Meet the Carl Nielsen finalists – with one caveat

Meet the Carl Nielsen finalists – with one caveat


norman lebrecht

March 28, 2019

It’s down to the last three on each instrument.

I can now confess that I picked two of the violin finalists on hearing them at Odense in the first round, where the judges were concealed behind a screen. The result thoroughly vindicates that decision. The violin section of the competition was as clean as it could possibly be.


Johan Dalene (18, Sweden)
Anna Agafia Egholm (22, Denmark)
Marie-Astrid Hulot (21, France)


Rafael Adobas Bayog (21, Spain)
Joséphine Olech (24, France)
Marianna Julia Żołnacz (19, Poland)



Aron Chiesa (22, Italy)
Víctor Díaz Guerra (22, Spain)
Blaz Sparovec (24, Slovenia)


There is one glaring anomaly in these results. The clarinet jury was all-male. So are the finalists.

You can watch the final round live on Slipped Disc this weekend.


  • Malcolm James says:

    ‘There is one glaring anomaly in these results. The clarinet jury was all-male. So are the finalists.’

    Sorry, but going on a single result involving a small number of contestant tells you very little. Yes, there MAY be bias, but there’s absolutely no proof.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      The violin jury was transparent. So far as I could tell, so was the flute panel.

      • Malcolm James says:

        And what evidence is there that the clarinet jury was any different?

      • Bill says:

        The only thing established here is that you happened to like the performances of 2 of the violin finalists. That in no way proves they were selected fairly.

        Trump supporter: “my preferred candidate won the election, providing it was fair and transparent.”

        Still not convinced no one could possibly be selected on anything but artistic merit despite the judges being behind a screen? Remember that it took some time before people realized that choice of footwear when playing behind a screen in orchestra auditions could unintentionally disclose the gender of a candidate.

      • Bruce says:

        Questions for Mr. Lebrecht:

        – Were the clarinet & flute judges also behind a screen for the first round, or only the violin panel?
        – Were there screens for any subsequent rounds?
        – Did you think there were any female clarinetists who should have been in the finals, based on their performance in the semifinals?
        – Did any of the male finalists not deserve to be in the finals (i.e. a less qualified male advanced over a more qualified female)?

        I know it sounds like I’m being an apologist for discrimination, but I’m really not (or at least I don’t want to be). It’s just that there are questions that should be considered. I’ve been on many orchestral audition panels that were conducted completely behind a screen. Someone can play fabulously in the first round and fall apart later when the pressure mounts; or someone may barely squeak through into the second round, and the shot of confidence makes them play better the next time. (I’ve also been both of those people in auditions 😛 ) So, even though someone might have been amazing early on, they could have run into trouble later. It happens.

        I realize you only called it an “anomaly” and stopped short of making any accusation; but the implication is hanging there in the air, just as my questions imply that everything was fine and you are just being a politically correct SJW. I also realize you are not of the “women should be promoted whether they’re good or not” persuasion, so it’s important to be fair even as you wonder about/ investigate possible unfairness.

        (Also: I talk too much)

      • Tristan says:

        I hope you plan to respond to these questions, Mr. Lebrecht. Please elaborate.

      • aj says:

        Transparent or not ,it means absolutely
        nothing,the last place one looks for originality
        of interpretation is contests like these. Not for one second could the likes of Kreisler or
        Szigeti last the first round.

  • Larry W says:

    Dalene’s Mozart concerto was totally captivating. His playing is in the same vein as Joshua Bell.

  • MacroV says:

    Only the violin jury was behind a screen?

    Even if no screen, one competition is hardly evidence of anything. Eight of the 24 contestants are women. If you were to do random selection – say multiple iterations of drawing 3 names out of a bowl blindly – there would be many instances where all three names would be male (and some where all are female). Perhaps a statistician can explain in greater detail.

    I’m surprised Han Kim isn’t in the finals; he’s an amazing player (and already in the Finnish RSO).

  • steven holloway says:

    To furnish that caveat is uncommonly kind hereabouts. If one can be bothered to take an interest in competitions these days, I have long thought the best approach to winkling out someone worthy is to ignore the judges’ decisions, as well as those of today’s, ahem, ‘critics’, certainly of bloggers, and most of all, of course, recording companies’ A and R reps. These last are the ones with the opera glasses, invaluable for seeing whether competitors are a fit for the company’s store of halter tops and tight pants, as befits the gender. Should I pay attention to a competition, I just zero in on the one(s) I think best, albeit they may be gone by round three, and hope that some happy twist may furnish them with a concert and recording career.