Some disquiet about Leeds Piano winner

Some disquiet about Leeds Piano winner


norman lebrecht

September 13, 2015

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:


  • Olassus says:

    A “Ukraine-born Russian,” like someone else we know …

  • Ray Richardson says:

    “with the BBC blanking television coverage” ….. shame on them.


      BBC TV has not “blanked” it. There are three weekly recorded programmes introduced by Petroc Trelawny on BBC4 starting this Friday 18th at 7.30pm.

      This contrasts with the years when I directed cameras at Leeds (six competitions eventually) starting in 1969 (a recording shown in Omnibus on BBC1 the following night), and through the 1970s to 1990s. BBC2 and subsequently BBC4 went live to Leeds for the finals (even when they were spread over two evenings) and returned live in time to see the winners announced, however late this happened.

      Apart from the concerto finals, choice extracts from the semi-finals recitals were shown along with specialist comment. So viewers of the final concertos were also given some idea of the quality of all the semi-finalists, and could perhaps judge why some had fallen by the wayside.

      The BBC Radio van was parked yards from the Television control van. Live relays were the summit of what the BBC were trying to do. For Television to have put out hours of recorded piano-playing and announce the winner four weeks late would have been laughable.

      That’s where the shame lies. Between them, Controllers of BBC2 and BBC4 have long ago decided Leeds is not worth visiting live, not even once every three years. This year the programmes they were happy to schedule included (on BBC4) films about railways, natural history, ballerinas and planets. Meanwhile BBC2 is a lost cause for classical music on Sunday evenings, committed this time to yet another railway film, a Top Gear compilation, Special Forces and Odyssey.

      Leeds do not help themselves regarding radio and TV coverage when (as this year) the first Finals evening clashes with the Last Night of the Proms, a date known to all concerned years in advance. A suggestion that Leeds monitors this and moves the competition down a week later has been made on SD. The explanation used to be that Leeds University’s hall of residence (Tetley Hall), where competitors are housed, would not be available after the new term starts. If that still applies, it doesn’t seem an insoluble piece of logistics.

  • Wang Bang-Bang says:

    Is Heejae a man?

  • Allan Evans says:

    Pit her against a piano roll and blindfolded listeners wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.

  • Paul Morgan says:

    I have been at the last 6 Leeds competitions and I can assure you that the standard was extremely high with several of the semi-finalists unlucky to go through. I’d say most of the audience found the final to be very exciting and any of the top 3 could have won, and deservedly too. I suspect this article is a bit of mischief!

  • thomas says:

    Having listened to most of the semi finals and finals on the BBC, I have to say the standard of playing. particularly of the last 3 finalists was outstanding.

    What was more suprising, (sadly) was the very poor recording balance from the BBC, with a fatal combination of awful (multi) microphone placing, synthetic reverb, excessive compresion and the piano / orchestra balance mostly ruined.

    It was rather comical to see their engineers messing with the clarity of the wind, then the balance being constantly skewed viz a viz what was so obviously a brilliant

    This made it much harder to get a decent idea of how sounded in the hall, and whether the soloist was struggling or not with an orchestra that is clearly no longer world class. (Elder’s entries were often late or eratic, the brass was poor, and the strings verging on inaudible over the piano in many critical passages during Rachmaninov).

    If there was anything to criticise in the Leeds competition it was the BBC, not the musicians who provided the most interesting comparisons between the rising youthful “stars” of Asia, and the old world charms of Russians playing their own music.

  • Jonathan M. Dunsby says:

    ==BBC blanking television coverage

    Er,no. Starting this Friday on BBC4 there’s a 3-part TV series with Mark Elder on the competition

  • Leo says:

    Anna’s slow movement was particularly beautiful which I think was why she pipped them to the post. I think her compatriot should have been second though given his concerto choice. It’s a lot harder than the Beethoven!!

  • Jonathan M. Dunsby says:

    == I suspect this article is a bit of mischief!

    Hey, welcome to SD !

  • Dave says:

    As a non-expert paying punter, I’d say Anna was a worthy winner based on her performance at the Prizewinners’ Gala on Sunday. Past experience suggests we shouldn’t expect too much from BBC4’s highlights show – in 2012, it was 40 percent scene setting waffle/interviews/general hype.

  • chee kwok says:

    1 I am not professional pianist but do feel the following
    a shouldn’t be too harsh on the finalists they had only a few
    days to rehearse with the Halle
    b what Erica worth had to say re mr kitamura and the Chinese
    lady did tally with what a pizzarro and miss ogawa commented
    to Petroc
    2 I do agree with Rodney Greenberg that the real shame is wth
    the BBC: I have watched this competition: the only one in UK:
    being truncated and shifted around different channels like an
    unwanted child

    Just thought I would get this off my chest