When you appoint a men only jury…

When you appoint a men only jury…


norman lebrecht

October 19, 2015

… You get all male winners.

The Carl Nielsen Internatonal Chamber Music competition has disgraced itself.

The jury consisted of Michael Schønwandt conductor (president); Heime Müller violin, ex-Artemis Quartet; Trolls Svane cello, Hochschule für Musik Lübeck and Hans Eissler, Berlin; Clive Greensmith cello, ex-Tokyo Quartet; Michael Hasel flute, Berlin Philarmonic Orchestra; Bjørn Carl Nielsen oboe, ex-Danish National SO;
Andreas Sundén clarinet, Swedish Radio SO.

The wind quintet winners are:

1st prize: Carl Nielsen Kvintetten (Denmark) – all male.
2nd prize: Veits Quintet (Germany)
3rd prize: Atéa Wind Quintet (UK)

carl nielsen quintet
The string quartet winners are:

1st prize Quatuor Arod – all male
2nd Prize Quartet Berlin-Tokyo
3rd Prize Cosmos Quartet

arod quatuor_arod

Did nobody in Denmark imagine there might be a perceptual problem in having one-sex juries?


  • Itsjtime says:

    And white males, at that.

    • John says:

      They deserved to win! It is horrible how some people think that minorities should be allowed to win simply because of who they are. I prefer my competitions to be fair where the best people win, independent or race or sex. It seems that you cannot handle that!

      • William Safford says:

        It’s horrible to think that there are people who believe that there are other people who think that minorities should be allowed to win simply because of who they are.

        I also prefer my competitions to be fair where the best people win, independent or race or sex.

        In addition, I believe in giving other people the opportunity both to do so, and to be in a position to adjudicate them.

  • V.Lind says:

    I take it there is absolutely no chance whatsoever that these winners were the best entrants?

    • John says:

      Of course they were just the best entrants, but people like Lebrecht seem focused on having second-rate women at the expense of better men. Interestingly, I see my previous comment has disappeared. Does he not like this truth?

      • Cassandra says:

        This is not about Mr. Lebrecht. This is about an international competition that excluded women from its jury who then voted in 1st place winners “in their own image” who were also all men.

        • John says:

          I think you are missing something. This is a competition. If the best competitors are men, then the men win the prizes. You might not want that, but it is fairer than given poorer women prizes they do not deserve.

          • Cassandra says:

            No, I’m afraid YOU are missing the point, John. A jury should represent the profession accurately. Unless chamber music has become an exclusively male domain, then there should have been at least one woman on that jury.

          • John says:

            Not at all, Cassandra. A jury’s job is to be able to judge musicians properly. Whether they are male or female should not make a difference.
            In the same spirit, would you demand a black person, a homosexual, a disabled person, a muslim and a jew on the jury? Or can we move on from your silly quotas and focus on the music?

        • Tim says:

          It’s not about Lebrecht? lol…good one.

          • Cassandra says:

            Tim, don’t shoot the messenger. NL is simply reporting a situation which some of his readers find disturbing.

    • Cassandra says:

      We take it that there is absolutely no chance whatsoever that there is a qualified female chamber music juror for this “international” competition?

      • John says:

        Why should they have to find women? They should be looking for good jurors, independent of sex. It’s sad that people like you want to see women get good positions simply because of their sex.

        • Cassandra says:

          Evaluating artistry at any competition is not necessarily an objective task. That’s why there is a jury and not one person deciding. The “best” is an opinion, a subjective decision which is affected by gender and many other factors. For this reason, a jury should be diverse.

          Your ignorance is showing. No one “earns” their place on a jury. They are appointed. The Nielsen jurors are not the “best” jurors, they just happened to be appointed by the Competition management. There are many women who are equally if not better qualified to sit on that jury, but they happened NOT to get appointed. With 11 places on the jury and pre-jury, there is no way that these 11 men are the most supremely qualified chamber music jurors in the world. That is absurd. And you are being absurd for trying to make that ridiculous point.

    • William Safford says:

      How will we know?

  • Max Grimm says:

    How many of the competitions performances did you watch or listen to, Norman?
    In case the answer is “None!”, here is a link where you can view all performances, by all ensembles:


    Having viewed the performances, I find more fault in your claim than in the disposition of the jury or their decisions.

    • Karen says:

      Don’t you find it odd that there was a pre-jury and a jury of 11 persons with not one woman among them? Aren’t there any qualified female chamber music jurors?

      That, more than anything is what puts the results of the competition under suspicion.

      • John says:

        Of course: it’s a huge conspiracy! No, the men just did better. Accept it and move on. Perhaps, instead of complaining, you might prefer to encourage women to work harder and actually earn the top places, rather then being given them.

        • Karen says:

          It’s pretty clear that nothing is “being given to them” here. Especially by this jury. As they used to say about Ginger Rogers “she did everything Fred Astaire did but backwards and in high heels.” People like you make it necessary for women to actually have to be BETTER than men in order to succeed.

          Are you affiliated with the Vienna Philharmonic by chance? You’d fit right in.

          • Max Grimm says:

            If, like you and Cassandra argue, all-male juries are inherently (consciously or subconsciously) gender-biased and their decisions suspicious, how would you explain women winning other competitions with all-male juries or auditions in the said predominately male Vienna Philharmonic (not all rounds being behind a screen) or the Berlin Philharmonic (no screen at all)…Tokenism? A latent attraction to a woman instrumentalist?
            Couldn’t it be that, while biases undoubtedly exist in the (classical music) world, an all-male group is capable of awarding the 1st place or a vacancy to the most deserving candidate regardless of gender every once in a while?

          • Bviolinistic says:

            Karen, there is no longer any sexism being practiced by the Vienna Philharmonic. It stopped many years ago.

  • Anthony says:

    Come on Norman, two of the Atea Quartet (who also won the contemporary music prize in addition to their 3rd place) are female.

    • Karen says:

      Anthony, the Atea is a QUINTET and they won 3rd place. The all-male sweep is in the 1st place prizes.

      • John says:

        Maybe the women should have been better then! It is a shame backward people like you think women should be rewarded just for being women. It is not how it works in a meritocracy.

        • Karen says:

          No, actually it’s a shame that backward people like you don’t see the importance of selecting a chamber music competition jury which represents the profession.

          • John says:

            They represented the profession by being excellent musicians who can judge others. Sex has nothing to do with music, no matter how much you might like it to.

    • Gary Carpenter says:

      Atea Quintet.

    • CDH says:

      Are you suggesting that as well as being chronically inaccurate, this site is now actually fabricating?

      • Karen says:

        The information on the site is accurate. Anthony got it wrong when he commented.

        • CDH says:

          In what respect? NL cites them as winning a prize, and they do have two female members.

          • Karen says:

            I believe NL was referring to the 1st place winners in both catagories – wind quintet and string quartet – as being all male. Atea was not a 1st place winner.

  • Andy Scott says:

    Congratulations to the Atea Quintet!

  • Anonymous says:

    Unfortunately, I did not watch this streamed competition, so I cannot speak for these results in particular. But I do happen to know members of the Carl Nielsen wind quintet, and I am a big fan.

    However, having watched the livestream of the Tchaikovsky Cello competition, I was disappointed with the first-prize decision. He possessed all the historically “male” qualities – showy at the expense of showing real introspection. I’m not saying that a woman deserved to win over him – it could have been a man, just less brash. As a woman, his mannerisms made me cringe, yet were applauded by the all-male jury. It was obvious that they were choosing someone after their own image – male or female, whoever possessed those qualities.

    This is a matter of INCLUSION. To find a true winner, we need to consider a number of perspectives.

    It’s disappointing to see so much dismissal in the comments. Can’t a man agree that a woman’s perspective should be included?

  • David says:

    I agree that this is something of an image problem, and I am honestly a bit surprised that the competition organisers would not have been sensitive to that. But personally, I am not overly concerned. I am much more concerned if there is a reality problem than a perception problem. If the most impressive groups won, then their gender is completely irrelevant.

    I have participated in juries which happened to be all male. If anything I had the impression that those juries – mindful of the current environment of political correctness – were perhaps slightly more predisposed to favour a female candidate. Though not to the extreme of ignoring the artistic reality.

    For those of you crying foul here, how far do you want to go in trying to create diverse juries? I have awkwardly watched a rather-conservative panel I was sitting on criticise a candidate for his ‘quirky’ stage persona – when the reality was that the ‘quirkiness’ was just that the male performer was quite effeminate. So do we need to ensure that every possible flavour of human being is represented on every panel? Nor teally. I would rather simply try to find the most qualified people possible, and trust in their profesionalism. I have also seen a similarly-conservative panel treat a transgender candidate with utmost fairness.

    We are artists, first and foremost – and our personal differences are generally tangential to what we do.

  • Nick says:

    So what if the jury was all men and an all men ensemble won?
    It MUST have been a conspiracy against the female musicians?!


    Thank God not everybody feels the need to dance this PC dance!
    ‘On this jury we should have equal number white, black, yellow, brown and red skin;
    equal number men and women;
    2 each of every nation and;
    equal number aged 20-30, 30-40, 40-50…’

    Enough already. And enough with the Vienna Phil and the way they do their business.
    You don’t like’em? Fine. Just forget they even exist.
    Give your attention and money to groups that satisfy your point of view on how they should look.

    Nationality, Sex and Age have proven to not matter for many in our business.
    There are superstars in our Classical music world from any and all of these mentioned groups.
    Super famous and successful artists who are of any religious background, any race, any sex, any sexual orientation,
    and even age with some teens and even preteens reaching fame today.

    If anything (and I say this as a joke!) I’d be more into talking about how
    ‘the Danish Nielsen Competition was won by a group of
    Danish musicians naming their group The Nielsen Quintet
    playing the Nielsen Wind Quintet!’

    Haha, they are actually quite good but it’s still pretty funny!
    I can imagine NL fuming if it was

    ‘a Russian string quartet named Tchaikovsky
    wins the Russian Tchaikovsky Competition
    playing Tchaikovsky’s music and they are all
    Tchaikovsky Conservatory students and (somehow also all) from Tchaikovsky’s home town!
    Also, Putin sponsors them!’


  • Roberta G. says:

    The Nielsen International Chamber Music Competition organizers, while affirming that their jurors were selected on merit and are well qualified, have issued a statement acknowledging the oversight of not including female jury members. They promise to correct this in the future.

    From the Carl Nielsen ICM Competition fb page (English translation follows the statement in Danish):
    The Carl Nielsen International Chamber Music Competition
    4 hrs ·
    Der har været et spørgsmål om hvem der har udvalgt juryen, så hermed til almindelig oplysning: Den Internationale Carl Nielsen Kammermusikkonkurrence er arrangeret i et samarbejde mellem Det Kongelige Danske Musikkonservatorium, Det Kongelige Bibliotek og DR.
    Konkurrencen har nedsat juryen efter kriteriet om mange års estimeret arbejde som kammermusiker på højeste plan. Juryen er således udvalgt fra nogen af verdens førende ensembler med særlig henblik på folk med erfaring inden for talentspotting, hvilket viser sig ved pædagogisk arbejde. Desuden har vi haft et krav til en overrepræsentation af udlændinge for at understrege, at det er en international konkurrence. Juryformanden er med vilje valgt som ikke-instrumentalist, for at få balance imellem de to kategorier: blæsere og strygere.
    At der i år alene var mænd i juryen var ikke tilsigtet, men udslag af en række omstændigheder. Heldigvis står kvinderne stærkere i den klassiske musik nu end nogensinde, og blandt de medvirkende grupper var der overordnet set en ligelig kønsfordeling. Når konkurrencen bliver afholdt igen vil vi igen tilstræbe en bredt sammensat jury, både hvad angår køn og nationalitet.
    Med venlig hilsen Bertel Krarup, Erland Kolding Nielsen og Kim Bohr

    There has been a question of who has selected the jury so accordingly for general information: International Carl Nielsen kammermusikkonkurrence organised jointly by the royal Danish conservatory of music, the royal library and Dr.
    Competition has reduced the jury after the criterion of many year s’ estimated work as kammermusiker at the highest level. The Jury is thus selected from any of the world’s leading ensembles specifically for people with experience in talentspotting, which shows itself in educational work. We have also had a requirement for a predominance of foreigners to stress that this is an international competition. You, Madam Foreman is deliberately chosen as non-instrumentalist to get balance between the two categories: fans and strings.
    This year alone was men in the jury was not intentional, but manifestation of a number of circumstances. Fortunately women are stronger in the classical music now than ever and among the credits groups there were broadly a gender balance. When the competition will be held again we will again seek a broad panel, both in terms of gender and nationality.

    Sincerely Bertel Krarup, Erland Kolding Nielsen and Kim Bohr
    Automatically Translated
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  • MacroV says:

    So the scandal here is that: 1) the jury was all-male and 2) the winners of both categories were all-male ensembles. I understand the appearance issue, but seriously, this doesn’t prove any cause and effect. Mr. Lebrecht, not for the first time, is taking a flying leap at a very weak conclusion. And isn’t it perhaps a bit sexist to suggest that women on a jury would have voted for ensembles that had more women?

    • Cassandra says:

      The conclusion is not Mr. Lebrecht’s but that of some of his readers, which is what he is reporting on here. WE are the ones disturbed about this. He is just reporting on it.

      And since it appears that everyone responding against what he’s written are men it’s a good thing he spoke out for his female readers.

      • John says:

        Drop it, Cassandra. The men won because they were better, and the vast majority of women who read this article accepted this instead of crying sexism.

        • Cassandra says:

          Oh my, John. 1st you are speaking on behalf of the entire chamber music profession and now you, as a man, are speaking on behalf of all of Mr. Lebrecht’s female readers. A little presumptious, don’t you think?

          Look, it’s over. The Competition organizers have publicly acknowledged their error. You are wrong. We are right. So we think that YOU should drop it.

  • William Safford says:

    For those who espouse the belief that women play on a level playing field with men, who believe that biases and discrimination are just a thing of the past, who believe that men, whether on juries or in general, are always and inherently color- and gender-blind, you should read the following article from the Washington Post:


    It is about the ten-year online lewd and fetishizing harassment of a female violinist, Mia Matsumiya.

    The article is not directly relevant to audition committees. Nor am I trying to draw a causal link between this WaPo article and the competition that is the topic of this discussion.

    However, what that woman’s experience does show is that, even in the 21st century and in America, women continue to face an uphill battle in life and in their careers. In her case, it included harassment, threats, and stalking.

    So, why is this relevant to the topic of an all-male jury? Because different people bring different perspectives, life experiences, and biases to a jury. Because not all jurors are unbiased. Because even people of good will bring biases to a jury. Because not every juror comes to the job with good will. Because a woman can act as a counterweight if such a biased man ends up on a jury. Because diversity is good.