In Dublin, half the piano finalists are students of the jury

In Dublin, half the piano finalists are students of the jury


norman lebrecht

May 28, 2018

Welcome to Dublin, where the news travels slow.

Exactly half the contestants in the second round of the 11th Dublin International Piano Competition were students of jury members, according to our mole in the aisles.

In the semi-finals, it was 7 out of 12.

In the finals it is now two out of four.

The jury is chaired by John O’Conor.


We hope he will ensure fair play.





  • Pianocompetition says:

    No way! Absolutely impossible to have fair game. One of finalists have his former teacher and current teacher in the jury….

    • Deep South says:

      Those of us who have known John O’Conor and “his” Dublin Piano Competition for the last thirty years are anything but surprised … Indeed, we have come to expect it! Unfortunately, and regretfully, it will be a long time – if ever – before Dublin catches up with Leeds … PS: and Jane Carty is, as ever, in the wings …

  • clara says:

    And the other half of the competitors in the final round are from New England Conservatory in Boston.

  • La verita says:

    And hardly a distinguished jury – a collection of nobodies.

  • Anonymous says:

    It appears from their list of previous winners that a student of John O’Conor has made the finals in each of the past five (!) consecutive Dublin competitions.

  • Graeme says:

    Even at our Community Orchestra annual Secondary Schools Concerto Competion here is Sydney, we are scrupulous that we never have a teacher of any student entering on any of our various panels of adjudicators. We don’t pick them if we know, and we ask them to tell us if they have a conflict of interest.
    Goodness me, this is so blindingly obvious. How can reputable competitions not do this? Extraordinary.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      Graeme writes: “How can reputable competitions not do this?”

      Um…I think we have realised the key point.

  • Leslie Howard says:

    Sadly, no surprise. In the best competitions, it is absolutely forbidden for a candidate to be a present or past student of a juror (the odd masterclass excepted).

    • La Verita says:

      Yes, but in such cases it should be the juror who is removed, not the contestant! After all, competitions exist to benefit the contestants, not the jurors.

  • 88 says:

    Sure enough, O’Conor’s student took first prize.

  • JS says:

    It’s difficult to avoid these conflicts of interest in international competitions. It’s not a problem if there’s a system in place to stop jurors giving preferential treatment to their own students, like in the Chopin, for example, where the pianists’ teachers aren’t allowed to vote for them.

    Many pianists on the competition circuit have studied with several of the high profile teachers, who tend to show up on juries. In this competition there were also several students of other jury members such as Christopher Elton and Antti Siirala (a previous winner).

    If the jury has integrity and deals with these matters honestly, I suppose it’s the best we can hope for.

    I have to say that apart from the top few pianists the standard was fairly patchy (even in the semis), so if O’Conor encourages his best students to attend, the result might not be all that outrageous. I miss the early days of the competition when it seemed as if titanic battles were being fought all the way from round one.

    For me, the winner was a fairly obvious choice. It turns out that another of his teachers was on the jury as well, but he was outstanding in both the semis and the final. His Prokofiev 2 was sensational, except when the orchestra entered at the wrong time at the end of the cadence in the first movement -probably the most magnificent moment in the whole work!

  • Nordic says:

    A pity that this competition seems tarnished. I agree with the underlying sentiment that jurors, especially the chairman, should not have to judge their own students. It just isn’t right.

    Having said that, I could find no wrong in the final outcome, as far as the winner is concerned. The winner played the Prokofiev 2 absolutely convincingly. I had him as winner, too, though I would have preferred a different sequence for the other prize winners. I found it hard to understand why the American could walk away with 2nd prize – I found his playing overly raw and chiseled, missing all subtlety and sweetness of tone. I had him absolutely last of the finalists. In fact, I found all finalists, except for the winner, mediocre. A lot of correct notes, very little in the way of artistic expression though a lot of body movement was observed, as well as many problems relating to orchestra/soloist timing and interaction. All in all, a disappointment.

  • Shock_and_awe says:

    You can test your judgement against the jury’s as all semi-finals and finals are available at