A major international piano competition is distorted by its chairman

A major international piano competition is distorted by its chairman


norman lebrecht

November 12, 2017

Concerns are being raised about the forthcoming Bonn Beethoven Telekom International Competition, where the chairman is, as ever, the distinguished pedagogue Pavel Gililov. The competition was founded by Gililov in 2005.

The rules state clearly that ‘pupils of a jury member at the time of application, or those who have been pupils of a jury member for at least one year during the four years preceding the competition, are not eligible to enter.’

However, Professor Gililov’s students somehow always manage to enter, and usually to win.

Gililov has been professor at Cologne University and at the ever-troubled Mozarteum in Salzburg.

Here is his recent record as a jury chairman:

2016 Internationaler MozartWettbewerb Salzburg


  1. Saski Giorgini (Class Prof. Gililov)
  2. Yoonhee Yang (Class Prof. Koroliov)
  3. Julia Kociuban (Class Prof. Gililov, Salzburg)

2011 Internationaler MozartWettbewerb Salzburg


  1. Federico Colli  (Class Prof. Gililov)
  2. Ji-Hye Jung
  3. Xiaoxi Wu

2017 J.N. Hummel International Piano Competition, Bratislava


  1. Yu Nitahara  (Class Prof. Gililov)
  2. Kana Ito  
  3. Tatiana Dorokhova

2014 J.N. Hummel International Piano Competition, Bratislava


  1. Su Yeon Kim (Class Prof. Gililov)
  2. Agapi Triantafyllidi Class Prof. Gililov)
  3. Michael Davidov Class Prof. Gililov)



As for the Bonn Beethoven Telekom Competition, here is a selection of winners:


1st Prize Henri Sigfridsson (Class Prof. Gililov at the time of the competition)


1st Prize Jingge Yan (Class Prof. Gililov, soon after the competition)


1st Prize Soojung Ann (Class Prof. Gililov at the time of the competition)


1st Prize Filippo Gorini (Class Prof. Gililov, at the time of the competition)

And its all entirely against the rules…

Gililov, born in Donetsk, Ukraine, in 1950, left the Soviet Union in 1978 and settled in Cologne where, according to the official biography, ‘he re-ignited his passion for musical instruction’. And tightly controlled competitions, apparently.


  • John says:

    COMPETITIONS ARE RIGGED. It is as simple as that. All of them. And they are usually rigged before the competition even starts, in the auditions or preselection.
    I have no idea who has won any of the big competitions in recent years, because it really means nothing.

    So here is a message for contestants…

    If your teacher is on the preselection, on the jury, chairman of the jury, founder of the competition or if you or your teacher is affiliated in anyway and you win, hang your head in shame and embarrassment.

    • Chase Kimball says:

      I am Vice President of the Bachauer Foundation, and have been on the board for 15 years. I can assure you the Bachauer Competition is not rigged. We do not allow students of our judges to compete. If we did, I would resign. I can’t speak to other competitions

  • Ungeheuer says:

    Shameless spectacle of shamelessness. I’d be humiliated to be announced “winner” let alone include the “prize” in my CV or publicity blurbs.

  • Una says:

    Rigged in varying degrees and the jury colluding! Seen it …

    • John says:

      Yes – you are absolutely right, I should have made more mention of that. the Jury pool is a very big part.

      The reality is, if I was invited to be on the jury of a competition of any size, I would be very happy, and would be accepting knowing that….

      “Oh Mr chairman, your student is of exceptional talent. I don’t know HOW I could vote for anybody else, there was no other choice! People will say that the competition was not fair, but in this case, it would be unfair NOT to award your student first prize. His interpretations are so unique and wonderful. Oh this was amazing. I hope you will invite me back again. And on another note, have you been to Leipzig? We would love to have you there”

  • Apparently they rigged them in Ukraine so he figures he can get away with it in Germany as well. Seems Russia is exporting more than oil lately. Perhaps they should go back to the years when they wanted nothing to do with the rest of the world??

  • Theodore McGuiver says:

    I don’t follow this kind of thing avidly, but I’ve never heard of any of these winners. Do they have careers? I’m prepared to be shot down as I can’t even be bothered to look.

  • sofia askona says:

    Dear Norman,

    Check out the results of Viotti competition 2015 where he was chairman… all the same 😉

    • norman lebrecht says:

      He was not always chairman there, sometimes just jury member. But yes: the results are the same.

    • DQ says:

      Dear Sofia,

      You know very well about the Viotti 2015. Perhaps you are a participant? You don’t agree with the results? I can understand different opinions. But what is the surprise here? Are you shocked that Ilya Maximov, winner of top prizes in Maria Canals, the Scottish competition, Iturbi Competition and Hilton head competition, won yet Another prize? I don’t see any surprise in here. He is a very fine artist and talented musician. By the way, all those previously mentioned prizes were won by him while he was studying with Dmitri Alexeev, long before he went to Gililov.

  • Mat Grx says:

    The same article can be wrote regarding Arie Vardi.

  • Gililovforever says:

    This report or any other will not change a thing. These crooks operate for decades, the students are often only interested in competition success ( at any price, sleeping with judges incl. ) and artistic integrity is often non existent.
    So the system works, lets not shed crocodile tears over a corrupt part of business.

  • Igor says:

    Dear Mr. Lebrecht,

    I have read all your major books and I really like your research. But this topic against one person is not convincing me: check all major competitions (piano/violin/voice/cello/etc) started ing from Tchaikovsky or Busoni. It is everywhere so. In Busoni once – under the same rule of teacher student relation – a winner was student of all the members of the Jury. So… nothing new. It would be an interesting search for your next book. Best

    • norman lebrecht says:

      No, it’s not the case in all competitions. Chopin has been clean in recent years. So have Tchaikovsky, BBC Cardiff, Menuhin and others. We need to raise the standard so that all major contests are uncorrupted.

      • John says:

        Was it not 19 Russians who made it through to the first round of the Tchaikovsky? Yes, the home country is traditionally granted more entrants, but two thirds!?!?

        And Masleev was and is a respectable pianist, but he was not the winner. There were many far more worthy.

        However, Masleev was representative of the average pianist when one is judged by such a jury.

        Additionally, It always saddens me the bias against girls in Russia. I remember one major teacher saying to his student, it is good, but always remember that you are just a girl.

        Also – Matsuev should have been there the entire competition.

        And regarding previous competitions – I agree with you that Trifonov is an extraordinary talent. But his teacher should not have been on the selection jury. As it is, he has too close a tie to Gergiev.

        It may be a cleaner competition, but it is not clean.

      • Maura says:

        Funny… just wanted to ask – since when Chopin competition is “clean”? Everyone knows that this is one of the most rigged competitions nowadays…

        • norman lebrecht says:

          All judges marks are published immediately. There is no easy chance of connivance.

          • Maura says:

            Marks are being published stating from the first round of the competition. All preselections (and it’s a long process) are made without publishing results to the public… and anyway – do you think that published marks are stopping judges from making their own business? Does it imidiatelly mean that competition is clean? I don’t think so…
            and btw. Tchaikovsky is one of the most corrupted competitions in the world…

            We live in times where all competitions are rigged. The article like that suppose to be written about at least 90% of the teachers but for those stories we would need to write a trilogy… Gililov is only a small drop in all of this…

      • Jon Dumbles says:

        Are you kidding…The last Tchaikovsky competition just from watching alone was not fair. If any of them were to be truly fair they would vote out in the public and on their own after the last contestant has played. The last Chopin competition was decided after the jury went and talked with one another. It is a given fact that if someone has won a major prize at another large and well known competition they will be given a prize at the contest they are currently entered in. There seems to be a fear of not angering another competition’s choice of winners and its jurors. The major competitions still award prizes to those who have won a medal at another contest. The last Tchaikovsky was not fair in any way. The jury goes back and decides after they talk…the voting should be done out in the open and without talking behind closed doors. People need theses competitions for both the money they offer and the hope that they will bring needed engagements and management. Let’s face facts, in today’s time playing the piano for a living is simply not a reality for most.

  • Hugh Mather says:

    One way of making the playing field slightly more level is to publish the marks awarded by each jury member, as in the recent Darmstadt Chopin competition (http://www.chopin-gesellschaft.de/Impressions%20of%20the%20XI%20International%20Chopin%20Piano%20Competition_Rev1(Roger%20M%20Nellist).pdf ). Even here they didn’t publish marks for the final round, and the winner was only placed 5th in the first two rounds. But it’s a step forward in making competitions less murky affairs.

  • Gisela says:

    Schumann Düsseldorf competition this year the same but he was just a jury member, not the chairmnan.

  • Leonel Morales says:

    I am honestly offended I am not mentioned in here…

  • Arturos Gliffomunidis says:

    What a disgrace! I saw this article coming dozens of years ago!

  • Tino says:

    I was this Summer in Cagliari and I saw Maestro Gililov teaching Beethoven to one of his students. To my surprise I see that he is now a competitor for the Beethoven Competition. I wonder if this is allowed in the first place…

  • Brain Punisher says:

    I find this article really dishonest and disrespectful. Mr. Lebrecht, as you seem to be really interested in justice, please, check the CVs of many of these winners and please publish here the list of prizes they won without being Gililov in the jury. It won’t hurt also that you review other Gililov’s students trajectory, many are major prizewinners at quite important competitions.
    Publishing such things must have some more serious criteria. Or is there some kind of personal interest in it for you?

    This is just a rational thought one has after reading this.

  • Kabo says:

    Not surprised to see Siegfried Mauser in the jury. After the scandal and his resignation as the rector of the Mozarteum he is probably short of engagement. Gililov as a good friend he is, invited him to join perhaps, as long as he play by his rules. Jacques Rouvier is also there. Quite a strong “Mozarteum” team in the jury!

  • Xavier says:

    The net of connections between jury members and prize winners has only gotten harder to understand. All minor competitions are a racket of jury members selling master classes.

    In more important competitions, the trick is to disqualify the real talent in the qualifiers. This ways the audiences are left to bear the preselected mediocrities with ‘connections”.