He won the Nielsen, was shunned by Geneva (his home town), went on to claim the principal flute position at the Leipzig Gewandhaus and has now come top in the televised ARD competition, a German star-maker.

Sebastian Jacot may now consider himself the hottest flute on the continent.

His jagged progress signifies the difference between competitions that play safe – too many of those – and the few that dare to reach for the stars.

sebastian jacot2

… apply to Sony Classical, where a refund can be arranged?

kaufmann knickers

Jonas Kaufmann’s Tom Jones moment is providing much amusement for the British press and sales fuel for his new recording.

When Noah Bendix-Balgley won the concertmaster’s seat at the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra last February, he told the Pittsburgh Symphony that he would keep both jobs.

That lasted just one season. Now Noah, 31, has quit Pitts to play fulltime in Berlin.

noah bendix-bagley


Bruce Lawrence, a Harlem bassist, played with Ella Fitzgerald and John Coltrane before he got bitten by the symphonic bug. After spells with the CBC orchestra in Ottawa and the Syracuse Symphony, he got a call from Seattle and played to them down the phone.

‘There were maybe 10 [African-American symphony players] in the whole country,’ said Gerard Schwarz, conductor at the time. ‘He was not only the first in Seattle, but one of the first in the whole country.’

Bruce has died aged 88. Read a full obit here.

bruce lawrence

An account of the finals by Erica Worth, editor of Pianist magazine, exclusive to Slipped Disc.

Last time at ‘The Leeds’ I got it so right. I predicted that Federico Colli would win and Louis Schwizgebel would come second. There were some other great musical personalities in the finals too. It was a good year for Leeds.

Last night, my predictions couldn’t have been more wrong. I won’t tell you who I thought would win (or come second, third etc…) – that’s because had I been a judge, I don’t think I’d have awarded a First. I try to be optimistic about competitions – one has to feel compassion for these brave youngsters – but there’s no doubt about it, this year was a tricky one.

A quick review, by order of appearance: Tomoki Kitamura (24, Japan) was the first onto the stage on Friday night. He played a wishy-washy Schumann Concerto. Yes, there were some lyrical moments, his sound was pleasing, but his last movement lacked that joyfulness dance-like quality needed. It all felt a bit bland. The Schumann Concerto, though, never fares well in competitions. Something to consider next time, maybe.

Next up was Heejae Kim (25, South Korea, pictured with author), with Beethoven No 4. There were some musically mature moments scattered throughout – the opening chords spellbinding, plus seamless runs aplenty with the finest pearl-like pianissimos – even if my biggest quibble was the fact that this didn’t always feel like Beethoven. Her finest moment was the slow movement, in which her sensitive playing calmed and conquered the Hallé, as it needs to in this heart-wrenchingly intense battle between pianist and orchestra. Interesting that she won the Terrence Judd Award. That’s where the orchestra gets to vote for their favourite finalist. She had indeed conquered them!

erica with 2nd prize winner


Yun Wei (21, China) ended the Friday night with the powerhouse concerto that is Rachmaninov No 3. Sadly, even though this pianist is a truly natural player with beautiful sound and total understanding of phrasing, she fell apart at the seams – the final movement almost unbearable to witness. The orchestra tried to save her, but alas. Maybe a 21-year old needs to think twice before playing Rach 3 at such a competition. From what I’d heard behind the scenes, too, Wei had practically no experience playing with an orchestra. It showed. I’d like to hear her again though, so let’s hope she returns to Leeds when she’s all of 24.

Last night first on to the stage was Drew Petersen (21, USA). He played an elegant, if rather glacial, Rachmaninov No 1. The first movement fared best – there were some majestic moments, even if I was constantly wishing for more left hand power. However, his second movement – a piece of music that is so incredibly tender – lacked emotion. This pianist needs to live (and love!) some. It all ended up too cold to me.

Next up was ‘hot favourite’ Vitaly Pisarenko (28, Russian), with another Rachmaninov No 3. Using Rachmaninov’s own words when he heard Horowitz play this concerto, Pisarenko ‘swallowed it whole’. And more! In the end, it has to be about music, but this was one huge bombastic frenzy where it seemed the pianist’s main goal was to try to outrun the orchestra. It left me exhausted and rather bruised.

And so to the final finalist of the event, Anna Tcybuleva (25, Russia), who played the mighty Brahms No 2 Concerto. This work needs warmth, gravitas, a certain humility, a feeling that one has lived, not to mention a velvety rich tone and utter command over the keyboard… but sadly, for this writer, it didn’t deliver. There were some memory lapses and wrong notes too. Something must have impressed the judges, because she won.

Ask me who should have won, and I honestly cannot give you an answer. On a final note, I heard on the grapevine that there were some exceptional pianists that were thrown out in the semi final stage, some even earlier. But that’s competitions for you – and that’s why we love coming back for more!

Just as Leeds was making its mind up over the £20,000 first prize, Honens announced Luca Buratto, 22, Laureate of the 2015 Honens Piano Competition. A former Cliburn competitor, Luca takes the world’s largest piano prize of C$100,000 (CAN) and a career development program worth half a million dollars.

Henry Kramer (US, 28) and Artem Yasynskyy (Ukraine, 27) each went home with C$10,000.

Having both Leeds and Honens declare on the same weekend was plain crazy, a symptom of a competition circuit gone mad.


luca buratto
The young Jeremy Corbyn?

The BBC have uploaded two clips of Kaufmann at the Proms but not (yet) the slightly awkward Rule Britannia.

Here’s what there is:


jonas bbc

UPDATE: Here’s Rule, Britannia. Definitely awkward.

They are struggling to replace the iconic Rainer Küchl, who is being asked to stay on for an extra year, having reached 65 last month. The obvious candidates within the Philharmonic have tried and been found wanting.


vienna phil audition2

Announcement hereKonzertmeister/in Im Orchester der Wiener Staatsoper/ Wiener Philharmoniker ist folgende Stelle zu besetzen: Eine Konzertmeisterin Geplanter Probespieltermin: 15. und 16. Dezember 2015

ivry gitlis, maria meerovitch, martha argerich

Taken two days ago by Maria Meerovitch: the violinist Ivry Gitlis (93), Maria, Martha Argerich.


The audience figures are out and they are uninspiring.

Last year, for the first time since 2009, box-office dipped below 90 percent, achieving just 88%.

This year it rose marginally to 89 percent, still below the benchmark of a successful season.

In 2011, it reached 94%.

On the positive side, the BBC reports that more than 37,500 people were first-timers, 14,500 of them attending a Sunday Matinee or Late Night concert. Over 8,600 under-18s bought tickets across the season.

Prom 45, BBC Proms 2012

photo: Chris Christodoulou/Lebrecht Music&Arts

After the most low-key competition in memory, with the BBC blanking television coverage, the result of Fanny Waterman’s final competition was made known some time after midnight.

On-scene observers reported on social media (and privately to Slipped Disc) that the quality had been lower than past contests. They felt that the first prize should have been withheld. The Jury, after late-night deliberations, decided otherwise.

The winner was Anna Tsybuleva, 25, a Ukraine-born Russian.

Anna Tcybuleva2

Second was Heejae Kim, 28, from South Korea.

Third was Vitaly Pisarenko, 28 from Russia.

Fourth was the American, Drew Petersen.

Officially, there is enthusiasm for the result. Sir Mark Elder, who conducted the Hallé Orchestra in the finals, said: ‘Once again the LIPC has found a truly exciting winner from some very talented finalists. The Competition continues to achieve the highest standards and I am delighted to play a small part in it.’

Let’s hope the winners fulfil Leeds expectations.

We’d like to hear from the judges. First review here.


Anna Tcybuleva


Sample video from previous competition: