough in the concertos.

    By the way, I fully disagree with the remark that ‘the piano contest is the only contest that really matters’. I believe that many of the violin contestants for example are real artists. Artists not breaking through do not mean that they are not artists. At any rate, I really have been touched by some of the violinists. And that no first prize has been awarded, does not mean that the other prize winners will disappear in anonimity: for example Peter Donohoe, Nikolaj Lugansky, Johannes Moser: all second prize winners with good careers! I hope concert agencies will give Yu Chien Tseng and Clara Jumi Kang good opportunities!

  • shirley kirsten says:

    so well put! Politics obviously played a big role in the decision. I revisited Masleev’s opening recital, and the Liszt pounding and lack of shape were unbearable to my ears. How could this be rewarded with the Gold.

    • valery3 says:

      Try listening to his Mozart concerto and Tchaikovsky small pieces of op. 18. His sound has a life…emotions…that’s it.
      He made me want to play more hidden Tchaikovsky pieces. And then I love, love all of his sound including his Liszt’s. I see Dorensky and Béroff’s reactions tells something.

      That steinway sings freely with my high end speakers and a Sennheiser HD 800 headphone. He’s got special prize form the Mozart concerto.

    • valery3 says:

      Sorry. Not op.18

      Tchaikovsky – 18 Pieces, Op. 72
      No. 14 in D-flat Major, “Chant elegiaque”

  • Alvaro says:

    I wouldnt have given the first prize to Masleev, but facts are facts: the public cheered him so much they essentially clapped non stop between concertos in the finals. You can log in Medici and check for yourself.

  • valery3 says:

    I remember Masleev’s or Mozart’s feeling of pain, anger or sadness from his Mozart concerto.
    Today Ive found his mother passed just before this competition… PLEASE! please listen to his first round.
    I saw his shaky hand during Tchaikovsky No1 then believe his Prokovev No3 worked as a great finale of this great competition.

    I am not Russian, but I love Tchaikovsky. He admired and respected Mozart as a musical Christ and should be happy with Masleev’s gold today.

  • Erwin Poelstra says:

    First of all, congratulations to the winner. Masleev is an honest musician and an outstanding virtuoso. He is also has a pleasant, humble personality.

    As for the remark by mr. Lebrecht: “The winner was not one of them. He ticked all the boxes, was a safe choice, and Russian besides. He never set the hall or the audience alight.”
    Really??? Listen to/watch the final concertos again. Masleev’s Third Prokofiev Concerto was one of the highlights of the competition and the public responded as such. His playing in the second round was also astounding, with a delightful feathery touch in Mendelssohn/Rachmaninoff and convincing musicality in the Mozart Concerto.

    It was a great pity that Lucas Debargue, whose playing was so impressive and inspiring in the first two rounds, wasn’t quite ready to play two big Concertos. In my opinion it would have been more fair to award him a (shared) second or third prize. The special prize of The Moscow Music Critics Association was well deserved.

  • Prix D'Excellence says:

    Thank you Norman for summing up so appropriately yet another Tchaikovsky competition with the most apt word “Dreary”. I could not agree with you more. In fact, nothing of much musical interest has surfaced from this competition for quite a few years now, especially on the piano front. Early on in the competition I worried that there might be a stitch up by the Russians, and again I have been proven correct. This competition brings to mind the Audi advertising slogan “Vorsprung durch Technik”, and in recent times seems less to do with musicianship than rewarding “safe technicians”. I really hope that the “new talent” Gergiev talks about, namely those who were not awarded the top prizes, use the experience in Moscow as a warm up to bigger and greater things. They are certainly the ones to watch out for. The Matsuevs and Trifinovs of this world left me stone cold a long time ago. It is a shame that since 1990 when Boris Beresovsky won the competition, the clock has stood still, and nothing coming close to his talent has emerged. Let’s hope that the last 25 years of dreariness soon comes to an end and that once again real music rises from the ashes of a political, and predictable competition. Well done to the Lithuanian, American and French man, who reminded us that technique is a means to a musical end, and not the end in itself.

    • John says:

      Very VERY well written.

    • anonymous says:

      Anyone who throws around the phrase “Matsuevs and Trifonovs of the world” really is showing off a lack of musical discernment here. Such a comment can hardly be taken seriously.

    • Erwin Poelstra says:

      I totally disagree. If there’s one pianist that leaves me stone cold then it’s Berezovsky. Masleev is not only a “technician”, he really moved the audience, for example with his Mozart and Prokofiev Concertos, with his sincere music making. He was simply better all-round than the other finalists. That said, Debargue was definitely the one that impressed me most in the first rounds most with a genuine, original musical talent.
      And despite all the negativism that surrounds everything that has to with TCH15 on this blog, let’s not forget that the event was a huge success, with millions of views worldwide. To demean such an event that is extremely important for the future of classical music is unforgivable.

  • David G says:

    Interesting observations all round.

    Alvaro, you said it well when you quelled the George Li supporters of their dismay about him not receiving first prize or taking offence at critical remarks hitherto made. It was very clear IN MY OPINION that he was not 1st place material – there were far more interesting performances (even if uneven in throughout the various rounds) that took me in (e.g. Debargue’s Ravel) than a uniform and mechanically competent player who is only superficially (at this stage) plumbing the essence and depth of this repertoire. One only has to compare the two Prokofiev 3rd renditions to see how far apart they were in terms of artistic insight, or the slow movement of the Mozart AM Concerto to comprehend the development still to happen here. I agree with Alvaro in his assessment that George works best when there are lots of notes to play! However, I hasten to add that I encourage him and applaud him for the enormous amount of work that has undoubtedly gone into his career so far. I’m merely trying to provide some balance to this argument and let’s face it, we’ve all been critical, as one must be, in order to play along with the idea of this being a competition and who we like best and who communicates to us. It is no slight against all these players who have worked extremely hard indeed. Realistically, it is almost ridiculous to compare a 16 year old with a 27 year old on many levels, so the whole thing is rather absurd! Perhaps at 16 Daniel Kharitonov’s playing is exactly where it should be – he enjoys playing big and exploring that pianistic revelry. I would think this is normal for a budding virtuoso at this time of development. He is certainly very polished, immaculately clear and professional, and down the track who knows how he will play as his life experience comes to bear upon his playing. I sense much potential in this youngster. Same may be true for George. I hope they both prosper as they are still so young.

    The Mozart Concerti on the whole were disappointing, perfunctory, and really were a tell-tale moment of the Competition. But who knows how much stock they put into that part of the Round, or is it just a necessary thing they put them through just to say they have passed the Mozart test? I found it very revealing and it certainly exposed those with anything musical to say. The approach to this style was not really understood by most I felt.

    Technical glitter aside, I can’t say any of these pianists had me electrified throughout; it was patchy indeed. Memorable moments from most finalists, but after watching some of the documentaries from past competitions (readily found on YouTube), I am left wondering if this edition of the Tchaikovksy has produced the same calibre of artist as former times have, and if they are able to sustain this public profile over time. We’ll see.

    Having said the above, I am grateful for the experience of having watched this Competition, and the thought and debate that ensues as it only makes us more aware of our own musical values and to investigate different approaches. I do hope the entire Competition has achieved its aim as Maestro Gergiev had envisioned. May its inspiration and critical evaluation fuel us to greater artistic endeavour and humanism.

    • Anonymous says:

      Why so many people cry “geopolitics” when the George Li fans are pretty obviously being swayed by the fact Li is, indeed, American? They all want some great knight to go in like Van Cliburn and win the gold during these tense times? Come on, close your eyes and listen!

      • gino says:

        and we listened. and guess what? george li still beat the crap out masleev and the rest. i listened real, real good. no contest. masleev has to thank to sold out jury who just can’t hand the gold to american, even if american beats the living crap out fake “gold medal” winner!

      • Karen says:

        By the way, George Li himself had posted a very mature and heartfelt statement on his Facebook page. I think one gets a much better idea of who George is through this statement :
        “I’ve received so many messages wishing me to be the first prize winner. For me, it doesn’t matter what prize I will receive from the competition. What’s important is that this competition have given me the great opportunity to make music for the entire world, and during this music-making process, I have given out everything I’ve had, and poured all the emotions, all the struggle, sheer joy, passion, tragedy, gratitude, and humility that I’ve felt in each of the pieces I’ve played and shared it with those who listened to me. I was hoping my music can connect me with my audience, touch their souls, brighten up their lives, bring them happiness and make them feel the world is better for them. I feel like I accomplished that, so I’m satisfied! If I get first, great! But if I don’t, I will have no regret, because I know how hard it must be to decide a winner. Music is a very hard subject to judge, because every person feels music differently. Since we have 9 or 10 different but extremely qualified jury members, we are in good hands – because they are the most authoritative giants in the piano/music world and I have the greatest respect to them. They all must have their own opinions on how music should sound and be. And since all 6 finalists are very capable pianists and musicians, I understand the difficulty of choosing a winner. Since I have accomplished my goals, I will take whatever decided by the honorable jury, go home and cerebrate!

        After the month long competition, I have been wondering what would have happened if I did not have the support from all my friends – I am very grateful to your support. I feel that I am greatly in debt to you that I may never be able to payback sufficiently. Here I would like to quote what I found from the internet that can mostly describe my current feeling:

        Dear supporters from everywhere in the world,
        When I am on your shoulders, I am strong!
        You raise me up, so I can walk on stormy seas!
        You raise me up, so I can stand on the peak of the mountains!
        You raise me up, to more than I can be!
        I attribute my success to your great support and would like to thank you with this message.”

      • David G says:

        I don’t think your reply was meant in response to my words above (?) because I didn’t mention geopolitics, but rather other posters before me who touched on this, and therefore the subsequent replies which relate to yours.

        • Anonymous says:

          Hi David, I was actually agreeing with you that Li was not first prize material (he would have won at Van Cliburn, surely). It seems to me that his most offended, vociferous fans are American, thus my comment about the hypocrisy of crying “geopolitics” while just supporting the home boy. And sure, I understand if you watch a prodigy grow up, of course you’re going to be a little biased! (But there have even been cries of planting people in the Moscow audiences to clap for Russians — as if it’s not okay for Russians to get excited about their own friends who are in the competition!)

          It is not unfathomable that the jury voted Li a very respectable silver medal simply on musical grounds. This mud slinging on part of his fans is not exactly helping the international tensions. And it’s also not helping the image of America abroad. Can’t we find some sphere of global interaction in which we behave like adults?

          • David G says:

            Hello Anonymous,
            Ah, got you now! Thanks for the clarification. I suspect you are right re his fans. It was a curious thing to observe that whilst watching live, I saw the glowing online comments fire up when George was playing, sometimes within mere seconds of him having started. Ok, but considering the comments have to be submitted, then moderated, it would appear the commenters had already typed up what they wanted to say before he stepped out on stage! So I’m thinking that yes, there must have been quite a big fan base in the home country (and understandably so as you’ve explained), though as you’ve noted, some of these ardent supporters have accused those who don’t share the same enthusiasm that this is a political issue. They then go on to rubbish other competitors in quite harsh terms, which is the very thing they decry is happening to their favourite…. Yes, hypocritical indeed. I like your last sentence!

  • Boring Fileclerk says:

    Out of curiosity, did anyone bother to watch the vocal section?

    • GIOVANNI says:

      Deservedly won by both male and female candidates.

      • Boring Fileclerk says:

        The discussion seems to revolve around all the sections but vocal. Just wondering what the thoughts are for those who watched it.

  • Elizabeth says:

    Masleev’s mother died during the early rounds of the competition. Maybe they just wanted to support him?

  • SOMEONE says:

    I thought that there would be no gold medal this year. Masleev plays well, but he has no identity of his own or interesting ideas. None of the six finalists are on par with Trifonov. Not even in the same stratosphere. Given that, I don’t know how they can award a gold medal.

    • Karen says:

      Oh I do hope you don’t go around comparing these wonderful pianists to your one idol, Trifonov. Leaving aside the question of whether your idol is to everyone’s liking and taste (I can tell you he is not, btw), setting things up that way will close your mind and heart.

      • Another someone says:

        It’s odd to draw a conclusion that Someone would have “one idol Trifonov” just from their making a rather uncontroversial statement that none of the finalists are on the same level with him.

  • Nicholas J says:

    I was surprised by the fourth placing given to Pablo Ferrandez in the cello finals. The judges clearly valued technical perfection over a real display connsumate musicality. If judged on the latter, Ferrandez would have been the undisputed champion of TCH15.

    Despite my grumblings with the judging, I particularly enjoyed Alexander Ramm’s Sinfonia Concertante – certainly not an easy work to pull off at the best of times!

    • Anon2 says:

      I totally agree with you! At the very least Ferrandez should have been in 3rd place. His Rococco was out of this world good. His Dvorak was gorgeous. I cannot for the life of my figure out why Alexander Bluzov took 3rd. And yes, I agree that Ramm was excellent. One Russian in the top 3 would have been enough.

  • Rotten in Denmark says:

    Keep an eye on Gergiev’s upcoming soloists! No doubt he has engaged at least 7 members of the piano jury for his concerts, as their reward for voting Masleev the 1st prize. So: Barry Douglas, Boris Berezovsky, Vladimir Feltsman, Alexander Toradze, Denis Matsuev, Peter Donahoe, & Vladimir Ovchinikov – enjoy your concert performances with Gergiev!

    • Carlos L says:

      HAHAHAHAHA very funny. What do you even have against Masleev’s artistry?

      • Donohoe says:

        It has taken me over two years to notice the ridiculous comment by ROTTEN IN DENMARK. Thanks for your good wishes for my upcoming concerts with Gergiev, despite your not bothering to check the spelling of my name. Problem is, I have never played with Gergiev, and have no plans to in future either. This, despite having been briefed by him to fix it so that Masleev would win in order to keep the Russian end up after the bad publicity created for themselves by invading Ukraine. I don’t know – one goes along with the blatant politicking against one’s own judgement, and the bribe simply doesn’t come through.

        Err… this is sarcasm by the way, so don’t go quoting me. You have a chip on your shoulder, and your assumptions are grotesque, immature and insulting. Get lost.

  • Carlos L says:

    I do not understand what is with all of the unwarranted attacks on Masleev? I listened to every pianist in the competition since the semi-final and Masleev was by far the standout.

    Most of the pianists I heard could not play Mozart in a correct way – they totally disregard the phrasing and the dynamic markings that Mozart wrote. But Masleev didn’t. Only two other pianists played Mozart with this kind of respect to the score – Li and Debargue , but they were both dull in comparison to Masleev .

    In the final round, Masleev Tchaikovsky 1 concerto moved me more than any of the other four pianists who played it, and his Prokofiev was exhilarating, as evidenced by the tremendous ovation he received. I understand that many people wanted Debargue to win – and he is a true artist – but his lack of experience with concerto playing was clearly evidenced, especially in Tchaikovsky.

    Masleev, if you ever read this, please don’t take these attacks against you personally. You must realize that there are too many people in this world are envious of your talent. And I am also truly sorry about the loss of your mother, and I send my thoughts and prayers to you and your family during this difficult time. Thank you for touching me with your musicmaking. I wish you a fantastic career.

    • Matt C says:

      Indeed Carlos, ridiculous claims of conspiracies and favouritism by the lunatic fringe were inevitable.

      Masleev’s performances throughout the competition were characterised by great technique, sparkling colour and nuance (his Bach and Haydn in the first 2 rounds) and depth and a sense of drama and flair (Prokofiev 3 in the finals)

      As much as I liked Debargue’s artistry, I WANT to be impressed by techinique, and in my opinion he’s not as technically proficient as say a Li, Geniusas, Kharitonov or Maslev.

      The question with Debargue is…why did he abandon the Yamaha he clearly had a great feeling for in favour of the Steinway in the finals?

  • MichinTchaikovskyCompetition says:

    This competition smells so stinky now. There is no point to choose winner they all sound like horses or imitating others or do not know what to do with music.

  • competitionleery says:

    I have never been a fan of competitions. I grew up hearing how political the results were, particularly in the Tchaikovsky. So I started watching this competition prepared to give it up right away. But I found myself intrigued by this year’s cello competition, and I was drawn to the Romanian from the start. His playing was, to my ears and eyes, never about “show”. It was about the music: his interpretations were fresh, immediate and masterfully presented. Inevitably, a musician’s strengths are not in all repertoires or styles, and this competition demands performances of the whole range. I suspect Andrei’s heart is with works like the Shostakovich (a truly magnificent performance in the final!), but his Haydn had so much imagination and variety; he went as far stylistically as he could while remaining true to his aesthetic. Bravo!

  • E.S. says:

    2015 Tchaikovsky International Music Competition — Final Results (Another Opinion)
    Thank you to my music friends who have asked for my opinions on the final results of the 2015 Tchaikovsky International Competition. Many of you know that my preferences of prize winners are usually the competitors who have the total package, the “IT” factor. My viewpoint is more of a “commercial potential”, rather than just technical perfection and one that pleases academic professors. In an ideal situation, I truly believe that top prize winners of a major competition such as the Tchaikovsky should be great ambassadors to the competition and mutually help each other maintain their reputations. It was interesting to see that 4th prize winners of this year’s competition were my true favorites (except for the VOCAL DIVISION, Men’s).

    Before I provide my personal commentary, I do want to specially recognize Richard Rodzinski for doing an outstanding job of bringing the 2015 Tchaikovsky International Competition to people all around the world. He is someone that I truly respect as an arts leader and his involvement with this competition will only help the competition’s reputation in the future. He did an excellent job when he was the former President of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. Fort Worth, Texas’ loss is Russia’s gain.

    The Tchaikovsky International Music Competition is one of the largest, most prestigious, and most difficult competition in the world. Everyone who participated is tremendously talented and should be proud of the experience. Unfortunately, politics and “other factors” can influence the final outcome (with an outcome that many can disagree with).

    This year’s piano competition was an exciting, but had very different outcome than what many have expected. My preferred rankings would have been as follows:
    1. Lucas Debargue (France)
    2. George Li (USA)
    3. Lukas Geniusas (Russia)
    4. Reed Tetzloff (USA)
    5. Dmitry Masleev (Russia)
    6. Daniel Kharitonov (Russia)
    In my book, Sergei Redkin would have not advanced to the finals (instead I would have replaced him with Reed Tetzloff from the USA). Many of the people in the audience has two big favorites – Lucas Debargue and George Li. Both are exceptional artists. Although I felt George Li was a stronger “overall” competitor and did better in the concerto finals, Lucas had the most special “musical quality” that seemed like he was a reincarnation of Samson Francois. Up to the chamber concerto round, I felt Lucas slightly had the edge. However, George Li excelled in all rounds. My reason for placing him slightly behind Lucas is that he needs a little more maturity. Despite the actual results, I was truly happy for George and he represented USA very well. It would have been great to see Lucas be the first ever gold medalist from France.

    Similar to the 2011 Violin Competition, this year’s violin competition had no “gold medalist”. There were many incredible violinists and I was glad that I didn’t have to be on the actual jury. My rankings are as follows:
    1. Clara-Jumi Kang (South Korea)
    2. Haik Kazazyan (Russia)
    3. Yu-Chien “Benny” Tseng (Taiwan)
    4. Mayu Kishima (Japan)
    5. Bonsori Kim (South Korea)
    6. Alexandra Conunova (Moldova)
    This year’s violin jury had tremendous difficulty reaching a consensus and thus the results shocked everyone. For me, I was disappointed Mayu Kishima from Japan did not make the finals and would have replaced her with Pavel Milyukov from Russia. The most surprising shock was Clara-Jumi Kang not winning the gold medal. Clara has it all – she is like the Yuna Kim of violin. She has beauty, impeccable technique, solid musicianship, great PR skills, and the total “IT” factor. It was rather strange that she wanted to take the risk of entering this ever controversial competition, despite her Gold Medal successes at the other major international competitions. The judges preferred Yu-Chien “Benny” Tseng from Taiwan over Haik Kazazyan from Russia. Both are very top notch competitors. I slightly preferred Haik Kazazyan over Yu-Chien. Haik is a great representation of the old Russian school of violin playing and I’m sure Tchaikovsky would have given a nod of approval. Yu-Chien Tseng is a wonderful violinist, but lacks a little bit of artistic maturity. Everything he did was “clean-cut”, technically good, but not risk-taking. Although very young, I found Bonsori Kim from South Korea to be very promising. She might not be ready to be a medal contender at this moment, but I heard superb musicianship and she will do great for her future career. I was very happy to see a competitor from the under-represented country of Moldova make it to the finals. Alexandra Conunova was artistically interesting, but technically little bit off. I thought her final performances were very good, yet her gala concert was a little off (possibly due to fatigue).

    1. Pablo Ferrandez-Castro (Spain)
    2. Jonathan Roozeman (Netherlands)
    3. Andrei Ionina (Roumania)
    4. Alexander Buzlov (Russia)
    5. Alexander Ramm (Russia)
    6. Seung-Min Kang (South Korea)
    One discipline that I agreed with at least the names of the finalists (but not the ranking) was the CELLO competition. I was disappointed to see Pablo Ferrandez-Castro from Spain not placed higher. He was a true artist and along with Edgar Moreau and Gautier Capucon, he is going to be one of the next cellists to watch. Plus, it would have been great to see a first gold medalist ever from Spain (like the 2015 World Figure Skating Championships). Jonathan Roozeman from Netherlands was a solid competitor but played a bit “safe” at times. The declared winner Andrei Ionina from Roumania was stellar, but I felt he focused more on pyrotechnics instead of emotion. The two Russians were very good and the Seung-Min Kang from South Korea was actually interesting.

    So there you have it! This is my personal opinion. I am not looking to start any debates or be disrespectful to anyone. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and this is my opinion.

    Best wishes to all of these excellent musicians for having the courage to do participate in this year’s Tchaikovsky Competition.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      Dear Mr Song
      Mr Rodzinski played no part in the organising of the 2015 Tchaikovsky Competition. The rest of your opinions will carry no weight unless you disclose yur identity. NL

    • Erwin Poelstra says:

      “Many of the people in the audience had two big favorites – Lucas Debargue and George Li.”
      Well, no. Actually they had *three* big favorites, and the third one is the winner…

      • Karen says:

        Audience voting results for Piano:
        1. George Li (USA) – 1,655 votes
        2. Luke Debarg (France) – 1,541 votes
        3. Dmitry Masleev (Russia) – 1,044
        4. Lucas Geniušas (Russia-Lithuania) – 857
        5. Daniel Kharitonov (Russia) -231
        6. Red’kin Sergey (Russia) – 145


        • Erwin Poelstra says:

          You will be interested to read the following.
          Boris Berezovski’s and Denis Matsuev’s thoughts (both in the jury).

          Berezovski: “I’m not satisfied with the results of the competition in that sense that our beloved Frenchman Lucas Debargue who deserved as a minimum a bronze, in my opinion even silver, was shifted to the fourth. Surprisingly it was the decision of non-Russian jury members. The fact that we should respect audience as well who appreciated him and greeted him raptuously didn’t convince them. They said he’s not professional.
          For me the best pianists were these who placed first and last.”

          Matsuev: “Everything will be fine with Lucas Debargue. When I heard his ”Gaspard” and Medtner’s sonata I told myself: we are fortunate to have this competition! It was created for such moments and for such moments we work. Debargue is already this competition’s superhero. He won audience’s heart, he won music critics hearts. He will return here soon: I’ll invite him to my festivals, Valeri Gergijev to his own.”
          Source: http://www.classicalmusicnews.ru/reports/xv-mezhdunarodnyiy-konkurs-imeni-p-i-chaiykovskogo-nazval-pobediteleiy/
          Translation found on the Facebook site of Lucas Debargue.

        • Erwin Poelstra says:

          As for the audience voting results: what “audience” are we talking about? This was the result of online voting, but E.S. was writing about the audience that was present at the competition, in the hall.
          I’m sorry, but that doesn’t seem to be a realistic reflexion of the public responses after various performances in various rounds, as they still can be heard and seen on the videos that are still online on medici.tv.

          • David G says:

            Exactly. Here, here, or rather, ‘hear’, ‘hear’! I’d rather be intrigued with a thoughtful, musically insightful revelation and so I think the 2 jurors quoted above are on the money.

          • Karen says:

            Erwin et al., I was simply quoting from the Audience Voting results as reported by the official Tchaikovsky Competition site. No more, no less. It was simply passing on information. I did not even make a single comment about it. Calm down. Stop attacking all the time. Take it easy. Its only music. We each enjoy the interpreters and performers who speak to us.

    • Anon2 says:

      Very well expressed. Thank you for your detailed and informative account. Quite interesting, indeed.

      • David G says:

        Hi there Karen,
        If I was included in your ‘et al’ above since I was the one directly above your reply, I’d like to say I wasn’t attacking anyone! I believe my comment was referencing the judge’s comments re their perception that this certain competitor did communicate some special moments and that individuality is to be prized. Whether they should have been saying all they did publicly is another matter, but it was refreshing nonetheless to hear that and gave me the impression that perhaps part of the judging criteria was about more than flawless mechanics. And interesting it was from two of the Russian judges (and also I think Mr. Ovchinnikov mentioned in his live interview the individual voice this competitor brought to proceedings) who some thought may be biased towards Russian entrants. I imagine some lively discussions ensued behind closed doors in the jury room!
        I didn’t actually see the online voting option so missed that opportunity if that is how it was conducted. But I do think Erwin has a point in saying that those results seem to be at odds with the public reactions in the hall and also at the Gala Concerts, so who knows with online voting as it is a dubious system to employ. In any case, I agree with what you said about us each enjoying the various performers that communicate to us directly, and even all these remarks on this site make for interesting things to think about and our musical values and tastes. So, all calm over this way!

        • Erwin Poelstra says:

          Thanks David, I agree. Oh, and Karen, I’m perfectly calm, thank you. Your reply to me about “audience voting” just needed to be clarified, because we were talking about different audiences. That’s all.

  • Provence says:

    Si on doit juger un concours aux passions et commentaires qu’il provoque: oui le concours Tchaikovsky est un grand concours…haha!

  • JS says:

    Interesting conversation. I did not watch the competition, but here it is, a year and a half later, and I just attended Mr. Masleev’s Carnegie Hall debut. I have to say, I was very disappointed. Lots of technique, but not a moment of inspiration. Much of it sounded rushed as if speed was a primary goal. Odd tempo fluctuations scattered throughout without purpose. I did not stay for the last piece, Totentanz – can’t stand Liszt. Have to add, the audience seemed to enjoy it.