Tchaikovsky backlash: A judge explains

Peter Donohoe (2nd right), a member of the piano jury, has written the following analysis for Slipped Disc:

tchaik piano selection

With the greatest respect to and for Boris Berezovsky, both as a musician and as a generous and friendly personality, if any of the non-Russian jury members described Lucas Debargue as unprofessional, it most certainly was not me.

How many times do the following have to be stated?

Firstly in general terms, that the results of any round in any competition – including the final – comprise an imperfect, and sometimes incomprehensible and unpredictable default that, more often than not, no one on the jury is entirely happy with. That is what happens when you apply democracy to something so subjective, abstract and variable as a music competition. The upside of the competition world we do not need to go into here, but, if run well and fairly, there is no question that the upsides far outweigh the down.

Secondly, also in general terms, when a participant is either eliminated in earlier rounds, or does not come first in the finals, it absolutely does not mean that they are ‘losers’, that the jury did not like their playing, or that they have failed in some way. It means that democratically the overall verdict was that the jury agreed more on those who received the higher awards. Generally speaking that means that those who receive lower prizes tend to be the ones who divide opinion more. [I would like to point out that Vladimir Ovchinnikov and I shared the Silver Medal in 1982 at the Tchaikovsky Competition – in Volodya’s case I do not know why, but in my case it seems that it was because one jury member could not accept my view of the Liszt Sonata, because it differed so widely from his. Sh1t happens, but winning the Silver Medal at the greatest, the biggest and the best piano competition in the world does not comprise sh1t. In fact, being in the finals at all is a major achievement, and those who describe the winners of anything other than First Prize as ‘losers’ would do well to remember that.]

Thirdly, and more specifically, Lucas Debargue did not come ‘last’; he officially and essentially came fourth out of fifty seven. Just think about that again: out of the hundreds who applied, 57 were chosen from internet links to be in the preliminary round, 36 were chosen to go through to the first round, 12 to go to the second, and six to the final – and Lucas received the fourth prize. It is slightly complicated by the fact that there were joint second and third prizes, but it is still an extremely major achievement. Being in the finals at all was an even greater achievement on the part of all the six participants this time round; the technical level of all entrants – including all 57 in the Preliminary Round – was astounding – noticeably even more so than in 2011 – even if the artistic level was somewhat less consistent. I can honestly and openly state that not a single one of the 57 to whom I listened was less than superb technically.

Fourthly, I do not know, or much care, what other jury members voted at the finals. The reason I do not know is that, as far as I was aware, none of us were supposed to be given access to the information; it seems that there were exceptions – either that or we have here the result of supposition, or gossip, or private grumbling behind the scenes. I felt that there was a good argument for every one of the six finalists to win Silver, and thus for the other prizes to be distributed accordingly. i.e. that none were completely suitable for the Gold Medal, as no one in my view was fully and consistently yet ready for the sort of international success and exposure that the Gold Medal would give the winner at such a gigantically important competition. In other words, all six were close, but there were issues with them all that would not be issues at all at a smaller-scale competition. (That is not to say that they would not be ready at some future date; just not yet.)

[Those who have never been through the experience can perhaps not imagine how much of a curse winning a competition at the wrong time can be. I feel strongly that we on the jury also have a duty to protect young musicians from the mercilessness of the media spotlight that almost no one I can think of has avoided suffering from as a result of high-level competition win. Every weakness is exposed, and homed in on. This is something that does not happen to those who do not win, so less prattle about the jury having inadvertently created a ‘martyr’ by deliberately conspiring against Mr. Debargue would be appreciated.]

However, the democratic decision differed from that, which it is my duty to entirely support, because, although I have very strong opinions – for which I was invited onto the jury in the first place, and feel very honoured as a consequence – I do not possess sufficient confidence in those opinions to openly state that the other jury members were wrong – i.e. that I know better and that my opinions comprise facts – I will leave that sort of arrogance to some of the contributors to this site.

In my view, the moment to either run to the press or its equivalent, or to walk out on a jury, is when one detects cynical manipulation or corruption; disagreeing with the majority decision does not comprise a reason – if you don’t like it, don’t sit on any future jury with those whose views you do not respect, and in the meantime, accept and support the majority view – in particular out of consideration and sensitivity towards the participants.

Fifthly, I would like to stick my neck out and say that – in my opinion only – there were performances earlier in the competition – one in particular – that stood out as absolutely exceptional. These were individual performances of single pieces, that indicate nothing particularly significant in relation to those artists being ready for a longterm future, lifestyle and the artistic responsibility that goes with success. That said, that feeling led to me voting for those pianists to go further in the competition, but sadly it appears that the majority disagreed, and perhaps that majority was correct; how can we possibly know? Within reasonable parameters, anyone who thinks he or she does know is arrogant beyond description.

It is also worth noting the degree to which all this nonsense about Debargue undermines the success of Masleev, and even more that of Li, Geniusas, Kharitonov and Redkin. Hardly a syllable to be seen about any of them. How thoughtless can some of you be?

Finally, does anyone really think that someone representing the political view held by the Russian government got together with the jury and procured an agreement to fix the result in favour of a Russian – either on the basis of the 175th anniversary of Tchaikovsky’s birth, or – even more fantastically – on the basis of keeping up the Russian end in the face of opposition to Russian actions in Ukraine? For God’s sake get real. What would we – the jury members – get out of it?

Some berk in these pages even implied that Valery Gergiev offered us engagements as soloist with one of his orchestras if we acceded to his pressure – presumably directly via him from the Russian President – to fix it for a Russian winner. Give me a break. I know for a certain fact that Gergiev openly stated that he didn’t care at all what nationality the winners were – only that they were deemed the best by the juries. The whole piano jury, as far as I could ascertain, felt exactly the same, and neither Maestro Gergiev, nor the competition management – nor indeed, Vladimir Putin – applied even the remotest suggestion of any pressure.

One more point: what is this nonsense about being ‘amateur’ as opposed to being ‘professional’? Do you really think that unprofessional behaviour is an indicator of genius? If so, it follows that to behave professionally is an indicator of mediocrity. Of course, I do realise that many people do think along these lines, mainly because it makes for more talking points, and creates good copy. However, the reality is that genuine musical genius tends to persuade people to make allowances for any lack of professionalism; surely it is hardly rocket science to realise that the reverse does not follow – a lack of professionalism does not constitute genius. It is parallel to the obvious fact that a few wrong notes do not detract from someone’s musicianship and artistry – something we would surely all accept – but that this does not mean that technical inadequacy translates into musical genius. It is the people who propagate such patent nonsense who are the amateurs. The definition of a true professional is not, as seems to be suggested, someone who simply churns out efficiency without love and reveals nothing; just the opposite in fact. And they are able to see through such mediocre platitudes and recognise true artistry for what it is – a genuinely high level of understanding of the art of music, supported by experience, technical proficiency and in this particular context a persona that is ready for the ups and downs, the highs and lows and the boosts and blows that winning such a high profile competition as the Tchaikovsky Competition entails. None of the finalists demonstrated a lack of professionalism to me; it never crossed my mind as an issue at all.

And the idea that anyone on the jury took exception to Lucas’ outfit, or that he didn’t say ‘spasibo’ for his flowers is risible. These notions are nothing more than chippy rumours, and those who start them need to grow up. I think we need to reevaluate what a competition really stands for. It is nothing more than a crystal ball regarding any of its participants, into which a jury member of integrity looks long and hard. The decisions that we are required to make do not comprise facts about who is better than whom. No one would be happier than I to accept a long term future for these competitors that belies their 2015 placings. This is only the beginning for all of them.

Please, everyone, try to understand the difference between a democratic result and a jury ‘decision’; the first exists and the second does not. The mechanics involved are very complex, which is why my first point – see paragraph three near the top of this post – needs to be fully accepted; it took several first-hand experiences on my part for me to realise this . Once I had done so, some of the anomalies from the competition world – including my own fate in all four that I entered – began to make sense.

I point everyone to this article from The Spectator, written by Ismene Brown; I could not have put it better myself – in fact, I haven’t.

 

(c) Peter Donohoe/Slipped Disc

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  • Olassus says:

    Verbose!

    • Gerhard says:

      Perhaps, but containing a lot of insights into musical competitions in general and this one in particular.

    • Peter Donohoe says:

      What, exactly, is the point of your response?

      • Jeffrey Biegel says:

        Peter, terrific response. You know, years ago, nobody ever had to defend themselves. You did so with colleague respect and dignity. I remember being on a jury for a competition that was believed rigged. Nothing doing. The results were published. We did our jury duty and did it well. As did you and your colleagues in Moscow. Bravo to you all, and the pianists who worked so hard to play their best.

  • suzanne says:

    excellent. Thank you Peter Donohoe.

  • Boring Fileclerk says:

    Thank you for your insights and explanation. Upon reflection I find your analysis probably to be the correct one. My previous experience in this world should have told me that these things are far more complicated than the public would assume. Thank you again for taking the time set the record straight.

  • Peter Donohoe says:

    Thank you my friend. Your comment is greatly appreciated, although I am not sure about your unsolicited review of my sartorical elegance…

    • Boring Fileclerk says:

      I was caught up in the heat of the discussion. No harm was meant by my comment, but it was uncalled for. Please accept my apologies.

  • Neven P. says:

    Thank you, Mr. Donahue, for your thoughtful response and insights into the world of music competitions. I applaud your integrity, sincerity and sense of responsibility for young musicians you were adjudicating. I also admire your passion for music and piano, which we both share. You are a good man, I wish there were more jurors and musicians such as yourself, responsible, honest and without trace of cynicism. I also have to add that I loved your article about my compatriot Ivo P., published here earlier this year.

  • Mark Shulgasser says:

    Well and good. The competition was great, exciting, even if some disagree with the placement of the cherry on top. However, why all this reference to ‘democracy’? The fact that the jury voted does not create democracy, which is rule by the people. Democracy, of a sort, the vote of the entire audience, gave the biggest prize to Debargue. Democracy only exists when the vote is given to all citizens. A jury may vote, without pressure, each member weighing equally, and being perfectly ‘fair’ but this is still a jury ‘decision’ and has nothing to do with democracy.

    • Karen says:

      Mark, just a quick note, I find it difficult to support your claim that the “entire audience” gave the vote to Debargue. Based on audience votes on the Tchaikovsky Competition website, in answer to the question “who among the pianists deserves the Gold medal”, George Li received the highest number of votes and Debargue second. You may personally have a different view, but the voting result (comprised of a total of 5,473 votes) is what it is : http://tchaikovskycompetition.moscow/news/2368

      • Mark Shulgasser says:

        You are correct, Karen. But I was thinking more in terms of the entire world audience, as measured by the internet and press acclaim.

        • Karen says:

          Hi Mark, I don’t mean to belabour the point but I believe the voting results do include the world audience, and everyone was invited to participate in the voting. As to ‘press acclaim’, I’d say 4 of the finalists (Masleev, Li, Genuisas and Debargue) received more or less equal praise and attention during the competition. There is a lot of hype around Mr. Debargue right now but its just hype. May each of the 6 finalists enjoy a long, successful and highly-rewarding musical career.

  • Lloyd Arriola says:

    Bravo to Mr. Donohoe for his forthrightness and honesty. He never cried sour grapes when he did not receive the Gold Medal at the Tchaikovsky Competition in 1982 and yet never looked back on his gladiator days as anything but an importanf experience in his life. And he has given us not only many years of great performances but demonstrates his deep integrity as a person in sharing his experience in “playing God” at this competition, which is surely a difficult task. As a pianist and vocal coach trying to make a modest living in New York, I have never been able to even imagine what these kids go through and how difficult it is to do what they do in such s high-pressure environment. Again, kudos to Mr. Donohoe fof his honesty and forthrightness regarding this process.

  • Ilshat says:

    Thank you, Mr. Donahue, for taking time to explain the voting results. Mr. Gergiev has declared before the competition beginning the voting of each single jury member will be no secret for the audience. Do you have any idea whether the final voting results will be published?

  • Dr MICHAEL WARD says:

    I THINK PETER DONOHOE HAS BEEN NOTHING BUT EXTREMELY GENEROUS IN ALL HIS COMMENTS. HE NEED NOT HAVE BOTHERED TO WRITE THIS ARTICLE AND THE FACT THAT HE HAS MERELY SERVES TO SHOW WHAT A GENUINE AND GENEROUS MUSICIAN HE IS!!! NOW LEAVE HIM IN PEACE FOR GOD’S SAKE…

    • norman lebrecht says:

      Please don’t shout. Use lower case.

      • Jeffrey Biegel says:

        Aside from all of this, what happens to each of these young artists remains to be seen. How will they carry on with their studies as musicians? Which repertoire will they cultivate? Will they develop chamber music careers, teaching, new works, recordings? This is what is most important as they begin to soul search and decipher how and what they will contribute to the world of music outside of the usual parameters.

  • Soft Mozart says:

    Lucas Debargue effect is: true, natural talents make it despite the odds. The entire system of music education should be proud of teaching masses, children with special needs, future musically literate average people, and appreciative listeners. In cases like Lucas, they have to stop bragging and promoting their ‘mastery’. God has to do with that. Vanity of ‘Big Teachers’ are killing the very essence of music education.

  • Ilshat says:

    Dear Mr. Donahue, thank you for taking time to explain us the voting results. Mr. Gergiev has declared before the competition beginning that the voting of each single jury member will be no secret for the audience. Do you have any idea if the final voting results will be published?

  • Ilshat says:

    Mr. Donohoe! Please apologize this mistake!

  • Martha Hart says:

    Bravo, sir. To those of us around the world watching on our computer screens, the ways of a rigorous and prestigious competition may be mysterious at times. I enjoyed the piano section of the competition – indeed, I was riveted to my screen for days! even if my interest and knowledge was with the vocalists in St Petersburg.
    I appreciate the detailed thought process you describe here and find that much of it applies to any artistic/technical and oh-so-subjective “competition” (if that’s a fair word to use). Thank you, Maestro – it’s this kind of sharing that helps create audiences – and performers – of the future.

  • Piano Ghost says:

    4th prize isn’t shabby, and the jury generously gave it to Debargue, even though his Final round was poor (which he himself admitted). As it is, this “instant fame” could harm him, as he demonstrated that he’s not yet ready for prime-time. Enough of this talk: Go practice, Mr. Debargue, and keep studying. Bon courage!!!

  • Derek Castle says:

    Peter Donohoe, a true professional who can argue dispassionately. A far cry from the sentimental twaddle of BB. Thank you, btw, for playing all of Scriabin’s piano sonatas at Birmingham Conservatoire recently (presumably for a very low fee).

  • Marcílio Onofre says:

    Thank you Mr. Peter Donohoe for sharing your thoughts.
    I really applaud your sincerity.

  • Cristina says:

    The real point i think we should all be getting is that it is very very difficult for an interpret to to taken is serious. I really cannot believe how mean and selfish people can get when it comes to their tastes. Debargue is indeed wonderful because he does not rely his carrier on the fact that ”the trend” is to be as fast and accurate as possible. Even if he would want that, he wouldnt be able to do it because talent alone is unable to fill so many years without a certain training. And there is really no problem with that, because this makes him different. To compare, say, Li with Debargue is someeting like a categorical mistake, like comparing a pear with an apple. They are just different. Why cant people just enjoy Debargue without being so rude and mean towards the others? My feeling is that most of these people have no musical trainnig, or have one very scarce and no ideea whatsoever about the musical level of Masleev and most of the others. Also, when a young interpret, after spending his childhood being afraind of everything that could harm his hands, comes to a competition as such, its likely that he will not concentrate on being charming, so that all the sensitive ladies out there could say about him/her ”oh, my! he/she touched my heart in misterious ways”, ”he/she amazed my soul with the power of pure genious” and so on.

  • Provence says:

    Où est le problème?
    Monsieur Donohoe est sans aucun doute une personne très professionnelle, honnête qui
    a fait son travail de jury d’une façon très sérieuse. Qu’il en soit remercié!
    Lucas Debargue de son coté est très lucide a dit qu’il ne pensait pas arriver en finale, à la remise des prix, il a semblé heureux et satisfait de son classement. Il nous a rempli de bonheur avec sa musique et cela seul compte.
    Pourquoi cette polémique?

  • Provence says:

    Monsieur Donohoe est sans aucun doute un grand professionnel qui a fait son travail de juré d’une façon honnête et très sérieuse. Qu’il en soit remercié!
    Lucas Debargue a dit qu’il ne pensait pas arriver en finale, il a paru très satisfait lors de la remise des prix et il nous a rempli de bonheur avec sa musique lors des galas de clôture;
    Où est le problème?

  • John Curtis says:

    Dear Peter,

    I feel you made some very very excellent points in this article… but there is a BUT!

    I don’t understand all the talk about such a high standard in this competition. One only has to revisit Masleev’s Liszt Etude in the first round to determine this.
    As a Russian might say, “Dirty playing with too many missings.”

    One look at his face could see that he wasn’t deluded into thinking this was a Round 2 qualifier, let alone thoughts of first prize. Simply, this competition has become a competition for students. Very good students mind you.

    I agree with you, not a single pianist presented at a level ready for the rigours of an International career associated with the God like reputation of the Tchaikovsky Competition.

    And 18 Russians through into the first round. I am not go to elaborate, but I ask you a question. Take a look at all the pianists who are concertizing in the biggest international concerts halls and Orchestras. I am talking about concert pianists here.

    For example

    Lang Lang
    Yuja Wang
    Evgeny Kissin
    Martha Argerich
    Daniel Barenboim
    Yourself
    etc etc etc

    Now – What is the percentage of Russians on this list? two thirds as the Tchaikovsky Competition might suggest?

    Where did this myth begin that only Russians are great pianists? Why do the 1st, 2nd and often 3rd prizes of most major International Piano Competitions select Russians only.

    And finally – but the most important. I have seen young students knowingly bankrupt their careers at the whim of their Moscow Professor. I have seen this repeatedly; and the fear associated with not doing what they are told immediately.

    Gergiev, at the top of the food chain, does not need to apply pressure or offer anybody orchestral engagements. Nor does he need everybody on the Jury. But those within the system only need a hint of Gergiev’s wishes and they will be obeyed without question and with enthusiasm.

    NOW! That said…. I am not suggesting Gergiev is like this. If he says that he is only interested in the desires of the Jury, then I will accept what he says at his word.

    But please do not tell me it is impossible for Gergiev to get his way with little more than a nod. Many on that jury would not dare go against their commander in chief. Their reverence is as such that what he says IS.

    • Peter Donohoe says:

      As all debate on here or anywhere else tends to undermine the achievements of all six finalists, and in particular the first prize winner, I am not going to enter into any further discussion about their relative merits.

      However, to your other points: there was indeed an astoundingly high technical standard right from the beginning of the preliminary round. Anyone who believes otherwise is not listening. Thirty Russian pianists, out of a total of fifty-seven, appeared in the preliminary round. It therefore naturally followed that there would be a predominance of Russians at all stages. This is, after all, the highest prestige piano competition in the world and it is held in Russia – therefore it is likely to have a lot of Russian applicants.

      To some degree the same goes when there is a competition in many other countries; in competitions in Italy there is usually a large number of Italian applicants, and a parallel has occurred in my experience in Lithuania, Georgia, Poland, China, Japan and many other countries – not, unfortunately including the UK piano competitions, which opens up another, separate, issue.

      However, in every piano competition I have ever attended in any form, other than the host countries in the above examples, there has been a significantly larger proportion of Russian competitors than from any other country. It has been like this for as long as I can remember, and many used to assume that it was the Soviet Union that was behind it all, manipulating the results cynically in order to perpetuate the belief that Russia was best at everything. That hardly washes now, and in any case I beg to differ and always did; Russian people are mostly very ruthlessly determined when it comes to a vocation, Soviet times or otherwise. They also make some of the best teachers in the world, partly because of the same ruthlessness and belief in always striving for more. It stands to reason therefore that at the age and stage when most pianists are most likely to enter competitions, they will largely be ahead in terms of the sort of technique and confidence required to get past the first round – particularly in the field of transcendental etudes. It is one of the reasons why I believe the first round in most competitions should be revised; not specifically to prevent Russians dominating, obviously, but to further ensure that good etude playing is not the only route into the second round and onwards. It is, as you say, what happens later that dilutes the concentration of Russians with fantastically well trained techniques; a great technique does not of course translate into a great musician, but it is a findamental requirement if a competition first round is centred around the performance of etudes. I know that a Bach prelude and fugue and a classical sonata are usualy also requirements, but it is in the etudes the young Russian pianists are predictably often the most practised and proficient.

      Having said that, your list – thank you for including me on it, but the way, although I do not deserve it at all – consists of two extremely brilliant and glamorous Chinese, both with the longterm potential to become absolute musical legends, two Argentineans who have been musical legends for decades, and one Russian who has been hailed as an exception since he was twelve, all of whom largely emerged through the non-competition route, although Martha Argerich did win the Chopin Competition of course. In any case, most of them hail from a previous era.

      I will not comment on your remarks about Gergiev, because, as stated elsewhere, it is not possible to prove a negative. What I can tell you is that one should be very careful with assumptions about his personal feelings about the candidates. They were not as everyone assumes, although he totally accepted the jury result. I can obviously say no more than that, but please be careful of drawing obvious conclusions.

  • SevenMinuteAbs says:

    A strange amount of fuss concerning who came 2nd, 3rd, 4th…
    Does it really matter in the long run? I’m sure it was close and it would be unwise to brand one or another the “better pianist” in the long run.
    There is no reason someone who comes in 4th or 6th in this competition can’t go on to have a major international career. They are all excellent. Let’s see what happens over the next few years. If a musician’s playing is really that compelling, then they will have an audience that wants to hear them, simple as that.

  • Milka says:

    Unmitigated baloney…….

  • M2N2K says:

    With all due respect, no matter how honestly Peter Donohoe describes his thinking, this can only apply to him alone, because he has no way of knowing all of the motivations behind other jurors’ votes. Every one of them is a unique person living in unique circumstances, and none of us has any way of knowing everything that affects their decisions.

    • Peter Donohoe says:

      Absolutely true. All I can say is that I observed no indication of any disrespectful thinking or any inappropriate attempts at persuasion etc. I felt very honoured to be working alongside my fellow jury members, as I did in 2011. This is no way precludes the idea that we may have totally opposing views – that is not the same thing as disrespect. It is one of the reasons why I was so surprised by Boris’ public statement that he was not satisfied with the results. Having said that, it is completely normal for jury members to be less than 100% satisfied – I have been on about fifteen juries now, and have never gone away totally satisfied. It is the way it will always be, and one must accept the majority view; anything else is inappropriate in my view, unless there is evidence of wrongdoing.

      • M2N2K says:

        In other words, you find nothing wrong or even just unusual in what he said, except for the fact that he actually said it. And by the way, inability of one person to observe something is not a proof of its absence.

        • Peter Donohoe says:

          Yes, very clever. I don’t know what point you are actually trying to make. If you have good reason to think there was dishonesty, explain. If you don’t, this is a waste of time.

          • M2N2K says:

            The point is simple: you can only speak for one person – you. What you are saying about the rest of the jury cannot be anything more than your own speculation. It is a better informed speculation than that of someone who was not there, but it still is not “the factual truth”.

    • Peter Donohoe says:

      I do not claim to know ‘the factual truth’. But I do know that one cannot prove a negative. And it seems that many do not feel it necessary to prove a positive in order to hold a prejudice.

      Thus the view that most regular jury members hold – that it is best to refuse to get involved online with anonymous mudslingers – is vindicated. Though this will tend to work against the efforts by the Tchaikovsky Competition and others towards transparency, I now see what they all mean. You can now all continue the discussion without me; there are better things to do than to appear in a tribunal in front of a bunch of anonymous snipers. So this is me signing off; and until such time as I see a credible argument that any amongst the jury in which I served was dishonest or manipulative, I will remain silent.

      Many thanks indeed to those who have read and responded with respect. To the rest, try to forget your conspiracy theories; they do not hold water.

  • 110 says:

    Is interesting that through the entire competition I was amazed but never touched.
    It’ s me?????

    • Provence says:

      It’s not false…It is important that Musicians does not be only excellent technicians, but
      they are very young and have still a lot to learn…

  • Ilshat says:

    BTW Mr Gergiev has offered Lucas Debargue the Mariinsky stage for recital programm – Ludwig van Beethoven Piano Sonata No 7 in D Major, Op. 10 No 3, Nikolai Medtner Piano Sonata No 1 in F Minor, Op. 5, Maurice Ravel Gaspard de la nuit, three poems after Aloysius Bertrand. 90% of the tickets are already sold out.

    • Ilshat says:

      The broadcast will be tested in that evening – please check the Mariinsky homepage. The event will take place on July 14. Additionally Lucas Debargue will give at least 3 concerts in Moscow by End of 2015 – once on September 18 (?) and twice in December – which will not be broadcasted

    • Piano Ghost says:

      Yes, and take note that Gergiev did not offer Debargue a concerto date.

      • Peter Donohoe says:

        We must resist the urge to read anything into these things. Perhaps there was a slot for a piano recital. Perhaps Gergiev feels that his strength lies in solo piano works more than in concertos – not forgetting that a recital is generally more challenging and exposed than a concerto. Perhaps Lucas Debargue preferred the idea of a recital. None of us knows the reason, so it is best that we don’t speculate or make assumptions.

  • Milka says:

    Anytime …. baloney is baloney however served up .

    • Peter Donohoe says:

      LOL
      Would it be unreasonable to ask which bit is baloney, and why? I presume you have some inside information that most of us have no access to.

    • Peter Donohoe says:

      As expected. Why you are not blocked by Norman Lebrecht is beyond me.

  • Hank says:

    Norman, thank you for publishing Peter Donohoe’s analysis.

    I hardly a fan of Vladimir Putin. But I think the notion that he would exert pressure to “throw” a Classical music competition, at the risk of exposure and embarrassment, is luducrious. Too much risk with too little potential benefit, as the wider world pays virtually no attention to CM. Sad but true.

    • Provence says:

      “…the wider world pays virtually no attention to CM. Sad…)

      Exact, mais quel pourcentage de la population, en France par exemple, savait qu’il y avait un concours Tchaikovsky: 0.00…%.
      C’est triste mais c’est d’abord la responsabilité des professionnels de la musique:
      pas un mot sur “France musique” pas un mot sur “Radio Classique”, aucune explication sur la possibilité de suivre toutes les épreuves en direct. Aucun suivi des Français engagés dans le concours.
      En ce qui concerne les medias non spécialisés aucune information bien sûr mais là il y a une logique…politique…hélas…

      (sorry but my english is limited!)

  • Ilshat says:

    The people followed the competition in the Hall claim there were two jury members sometimes sleeping during the competition perfomances. It is highly interesting how they voted.
    The main problem with the voting is it’s anonymous. Voting is fair and effective if it’s individual. Every member shall carry responsibility for his own voting. If it’s anonymous the responsibilty of each jury member tends to disappear behind the common decision which is not a fault of a certain juror (s. our case). Under Mr. Gergiev’s management the competition is becoming more and more transparent. He has promised before the contest beginning the voting results will be published. And the results of first two rounds have been published indeed. I hope we will see soon or later also the final voting results of each juror. I’m sure everyone ot them – as a highly respected personality and extraordinary professional musician – would be able to give the audience or at least the participants the reasons of his own decision. That would be then the ideal democratic voting the public need.

  • Liszt Franz says:

    I think that the jury’s decision is in fact not the most important thing. But how the audience judges the candidates is much more important for their career. If everybody loves Debargue, there is no point talking about his getting the 4th prize. It is just like Pogorelich during the 1980 Chopin Competition. In fact, not getting the 1st prize can even be a good thing because people talk much more about you, because they feel injustice. One only needs to see on this website how many pages and comments about Debargue, and how many about Masleev…

  • Peter Donohoe says:

    I do not claim to know ‘the factual truth’. But I do know that one cannot prove a negative. And it seems that many do not feel it necessary to prove a positive in order to hold a prejudice.
    Thus the view that most regular jury members hold – that it is best to refuse to get involved online with anonymous mudslingers – is vindicated. Though this will tend to work against the efforts by the Tchaikovsky Competition and others towards transparency, I now see what they all mean. You can now all continue the discussion without me; there are better things to do than to appear in a tribunal in front of a bunch of anonymous snipers. So this is me signing off; and until such time as I see a credible argument that any amongst the jury in which I served was dishonest or manipulative, I will remain silent.
    Many thanks indeed to those who have read and responded with respect. To the rest, try to forget your conspiracy theories; they do not hold water.

  • M2N2K says:

    Since PD is not participating in this discussion any longer, I can only say that I sincerely hope that he is correct in his belief that the jury was totally honest and agenda-free. Unfortunately, I know some of these people personally and it is extremely hard for me to believe that they did not have any extramusical considerations in mind. Most likely, this will never be proven either way, but as a musician and a listener, I would be delighted to be wrong in this case.

  • Juan Pacheco says:

    I like and admire Mr. Donohue´s honest and kinds style of sharing his experiences as a jury in this great event.
    Given the argument of many about transparency, why don´t Mr. M2N2K and others with acronyms use their full names? How can a person hiding with no name be asking for open books?
    Greetings from Mexico. Juan E. Pacheco.

    • M2N2K says:

      Actually, I made it very clear in my very first comment here that in my opinion no “open book” exists in this case, which is why I have never “asked” for one. Signing my full name would not change that fact. In this case, the name Peter Donohoe carries weight because he was a juror in Moscow last month, but mine would not because I was not there; and I never pretended to be anything other than what I am – a musician and a listener.

  • Martin Smith says:

    Hello. What seems interesting to me that – as Lucas implies – there are two musics: the (slightly) less technically difficult one of the Chopin-Mozart-Bach-Beethoven repertoire beloved of people like Fou T’Song – but this of course is the one shedding light on the highest peaks of music itself; and the showy, glittering nineteenth century music where it is compulsory to play for example the Tschaikovsky and Liszt concerti: which are musically (in my view) lightweight compared with the 5 of Beethoven, the last 6 or 7 of Mozart and the Brahms and Schumann. On these rare occasions when an offbeat musician favours one of the iconic ‘classical’ concerti over the larger warhorses, he or she is seen as a phenomenon. It was the same with Glenn Gould – indeed, he probably lies behind Lucas’s parcours. It is too early to think this through fully; I suppose it turns on what is being judged. Should the pianist be seen as some kind of inspired poet; and so on. It is obvious that Lucas is doing something quite different; and in today’s context, new. As his career sincehas shown; it has not been a question of practising more to ascend the initial Olympus – as one commentator wanted of him; rather it’s the case of certain pianists these days creating a new niche for a different ‘product’ – in this case a style of playing where the vision of the music comes first; and the glamour and competence of the protagonist are secondary. Richter, Pires and Sokolov have been doing that already – as established masters, however. As in: one does not always congratulate a safe pilot – or thank him for the wonderful view. Indeed – this takes us further. The great artist – I have absolutely no doubt that Lucas is one – makes his own rules and establishes his own precedents. Lucas comes intellectually, philosophically, religiously, even – fully mature: he does not need protecting; he’s not a vulnerable teenager. What he has done is to show us something else; and I am not sure that anyone so far has fully understood what that ‘something’ is; nor what – in the end – it will imply for our view of art, and ultimately education. Thanks for reading!

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