So Zakhar Bron won in Shanghai

So Zakhar Bron won in Shanghai


norman lebrecht

September 05, 2016

In the bleak dawn after the inaugural Isaac Stern Shanghai Competition, it will come as small surprise that the first prize was won by a pupil of one of the judges, the prolific Zakhar Bron.

Mayu Kishima, we learn from her official biography, ‘began her musical education in Tokyo. In 2012 she completed her studies at the Cologne University of Music and Dance under Prof. Zakhar Bron. In 2009 she was a prize winner in the Queen Elisabeth International Competition in Brussels. In 2011 she won the International Music Competition Cologne and also the David Garrett Award for an outstanding interpretation. In the same year she entered the XIV Tchaikovsky Competition.’

In other words, she has been on the competition circuit for seven years before winning a significant award, in which her teacher sat on the jury. In any field other than classical music, a judge would not be allowed to award marks to his or her own protege.

This result inspires little confidence in the competition process as a means for discovering and promoting new talent.

zakhar bron



  • George hlawiczka says:

    Mayu actually is a deserving winner. She did study with zahra bron but this was a few years ago and she has developed beyond the student level to a very interesting artist. I was surprised to see her win as she is not the kind of competition player who plays it safely. It’s not always as it seems and best not to judge on general first impressions.

    • Milu says:

      I totally agree. Mayu is a very interesting artist and we hope to see much more of her.

      • Twitwithexp says:

        Congrats and its all v well. Cool.

        But nobody cares who wins what anymore. Only those who entered as candidates and some enthusiastic violin students care.

        There is no Usaine Bolt of competitions, just random winners of so many different competitions. Even so called world’s top judges cannot agree on single outright winners.

        • Carl brown says:

          There is actually an amazin girl called ellinor D’Melon from Jamaica. Probably a protege of Usain bolt. She is student of Zakhar Bron and she’s amazing. She should go to stern competition next Time and win. ABSOLUTLY amazing child prodigy.

  • Ross says:

    Simple solution and note to all competitions: STOP inviting him to be a judge.

    • Suzanne says:


    • Milka says:

      This latest Shanghai adventure has nothing to do with violin playing as much as it has to do with world politics , to believe otherwise would show one to be quite stupid.To stop
      inviting him would make little difference he would be replaced by another drone. I believe
      there is one just announced for three visits to Londons’ RCM.

      • Ross says:

        Ok, you might be correct about that.
        But it is still absolutely idiotic for the biggest competitions to continue inviting the same big name teachers who consistently have students in the competition to be judges.
        It just keeps happening and happening. They all need to just stop.

  • gina says:

    One wonder if Sergei Dogadin won the 1st prize, attack would have gone to Boris Kuschnir who sits on the jury panel and happen to be his current teacher? Unlike Mayo, Bron was her teacher years ago.
    Check out the official scores from the jury. You will see Bron’s score against Kuschnir’s and others. Judging who is fairer!!!!

    • Milka says:

      What difference would anything make ?? all have compromised themselves by
      association in this latest Shanghai farce.

      • Gina says:

        It makes huge difference. So far only Bron’s name attracts the headlines each time he sits on jury, no other teachers privilege enough to be mentioned. But judging his scores, yes, he was much noble compare with Kuschnir’s and the two Americans!

  • Bruce says:

    “…and also the David Garrett Award for an outstanding interpretation.”

    Oh boy…

  • Matt says:

    It’s not as if Mr. Bron’s scores were out of line with the rest of the jury. All 13 members placed Ms. Kishima among the top 3 contestants. She was undisputedly one of the best contestants (especially in the Final Round) and the favorite of 4 jurors.

  • Romuald Sztern says:

    She was in the final of the Queen Elisabeth in 2009. Was Mr Bron on the jury then as well ?
    I have no great sympathy for Mr Bron
    , but an young artist that has the energy and comitment to keep up the level of preparation to be ” on th circuit” for 7 years deserves respect when all her immense effort fo grow bears fruit.

  • Carlos Majlis says:

    “Competitions are for horses, not for musicians” (Bartók dixit).

  • Michael says:

    What about Vera Tsu being in every big violin competitions with no international career whatsoever.

    • Milka says:

      Michael,being a violin competition winner and being a” true violinist ” are two different things .
      A violinist as “artist ” has little chance in violin competition . Some can advance
      from competition winner to artist status but that is quite rare . Most go on to
      teaching and judging others like themselves , It is a cottage industry.

    • Christopher says:

      Vera Tsu, wife of Chinese conductor Long Yu, who is undoubtedly a businessman in the classical music industry…

  • Peti says:

    Interesting to observe that Daniel Heifetz consistently gave Mayu Kishima “NO” and low marks until the Final Round where he marked her as his number one. Looks like he was won over by her at the final.

  • Anonymouss says:

    If Dogadin had won then the headline would have been equally harsh towards Kuschnir. Here’s a crazy idea – maybe Kishima won because she deserved to win?

    Two other jury members gave Kishima a higher mark than Bron did over half the jury gave Kishima a mark that was within 3 points out of 100 from what Bron did. Clearly, his views weren’t out of line from the consensus.

    Actually, I would argue that what Bron did was very noble. Dogadin was always the favourite to win. The way to fix a competition is to not just give high marks to your own students, but to also give low marks to your opponents. The par he gave between Kishima to Dogadin was only 6 points. Kuschnir is the real criminal. He shamelessly put a par of over 10 points between Dogadin and Kishima.

    What Oliveira and Cerone did was equally shameful. They both gave the two Americans the top two prizes (even though one of them ended up coming 5th and was ranked 6th by 6 jury members). Again, they put a huge par between their favoured candidates and Kishima/Dogadin…a par of well over 10 points.

    I’m really confused as to why one thinks that Bron is the real bad guy here. His marks were very sensible. It seems like Kishima was a deserving winner. Even if she weren’t, then Dogadin would have won, in which case the same arguments would have been made.

  • Joshua Lee says:

    I am highly suspicious of any competition with a scoring system that allows ranking to take place solely by number after the final and doesnt force any sort of weighing of previous rounds. Even if the final is weighed heavier, previous rounds should count for something. Otherwise what is the point of hearing all the previous rounds if as long as you barely sneak into the final, if you play a great concerto you can win? Tchaikovsky competition used this system and the result ended up being absurd. Concertos are great but if competitions are trying to find the next great artist, those recital rounds are far more telling than a concerto in which a soloist can just pick the one work most flattering to them. (In this case Kishima was smart to piece the piece where she can saw away. Not sure she is the kind of musician we would want to hear beethoven concerto from)