Moscow or Warsaw: Which produced the better pianists?

Moscow or Warsaw: Which produced the better pianists?


norman lebrecht

October 22, 2015

Now the Tchaikovsky and Chopin contests are over, the results can be assessed in cool comparison.

In Moscow, where judges fell out publicly over the result and President Putin acclaimed the competition as ‘the pride of Russia’, a reliable Russian was given the gold medal ahead of more exciting candidates.

In Warsaw, there was no nationalist fervour. A Korean and French-Canadian toughed it out for first place and several other finalists showed genuine individuality.

Time will tell which has yielded the greater talents but, on balance, we think Warsaw has won.



  • Anon says:

    This is kind of a tie, regarding Cho. Moscow gave him bronze in Tchaikovsky 2011 when he was just 17.

  • Jeffrey Biegel says:

    Competitions bring forth wonderful new talent–whether or not they win Gold, Silver, Bronze etc. Many brilliant musicians do very well when they don’t win the top prizes; many do well who do win the top prizes. There will be new winners in a few years. One thing Barbra Streisand once said has stuck with me throughout the years. It is what will stand the test of time. It will be interesting to see how all of these musicians will develop over the long haul, and how they bring uniqueness to the world of music. They are terrific talents!

    • Andrys says:

      Jeffrey, that’s one of the rare, fair assessments of Competitions today, since a number of us like to discover, where possible, the more gifted of the young pianists hoping for a world career. Without Competitions that are broadcast internationally, live-streamed even, and with on-demand playback, we might not have heard from several we take for granted today, including even Sokolov, who won the Chopin Competition when he was 16.

      Now the juries matter less since millions viewed the latest competition and will make up their own minds. I saw a lot of donor awards this time, many of them selecting those the audience especially enjoyed (which should be of some interest to promoters and concert hall mgmt) and/or whose absence from the finals, or even the semi-finals, had been lamented by those audience members whose feelings can be seen in the many net discussions involved.

  • Alvaro says:

    Don’t be sour just because its been 3 months and people don’t care about Debarge anymore.

    • Bo says:

      To be fair, Debargue seems to be getting quite som publicity, haven’t heard a word from most of the others.

      • Karen says:

        They have all received a fair share of publicity and concert dates. It depends who you follow and how up to date you are on their concert schedules etc.

        • Bo says:

          Maybe so, I haven’t actively looked up any of them, but only he has popped up consistently and from what I’ve read people very much care about him.

          • Karen says:

            Well, I make a point of following Lucas Debargue , George Li and Dmitry Masleev. It looks like each of these talented young artists has an impressive line up of concert engagements around the world. Each seems to garner his own fan base and loyal admirers. It will be interesting to see how they will fare in a few year’s time. Time will tell. For now, I cannot say your statements are correct or fair.

  • Neven P. says:

    It is interesting to notice that so many of Mr. Lebrecht’s posts are aimed at inciting a conflict between readers or creating some kind of bogus controversy. I would assume this is related to his commercial interests – the more clicks and comments the blog gets, the easier it will be for him to attract advertisers. I understand that he needs to earn his daily bread and butter, however, by publishing such posts he seriously underestimates the intelligence of SD’s audience.

  • All Keyed Up says:

    It’s ridiculous to compare contests & their winners. Irrespective of the prizes they win, it’s only the real music-makers who can ultimately survive on the concert circuit. Indeed, Seong-Jing Cho is an experienced warrior with a pocket full of top-competition prizes, and yes he played very well in Warsaw. But it remains to be seen if the world’s top conductors and if the world’s most musically sophisticated audiences will support him — and that will depend solely on his ability to make music and to communicate (and there’s no prize on earth that can help him to do that). So, stay tuned…

    • Anon says:

      There is a kind of cute naivety in this response. It assumes that musically sophisticated audiences and critics matter — most of whom despise Lang Lang, for example, and we can see the vast extent to which that has negatively affected his career.

  • Sergey says:

    Precisely. Time will tell. Whichever candidate one (any of us) should find more exciting is close to irrelevant to the time’s verdict.

  • Rahul says:

    I agree with Jeffery Biegel above that Competition brings out the best..A health Rivalry between Moscow and warsaw is good for music.


  • Karen says:

    The better question may be which one offers greater transparency and accountability.

    The answer clearly would be the Chopin Competition which has released all the scores and rankings from the jurors in all stages immediately upon the conclusion of the competition. As far as I know, the Tchaikovsky has yet to release this important information, although that competition has ended months ago.