Just in: Marin Alsop to chair Van Cliburn competition

Just in: Marin Alsop to chair Van Cliburn competition


norman lebrecht

March 28, 2019

This is seriously positive news.

The last competition had Leonard Slatkin in the chair and he tolerated no dirty backroom deals between professors.

Marin will be no less rigorous.

press release:
FORT WORTH, Texas, March 28, 2019—The Cliburn announces today that Marin Alsop will be the jury chairman for the Sixteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, taking place May 28–June 12, 2021, at Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth, Texas USA. Widely considered one of the preeminent international music contests, the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition exists to share excellent classical music with the largest international audience possible and to launch the careers of its winners every four years.


  • nimitta says:

    Mixed feelings about this appointment, actually. While appreciative of Marin Alsop’s marvelously capacious and insightful musical mind, and expecting her tenure to be no less upright than Leonard Slatkin’s, I stumble over the fact that she’s a violinist and conductor by training – not a pianist.

    Of course, all conductors play the piano a bit, and any piano jury might well benefit to some degree from a pair of fresh ears – even those of a non-pianist. Still, it’s hard to imagine she has enough familiarity with the repertoire she’ll be judging to discern or appreciate certain aspects of the performances she’ll hear – particularly in regard to specific technical challenges and solutions they involve. I wish her and the Cliburn all the best, though.

    • MacroV says:

      I imagine she has worked with enough pianists to be able to tell the good ones from the great.

    • Madeline says:

      I totally agree with you.

    • Jack says:

      From the press release:

      “In addition to her role as jury chairman, she will conduct the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra with the six finalists during the Competition’s Final Round. As chairman, she will oversee the jury selection process, consult on jury rules and procedures, and set the tone and mandate of the jury; but she will abstain from voting throughout the Competition, except in the case of a tie after the Final Round.”

      Hope that sets your mind at ease.

    • debusschubertussy says:

      Last time I checked, a large part of a conductor’s career is working with pianists. Besides, most of the pianists at the Cliburn choose standard rep (yay for 2 dozen renditions of Rach 3), it’s not like she will be hearing any new or obscure repertoire.

    • pbar says:

      Slatkin, like Alsop, is not a pianist. He studied violin before studying conducting.

    • M2N2K says:

      Who cares about “technical solutions”? Musical result is what counts! There should not be anyone on a jury who plays the instrument that is being judged – just the finest musicians who listen how music is being communicated by contestants. At the very least, this would eliminate the dreaded teacher-student problem, but it also has a chance of producing truly interesting and exciting winners. If a technical problem has not been solved by a contestant, any fine musician will hear it.

  • Arthur Kaptainis says:

    I just pored over the press release. Lots of Alsop boilerplate but not a word about Slatkin.

  • Jennifer Hillman says:

    Pleasing to see Marin Alsop pictured, presumably at the time of her receiving an honorary fellowship at Newnham College, Cambridge, with Professor Dame Carol Black, Newnham’s Principal. Not quite sure of the relevance…..

  • Fliszt says:

    Alsap has conducted for the piano-finals of the Queen Elizabeth competition in Brussels, so she’s certainly familiar with the current crop of top piano talent. As for Slatkin, it must be said that he’s not much of a pianist – I’ve heard him fumble at the keyboard…

  • Wiggins says:

    Slatkin did hardly anything positive except remove the obvious stereotype. The most recent winner was already playing many two-piano recitals with one of the jurors, yet this detail was politely scrubbed from his bio in the competition. Everyone was so excited about the prospect of picking a winner who, finally, wasn’t affiliated with a jury member, and the result was the same as per previous years. Shameful, IMO.