Let’s send Lucas to the Chopin Competition

Let’s send Lucas to the Chopin Competition


norman lebrecht

July 17, 2015

We’ve been looking again at the list of 84 selected contestants for the Chopin Competition in Warsaw this October.

Why 84? It’s arbitrary.

Who are the competitors? Almost all of them unknown.

In that case, why not add a name that will add fireworks to the Chopin?

Lucas Debarge was placed last in the Tchaikovsky piano finals in Moscow. He was, by most accounts, the most exciting contender. Largely self-taught and barely able to afford a suit, he may not have had the funds to enter the Chopin.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the organisers were to co-opt a last-minute Frenchman?



  • Michael P Scott says:

    Perfect cause for Kickstarter! I’m in!

  • All Keyed Up says:

    Most likely he does not have the repertoire: there’s not enough time to learn it – and he’s too late, as the preliminary round for selection was held 4 months ago. BTW, one of those 84 contestants is George Li.

    • Pickled Cabbage says:

      Agreed. And I think the same result would be expected. Debargue will get into the final round but will be placed 6th for the concerto. Bashkirov is right. He should take a few years to improve on any aspects of piano career that he need: concerto playing, chamber playing, mental strength, widen repertoire.

  • Neven P says:

    Norman, you are a good man, but why do I have a feeling that you are trying to manipulate the public? Is this a ruse to attract more traffic to the site? So let’s make a few things clear. First, he did not come last – he placed sixth out of 32 contestants. Just getting in the Tchaikovsky is a huge success for any young artist and you know that. Second, he can not be self-taught. My piano teacher studied Gaspard with Perlemuter and he said the piece can not be learned without the guidance of an experienced hand. Third, after the success at Tchaikovsky, be assured that all his needs will be provided by the French Ministry of Culture (yes, they are Socialists and they do things unimaginable in the U.S. and U.K.). Fourth, you are the first one to suggest that young artists need nurture and time for gestation. Two major competitions in less than six months would be a strain for this talented young man who is already under a lot of pressure. So just leave Lucas a break and let him develop as an artist!

    • Hilary says:

      Wise words.

    • Peter Donohoe says:

      Thank you Neven P. You took the words out of my fingers.

      To describe Lucas as having come last in a competition of 36 (in fact, of 57, if you count the preliminary round), is misleading journalese – I read something similar in The Spectator only yesterday.

      Once and for all, to be a finalist in the Tchaikovsky Competition is a major achievement. To have won fourth prize is massive. To have inspired the public in the way that Lucas has is wonderful. I wish him the very best for his future. And if he wants, or otherwise, to enter the Chopin Competition, that is surely up to him to decide.

      • Neven P says:

        Thanks! My response was inspired in part by your wonderful article last week. You should be writing more for SD, as these were very interesting insights!

      • Jeffrey Biegel says:

        One thing we did not have many years ago was the internet. It is good for some things, not for others. In some matters, too many voices can alter the direction of many things. It is encouraging, however, to have moral support from the online public. But decision making used to be a private matter, not aired all over the world. Mr. Bashkirov is correct. It is also not unimaginable that a fine young artist can perfect a list of repertoire for a few competitions. But do they have more than that on the same level, and ready to bring them to the public and the recording studio? They should take into consideration the 10-10-10 rule. How will one feel in 10 minutes after making a decision? How will that affect him/her in 10 months? And ultimately (if not beyond), how does that decision and its result affect that person in 10 years? What does one truly need to sustain a career? It is one thing to launch a ship, and entirely another matter to make it sail and maintain it.

    • Pickled Cabbage says:

      Referring to your statement;
      Two major competitions in less than six months would be a strain for this talented young man who is already under a lot of pressure.

      Agreed. Except George Li is gonna do just that. But that kid is well-prepared.

  • alepia says:

    Daniil Trifonov got 1 prize in Rubinstein and in Tchaikovsky competition in less than 2 months…

    • Neven P says:

      I was referring to Debargue. If he can’t pull off Chopin 1 or 2 perfectly, which I doubt he can, there is no sense for him to enter the competition. Trifonov could, so more power to him, as well as to George Li if he is well prepared as PC suggested.

    • Duane says:

      Daniil Trifonov has worked very closely for several years with Professor Babayan, at my alma mater, the Cleveland Institute of Music. Mr.. Trifonov and his teacher have spent a great amount of time preparing him for competitiions. Mr. Trifonov recently graduated with an Artist Diploma from the Cleveland Institute of Music.

  • Hugh Jorgan says:

    I find about 20% of Chopin’s music inspiring, the remainder tedious. Can a pianist who places value on a broad repertoire – Debargue or any other – find the Chopin competition anything other than stifling? Like having to eat muesli 3 times a day for 6 months.

  • Alvaro says:

    And just when one thought that the Debarge-cle for poor Lucas was over. I admit, it must feel pretty exciting to live under the delusion one can influence an industry, create careers, and shape lives, but then why practice ‘journalism’ and not artist management?

    Despite fanatical efforts, what happens to any individual player will work or not depending on inner mindset, and the momentum of the industry in which they stand.

    Stop utilizing Debarge as an audience drag with the whole “self taught” story. Its a way too often recycled tactic: “blind pianist”, “self taught”, “survived the war playing X”, “crossed the himalayas on a cello”. Its honestly boring.

    • Marcelo Mendes says:

      “blind pianist”, “self-taught”, “survived the war playing X”, “crossed the himalayas on a cello” + … YouTube sensation!

    • Melissa says:

      > Stop utilizing Debarge as an audience drag with the whole “self taught” story. Its a way too often recycled tactic: “blind pianist”, “self taught” … Its honestly boring.

      As a fan of Nobuyuki Tsujii, I find this comment grating. In an age where virtuosos are a dime a dozen, it is good to read about those who are not from the same cookie cutter. I don’t appreciate sensationalism and exaggeration used as click baits, but sensible people can sort out the true artists. What I really detest are images of scantily dressed performers used “as an audience drag” or to attract eyeballs.

  • John says:

    No – He was placed last.
    There were four places on offer and he got the last one. The rest of the contestants where not awarded places.

  • Erwin Poelstra says:

    Even if he could get a “wild card”, I also think that participating in another major competition wouldn’t be a good idea for Lucas Debargue right now. He should continue his studies with Shereshevskaya or another teacher. He should try to find a place with a good piano where he can practise regularly. And most of all, he should try to find a good manager/agent because after the Tchaikovsky Competition he received so many offers to give concerts, not only in Russia!

  • Nina says:

    Please give him a chance to rest, put himself together after incredible stress and yes, to decide himself what next for him using his intuition, instinct and intelligence. His interviews open his mind and some of his preference in music, life and busyness.

  • Duane says:

    Lucas Debargue is a supremely gifted pianist and musician. His performances at the Tchaikovsky competition were awesome. I would think that if he could pursue more studies and, perhaps, work with an experienced teacher on stage etiquette and deportment, that he would be able to enter more competitiojns and have a fine career ahead of him