Label scoop: DG signs Sydney runner-up

Label scoop: DG signs Sydney runner-up


norman lebrecht

July 23, 2016

Russians came first and second at the Sydney International Piano Competition.

Andrey Gugnin came first. But it was Arseny Tarasevich-Nikolaev, in second place, who came away with a Universal Music record contract.

Gerard Willems commentating for the ABC at the competition said: ‘When I see [Arseny] play I see the whole history of piano playing begin to unfold before me’.

Universal Music Australia/Deutsche Grammophon awarded Arseny a five-album international recording contract.


L-R: Tom Ford (Universal), Arseny Tarasevich-Nikolaev, Cyrus Meher-Homji (General Manager, Universal Music Australia).

The photographer was first prize winner, Andrey Gugnin.


  • Assimilate This says:

    The winners of the 2008 and 2012 Sydney piano competitions have already disappeared into obscurity. Check out if they have a website and if so, whether concerts are listed on it. This is an interesting test for any high-gloss, high-profile piano competition event.

    For Trifonov, DGG has hitherto produced the incredible total of three CD albums, two of them apparently from the same live Carnegie Hall concert. One would have to ask over what time period the 5 albums for T.-N. will be produced. And will they be yawn-inducing re-issues of played-to-death works that have already been recorded hundreds of times?

    • Selpak says:

      To be fair, this competition is completely different in terms of administration and how it is run to previous editions. Thompson is no longer in charge, so we need to treat this as a new competition and let it unfold as such.

      Who cares how long Arseny has to “produce” these CD’s – the face that he has been given this opportunity is outstanding. A CD lasts long after you have died, it represents you as an artist for ever – why would anyone rush it? Your comment makes absolutely no sense.
      Trifonov had to win the Tchaikovsky, Rubinstein and get a medal at the Chopin (all in the space of just over a year!!!) before he was signed. And most others who get first prize in just one of these competitions (Chopin excluded) probably won’t ever be signed by DG.

      If anything, this shows the standard of the people who came to SIPCA this year, and highlights the fact that this really could be a turning point for this competition.

      Having said that, after seeing how ignorant and disrespectful the audience was at the finals (clapping between each movement and talking!!!) one quickly loses hope again for culture in general in Sydney.

      • anonymous says:

        Lookout, world. DG going to dump Trifonov for a younger, hotter Russian pianist. No apparent musical explanation for this signing.

      • Bazza McKenzie says:

        So was the audience cracking ice cold tubes of Foster’s Lager during the slow movement?

      • Cyril Blair says:

        “…after seeing how ignorant and disrespectful the audience was at the finals (clapping between each movement and talking!!!) one quickly loses hope again for culture in general in Sydney….”

        There was some of this in 2012 but it was not Australians who were doing it. It was people who had come to hear the competition from other countries…

  • David says:

    But what exactly ended up being ‘new’ in this current edition of SIPCA? Apart from getting on board with the technological updates of a functioning website, use of social media, live streaming (though this was only secured a very short time before the competition started) and more lucrative prize monies, plus the inclusion of local young pianists playing before some of the earlier sessions commenced, the end result is no different from any former edition: Russian pianists ranking high (nothing inherently wrong with that of course); most competitors opting for the well-worn concerto favourites despite the revised listing which invited some less-familiar works for some; no contestant who entered the finals picking other than a Mozart concerto when other 18th century options were available (this, for all appearances, making it seem the compulsory Mozart concerti were still being imposed as in the past); and all Australian entrants being eliminated before the finals round. The last time an Australian was included was back in 2004, and before that in 1992 (placing 3rd both times). A very traditional outcome, and perhaps of some interest to note that the first prize winner was not a finalist in the big Tchaikovsky Competition last year.

    For all intents and purposes this was just a replay of former competitions. Audiences seem to have short memories – the same ‘buzz’ and hyperbole from radio commentators was extended towards pianists in former Sydney competitions, but the self-proclaimed “BEST SIPCA EVER” utterance both on the competitions Facebook comments and also announced from the stage at the prize giving was perhaps just wishful thinking for people hoping they were witnessing change due to a new administration (well, partly) now being in charge.

    The discretionary jury prize went to a Swedish player who showed the most interesting programming overall, but of course, that may have been too far removed for general taste, so there was no advancing further. A “thanks for trying” type of prize, and one of the only ones who showed some type of innovation the competition would have us believe it was seeking. The fact the JURY awarded this prize, but could not progress this pianist through further seems at odds with itself.

    As for the etiquette of the Sydney audiences, well, one could say that they get particularly excited by those gesticulating performers or very fast playing since they are not as exposed to the very highest levels of piano playing very often. More optimistically we could say they were just trying to encourage the youthful performers, yet there was certainly the seeming desire for a lot of ‘feel-good’ moments indeed. Not sure about cracking a beer in between movements, but it was noted there was a lot of phone messaging and strong urge to take photographs of an empty stage or a piano or competition banner as a keepsake of having attended, because you know, it might fade from memory if not pinned to a Facebook page real quick.

    All in all, let’s see who remembers the pianists they so fervently backed this time round and follow them online. I somehow think for the majority it will fade, just as happened last time, the time before that, and so on!!