Why the chief’s pet did not win the competition

We’re hearing of a huge row in Hannover over the status of the Sibelius concerto played by Cosima Soulez Larivière, student of the competition’s founder, Krzysztof Wegrzyn, in the final round.

Apparently it’s the only one of the six final performances that has not been posted on Youtube.

So we thought we’d help the debate by posting the finale here.

UPDATE: The complete performance can be found on the competition website (which few will visit), but not on Youtube as a lasting record.

For those who object to our posting, let me point out that every Saturday, a footballer younger than this girl misses an open goal. The clip of that miss will be repeated and analysed ad nauseam. Should it be banned from TV? Of course not. The footballer, if he’s good enough, will learn from his mistake and be strengthened by the exposure.

This violinist entered a competition under implicit pressure from her teacher, its director. IMusic competitions are a tough part of the entertainment sector. Those who enter do so at their own risk. The rest of us have a duty to try – against overwhelming odds -to keep the process clean.

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  • She looks extremely uncomfortable, and just getting the notes in seems too much for her. (I’m a listener, not an instrumentalist, but this is a concerto I know reasonably well.)

  • This competition has been totally corrupt. Just look at the scam behind Alexandra Conunova who was a favourite student of Wegrzyn and was pushed to get the top prize not so long ago!

  • When students are caught up in this kind of favoritism it is usually not their fault, and there is little they can do about it. Far more often than not, they are being manipulated. I feel we are pillorying a victim here.

  • This whole thread is very cruel and unnecessary. It’s exacerbating an already horrible feeling surrounding these competitions.

    It seems she is stressed in this final and it isn’t her finest, but she’s a wonderful violinist who doesn’t deserve to be drawn into this backlash.

    • Very well said indeed, Emily. I would add that Ms Lariviere was already singled out as what NL now terms KW’s “pet” in an earlier post, before the time came for this performance. Given the ubiquity of social media, etc., in our time, I am hard put to think she was unaware of this. Indeed, that SD is nigh on universally read in the classical music world is something we are often reminded of by its blogger. Like Fox News and such, it is also quoted elsewhere, for, though by no means authoritative, it is in the same way certainly influential. And so, given this, it would hardly be surprising if Lariviere was indeed abnormally stressed and gave less than her best. Here, she was set up for failure. Had she won, the resulting post would have read differently, but it would have been equally denigrating.

    • Agree entirely Emily…this post merely reinforces the notion held by some that music is a blood sport.

    • Well there we have it – comments from armchair ‘experts’! Anyone considered the effect this debate will have on Cosima Soulez Larivière? This is bear-baiting of the worst kind. Shame on all of you…

      • Could not agree more with you John. I write an immense amount of detailed criticism for high profile international competitions and festivals in Poland and would never ever stoop to ad hominem criticism and discussion as is evident here. One can never know the full story let alone the defining reality of the situation. Demotivating and destructive in the extreme – not constructive in any way. As the great 17th century dramatist and architect Sir John Vanbrugh commented on the marathon completion of Blenheim Palace ‘Good manners and soft words have brought many a difficult thing to pass.’ Encouragement to the young and highly talented please!!

  • Wegrzyn has been manipulating results in Hannover since the competition’s inception. Every decent conservatory student and teacher in the world knows this. *faux shock*

    Zealous competition violinists like Cosima Soulez Lariviere and Alexandra Conunova go to Hannover to study with him specifically to garner his favor in the Joachim Competition.

    Had Cosima even remotely played the correct notes here, Wegrzyn would have surely ensured she was awarded 1st prize.

    It’s widely whispered that he changed the jury results at the 2012 competition to ensure Alexandra Conunova received 1st prize.

    The whole thing stinks.

    • So how about Frank Huang, winner in 2000 of the Joachim competition, Naumburg in 2003, and now concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic? Wasn’t associated with Wegrzyn or his gang.

      Or how about Michiko Kamiya, winner in 1997? Not a Wegrzyn student.

      Robert Chen, winner in 1994 and now concertmaster of the Chicago Symphony. Not a Wegrzyn student.

      Antje Weithaas, winner in 1991, not a Wegrzyn student.

      Suyeon Kim, winner in 2006. Not a Wegrzyn student.

      I don’t know who Fumiaki Miura, the 2009 winner, studied with, but he won the audience prize as well as 1st place. Did Wegrzyn somehow fix that?

      As for Cosima’s video not being posted on youtube, it’s available for viewing on the competition website, along with everyone else’s performances. Not exactly hidden from sight! Maybe someone simply screwed up and didn’t post it, or youtube had some sort of failure. Wouldn’t be the first time such a thing has happened!

    • ‘Remotely played the correct note here’? Did you not recognise the piece? Sibelius violin concerto – finale. Listen to Menuhin on an off day if you wish to feel discomforted.

    • Curtis, I agree to you the thing with manipulation. Lariviere played very wrong!

      But Conunova is a very fine violinist, who definitely deserved to win. OK, she was a Wegrzyn student…. but way too good, in order not to win.

  • Cosima does not deserve all the carry on about this. It is not her fault regarding the politics of the competition. She played her best and is a wonderful violinist who will go far. So let’s leave her name out of it for the future.

    • Do you have a crystal ball? Because nobody can know if she really “will go far”. Many young talents have gone nowhere.

    • totally agree with you. Cosima is innocent of this dirty politics. She won the favor of Wegrzyn but did not win the prize with her best performance at the competition and she was given a prize she deserves. The only way Cosima can wash away the scandal imposed to her is to upload more good performance in the future concerts and no more competitions.To prove her with concerts and not manipulated competitions

    • Why do all the comments in favour of Cosima use the same wording “she is a wonderful violinist”? She is interesting, but her sound production is poor and she is often playing out of tune.
      If she wants to leave her name outside and her video not to be shown on YouTube she could simply give back her price (including the 30.000€). Then she deserves not to be named anymore….

  • I hope you sleep well at night, Norman, berating and utterly undermining such a talented musician, at least she knows a great deal more about music than you do.

  • Speaking as a professional violinist, this is a fine performance, full of energy and the right amount of grab you by the ***, as is necessary for this concerto. True, not ‘perfect’, but perfectionism is so boring, people… Or do you want to hear everything the same way over and over again? It seems to me the people bashing on her here have absolutely no f*cking idea what it is to stand there, and why we do it… As for the jury nepotism… Sure, it’s wrong to push your candidate, but there again, objectivism is a weird duck in this world of opinions, as this website is a fine example of!

    • Totally agree, i honestly think her Sibelius was temperamental and breathtaking. It was rather sloppy, but that just made me giggle and aww. Blame the competition for anything you have against the result, but watching her Sibelius was a time well spent for me. I honestly couldn’t stand listening to the 4th prize winner’s Tchaikovsky, too caffeinated for me haha.

  • I, for one, will not watch the video. This post seems calculated to expose the performer to ridicule. It is gratuitous and cruel to do so.

    Much as I generally applaud Norman for scrutinising possible conflicts of interest on the competition circuit, this post simply goes too far. Whatever might be said about conflicts of interest, the moral responsibility should not be foisted upon her or on other performers in a similar boat.

  • Norman,
    As one of your regular readers who has even contributed by sending things over to you once or twice I must say I’m rather disappointed by this post. This is obviously a fine violinist who happens to not play her best in this particular instance, and as much as I agree with you most of the time when you talk about the very sad state of international music competitions I think it’s deeply irresponsible and very cruel of you to post this video, perhaps even without the soloist’s permission. I share your views and appreciate your efforts to publicly question how and why competition prices are awarded, but attacking someone like this just for being somebody’s student only undermines your work. I want to think that you are much better than this!

    • This does not require Cosima’s approval. She very well knew that all her performances will be on the Internet and watched by many. And it is exactly what she wanted. For the record, this isn’t out of her norm. She does not have any abilities to play Sibelius. That is obvious in her other rounds as well, but not as clear, because she did not perform any virtuosic pieces

  • In trying to humiliate the corrupt professor, you are making the mistake of publicly humiliating a young musician who deserves a chance to live down this dreadful performance. That isn’t fair. I love your site, but this particular post is shameful. The girl didn’t win first prize; there is no need to run it in, please! Here is writing as a fellow young musician who has had my fair share of frustrating performances too. Cheers!

    • She didn’t win first price but a third place in such a competition is still very valuable. And there were others who deserved it more to get to the finals! Cosima is an adult and she knew before that this competition gives you a huge visibility which could boost your career. But you have to deliver at least a solid performance which she didn’t. The Sibelius was at the level of any Bachelor student…

  • Mere tittle-tattle all of this. I’ve added some personal thoughts to the various negative ‘appraisals’ from others – i.e. those who can give us a handsome public demonstration of how the Sibelius should be played. Has Cosima been asked about the removal of the Youtube video – and whether she entered the competition expecting any favours? She might well admit (as we, as performers often have to) that this was not her finest hour….but this nasty post will do much damage to her psychologically if not professionally (for she is, from the available evidence a fine player). Corruption at major competitions is endemic but it is the organisers/artistic directors who should be receiving the flak, not the performers.

  • Dear Mr. Lebrecht,
    I don’t know how a well-educated person like yourself could find it acceptable to call someone “the Chief’s pet” and to compare musicians to football players. She didn’t play well, the performance was not what a third place in a major competition should deliver, but it is not her decision to get the third prize, and i am sure, she is very frustrated about her performance. She works hard and she is devoting, just like many others, but sometimes, pressure just get the better of us, and people need time and experience to grow. To post a video that is obviously the worse of all her performances and to ridicule a young musician like this is a very irresponsible act. A musician need to grow not only physically but also mentally, i couldnt imagine what damage this will do to a young musician who is still trying to find her way. Even though you are a critics or a commentator, and you might feel it is your duty to write such thing, lets not forget, to be a musicians, one has to be empathetic and has to care about others. And last but not least, it is always easier to talk than to do, i think we can all agree on that!

  • so i listened. and honestly i think she does very well. so fine she misses a few notes. it’s live performance. having played this concerto a few times let me tell you: it’s about as hard as it gets. (walton is probably more difficult, but beyond walton i can’t think of a harder violin concerto in purely technical terms.) i think most violinists will concur: sibelius makes tchaik a walk in the park. and that last mvmt is minimally scored. and one is very conscious that the violin section is barely playing and just listening to you as you aim into the stratosphere. as for the politics of competitions i just kinda ignore all that. i’ve done some. you win, you lose. life goes on. you’re neither a better musician the day you won nor the day you lost.

  • fine, there is paganini 2 and wienewski f sharp- both insanely difficult technically but not musically. both are quite empty to me and are frankly never played.

  • I resisted listening to this at first, thinking from the early comments (and Norman’s post) that it was going to be terrible and embarrassing. I didn’t want to watch it, just like you might — some of you — resist watching a video of a pedestrian getting hit by a car. But there were enough contradictory comments, and enough idiotic ones, that I thought I’d risk it.

    Actually to me she sounds like a really good player. She had one noticeable bobble toward the beginning. Oh well. The conductor didn’t help at the beginning by (a) not taking the tempo she wanted and (b) not going along with her right away when she tried to speed it up. Maybe he tried and the orchestra was unresponsive, or maybe he thought he was in charge of the piece.

    There were a couple of spots later on — toward the end, it looked like her violin was slipping? — but nothing cringeworthy. Tonally it was a good mix of luscious (I bet the slow movement was gorgeous) and aggressive (it’s not Mozart). Musically it was very exciting: it’s a relentless piece, really one “stunt” after another, and the soloist has to maintain a high level of intensity even in the relatively more “relaxed” moments.

    I wonder if the more negative comments on here came because of the first 45 seconds and/ or because she looks flushed and uncomfortable (so it must not be going well). Maybe people don’t realize that exciting, committed live performances often have imperfections in them, which get edited out even in “live” recordings; and a lot of players look uncomfortable when they play. I don’t know this violinist — never heard of her before Norman made her a poster-child for corruption — but she strikes me as maybe someone who enjoys performing more than competing.

  • Before that botched concerto, she played well, but this particular performance was indeed pre-college level, especially compared to that of the Ukrainian guy who also played a (very good) Sibelius. Anyways, the good thing is that the puppet master is gone. As for Cosima, I don’t agree with people saying she’s also “a victim”. Having experienced the politics-ridden, corrupt world of competitive classical music in my youth, I’ve seen my share of this, and most of those “teacher’s favorites” are not innocent, trust me. They know exactly what they are doing. My two cents.

  • Well she leaves her share of cruelly hard passages on the floor so to speak, and a few that are not so hard, but also does really quite well with some others, and all at good risky tempos. The concerto is not beyond her in my view. Maybe Heifetz could play it perfectly in concert (actually no maybe about it, there is a 1951 “live” broadcast with Mitropoulos on Music & Arts CD766-2) but most “live” Sibelius Concertos in concert or on radio leave notes on then floor, or at least the incautious ones (the only ones worth hearing) do.

  • When I google “hannover joachim” the first hit is the competition’s website. If I want to find out something about a competitor’s performance or the competition, that’s where I’ll go first, and I suspect I’m not alone. As for it not being a lasting record, the website’s video catalog goes back 3 competitions; were they even making videos available prior to that?

  • I am reminded of a comment made after one of Eugene Fodor’s last recitals: “He played pretty well but you could see the great and brave effort he put into it.”

  • She plays like that normally. It’s not because of nerves or pressure. She became A teacher’s pet by sucking up and got herself in the competition. No one pressured her to enter. Anyone who has met her probably knows that she is not a young innocent victim. She knew exactly what she wanted and almost got it. She just didn’t expect that people actually could hear…

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