Lutoslawski contest is driven off course

Lutoslawski contest is driven off course


norman lebrecht

February 11, 2018

Harumo Sato came first and Michiaki Ueno second in the biennial Witold Lutoslawski Competition in Warsaw.

The founding purpose of the competition reads:

The intention of this competition is to give young Polish cellists, up to age 24, an opportunity to present themselves to prominent cellists and cello professors from Poland and abroad and to compare their art of performance with their colleague-musicians from all over the world.

So that’s going well, isn’t it?


Lynn Harrell with Lutoslawski (c) Betty Freeman/Lebrecht Music&Arts


  • Wrong says:

    I call BS. After hearing Oliver Herbert play, hearing his immense expression and rich sound (not to mention he is highly unique and recognizable), I am beyond skeptical about this result. Who do the japanese ‘winners’ study with? Its a secret. And who is the japanese juror Kenji Nakagi? Never heard of him. We can’t find the competitors bios or who they studied with, nor can we listen to the winners and see why the jury picked who they did. If its a fix, which it likely is (look at that awful mascot, a telltale sign something shady is going on). We need to MAKE COMPETITIONS GREAT AGAIN and publish all individual scores, as well as ban all jury/student participation. Oliver is going to be a star regardless of whatever nonsense went on here, true talent will always win out in the end.

    • Jacob Shaw says:

      Hi there, to answer your questions from how I see it…

      – all bios were published in the program of the competition. So everything was public. Nothing “shady” as you mention. You could listen to the final stage of the competition on radio. And absolutely all stages were open to the public to attend. I don’t really see the relevance of the mascot…..

      – juror Kenji Nakagi won the competition in 2005 and is associate professor at Tokyo University of the Arts. (and a very very good cellist…..). You can listen to him online via a quick search on iTunes, YouTube or Google.

      – Harumo Sato and Michiaki Ueno study with Pieter Wispelwey and Kenji Nakagi (

      – Krystyna Wiśniewska was the highest placed Polish competitor, and won the special prize for the best performance of the competition piece (“Out”, by Dariusz Przybylski). She is a fabulous cellist.

      – Oliver Herbert plays fantastic, yes. And he was a favourite of many audience members that I talked to. Having been in his situation, to compete at competitions and come so far, yet be denied a “major” prize in the final rounds, I can tell you he will look back in some years and see that this was a fantastic experience. To play with a great orchestra in a wonderful hall, and experience such a great public as Warsaw has: I am sure great things await, it is just one event at the beginning of what I am sure will be a wonderful career.