Rigged violin competition: Losers should sue

Rigged violin competition: Losers should sue


norman lebrecht

February 07, 2018

The so-called ‘grand finalists’ in this week’s Singapore Violin Competition are all students of jury members:

Chisa Kitagawa, Japan – a student of juror Takashi Shimizu
Sergei Dogadin, Russia – a student of juror Boris Kuschnir
Oleksandr Korniev, Ukraine – a teaching assistant at YST Conservatory in Singapore and past student of Qian Zhou, chair of jury

Dogadin (pictured) has already been helped by Kuschnir to win two other prizes.

The result hardly matters.

What does mater is that 30 young violinists have been enticed to enter the Singapore contest under false pretences. They should hire a lawyer and sue for the return of their expenses.

They would be setting an important precedent.



  • Mr. P. says:

    Excellent idea!

  • Rodney Friend says:

    I don’t understand the problem here. Jurors are obviously of high quality, as are the contestants. It’s obvious that many paths will have crossed between both parties.

    Do you want students who’ve studied will non-distinguished teachers, or teachers who’ve only mentored low grade students ??

    Cream will always rise.

    • Sandora says:

      You started your comment with a good sentence. You should have stopped there.

    • David R Osborne says:

      Rodney, do you know what conflict of interest is, and more importantly, why it matters?

    • Musician by night says:

      There are plenty of high quality teachers in the world. It is terrible that the 3 finalists all have teachers on the jury, and it is certainly not a case of the cream rising. Watch the videos! It should be if your teacher judges a competition, then you simply can’t do that one competition. It would be better to have a little variety in the judging anyway. Frankly, the three jury members with students in the finals (Shimizu, Kuschner, and Zhou) are on so many juries throughout the year, and their students always end up in the finals. It is so blatant, and maybe if people start pointing it out, behavior will change.

    • Shawn says:

      There is a stark difference in the quality and level of playing between all the semi-finalists not admitted to the final 6 and almost all of the finalists. The jury has seemingly cut the best ones, and passed many of the lowest level competitors, who conveniently are all students of jury members.

      • Sandora says:

        Yes that is an old trick. To get rid of those who are better than the appointed winners right at the beginning of the contest.
        Even the rule wich does not allow judges to score their own students is not helpful.They can still score the rivals with extremely low points.
        It is a crime.

  • Violino says:

    Maybe the solution would be a Jury full of great musicians, who are not teaching anywhere.
    Frank Peter Zimmermann, Benjamin Schmid, or many Chamber musicians or Concertmasters who dont have a class!
    I heard that Benjamin Schmid even says himself, that when he knows a Student, He cant judged objective and doesnt give a Vote dir that Person!

    • Violist says:

      Yes that would be the ideal. But how many competitions can afford an all star line up like that? Having Kavakos Vengerov Znaider Ehnes on juries are almost once in a lifetime thing, and so far only Tchaikovsky Competition had the power to summon such a line up. And that competition was arguably one of the highest quality we’ve witnessed, but it was still rigged… namely the Russians who got in to that final…

      • Violino says:

        Yes of course, but Tchaikovsky is already know for to be “political”.
        And so far i know, Mr. Vengerov has an own class!
        Probably its never possible to make a political free Competition, as Long as Sponsors and teachers are already deciding who will win what Competition ans when..

  • Db says:

    The question is not whether competitors are students of jury members. This is virtually impossible to exclude. The question is how the judging process takes place and what rules the jurors have to abide by, especially regarding (former) students. Has the Singapore competition published its jury protocol?

  • Shawn says:

    Teaching assistant to the Chair of the jury? How is he allowed to even submit an application to this competition?

  • Alaric Balth says:

    If the violin competition scene is anything like the piano, winning a prize still guarantees nothing, even if the whole show is more rigged than the good ship Venus. According to the Alink-Argerich website, in 2017 about 230 “international piano competitions” took place, with 46 in Italy alone, followed by Germany with 26 and USA with 25. Multiply that by the number of “laureates”, sometimes two or more per prize, and you are looking easily at 1000 classical pianists per year claiming “competition wins” and looking for engagements (they never state which prize they won unless it was 1st). Waste of time and money for all except the jurors and organizers, who fill their pockets at the expense of the participants.

    • PROdigital Records says:

      Alaric: I don’t disagree at all with your premise: ie that there is very little to be gained by winning these so-called “competitions” in the big picture of career development. But please be careful when you try to prove it with mathematics. Don’t forget that successful competitors often win prizes in several contests in a given year.

  • Vienna1897 says:

    As the Winter Olympics are about to begin, this story reminds of the controversies that often arise in the figure skating competitions. And making judgements in that context seems almost concrete in comparison to assessing renderings of complicated, lengthy works of musical art in real-time.

    The corrupt premise upon which these events are based was nicely-summarized by Bartok: “Competitions are for racehorses”.

    • Helen says:

      Precisely, Vienna1897! And the quote by Bartok, which is right on the money, reminded me that I also read on this site that the recent Bartok Competition in Hungary was similarly crooked, with only students of the jury passing into the finals, and some stellar players being knocked out. It would be funny if it weren’t so tragic.

  • Christopher Daniels says:

    Shouldn’t there be an organization promoting good standards in music competitions that monitors and certifies these competitions so that they conform to the highest standards of transparency and correct judging procedures? Would Norman Lebrecht lead the effort to create such an organization? That would be a noble task.

    I have heard so many horrid stories about these competitions from young contestants and even some competition jurors disgusted with the corruption. It seems we live in an age of rampant corruption in the highest political circles and now we have to stomach it in what we would like to believe should a clearly meritorious pursuit–the advancing of the careers of worthy and very talented young musicians.