All-male final, no Chinese, at first China International Music Competition

All-male final, no Chinese, at first China International Music Competition


norman lebrecht

May 17, 2019

They jury, who swear they have never taught any of the contestants, have come up with a very old-fashioned set of finalists. Two are from Juilliard. One is the grandson of the formidable Soviet pianist, Tatiana Nikolaev. None is a Chinese national.

Leonardo Colafelice, Italy, 23, Gnessin Moscow Special School of Music

Alexander Malofeev, Russia, 17 Bari Conservatory of Music

MacKenzie Melemed, USA, 24, Juilliard School

Sandro Nebieridze, Georgia, 18, Tbilisi State Conservatory

Arseny Tarasevich-Nikolaev Russia, 25, Moscow State Tchaikovsky Conservatory (pictured)

Tony Yun, Canada, 17, Juilliard School, Pre-College Division


The first prize is a record $150,000, about half a footballer’s weekly wage.

The CIMC jury is headed by Li-guang Wang, president of the China Conservatory of Music, and Yoheved Kaplinsky, chair of the piano department and artistic director of the Pre-College Division, The Juilliard School.


  • anonymous says:

    “They jury, who swear they have never taught any of the contestants”

    But conflicts of interest arise under other circumstances as well, the most apparent of which is when the co-chair of the jury is also the chair of the piano department and artistic director of the Pre-College Division at the Juilliard School, where Tony Yun is a student, who by the way has long and deep ties to the Chinese music establishment as represented by the other co-chair of the jury.

    Not to take anything away from Yun, who seems to have won every piano competition under the sun before he hit 16 including soloing with the Cleveland Orchestra, so bravo, he is formidably talented, but I assume so are the other finalists, so conflicts of interest are conflicts of interest and there really should be a clear international code of conduct regarding how to handle them.

    • V.Lind says:

      Isn’t Tony Yun Chinese, or partly? I know he was born in Toronto, but he studied in Beijing for several years before attending Juilliard. He was known as the Lang Lang of his school — a reference that suggests Chinese ancestry, otherwise he might have been called the Trifonov or some such. And he speaks extremely highly of Chinese piano teaching, which he said was the best in the world. He certainly has ties to China.

  • Natan says:

    “about half a footballer’s weekly wage” hahaha

    • Shimi says:

      Interesting perspective! Where were these comments and thumbs up when CSO was on strike? I forgot, back then that was greed.

  • william says:

    …. the First China International Music Competition scheduled to run from May 4 through 21, 2019 in Beijing.

    …. a first prize in an unprecedented amount of US$150,000. The second and third prizes will be US$75,000 and US$30,000 respectively. An international artists management company has been secured to arrange for three years of managed international tours for the Gold Medalist.

  • Daniel Poulin says:

    Expect the amazing young Russian Alexander Malofeev to be the unanimous winner.
    At 17 he is the youngest of the competitors. The Canadian Tony Yun is 18. Malofeev will be playing Mozart’s D Minor Concerto (No 20) today with a Chamber Orchestra from China and Prokofiev’s Concerto No 3 with The Philadelphia Orchestra and Nézet-Séguin if he makes it to the final round on Monday Evening. He is simply phenomenal.

  • Robert Groen says:

    The only one of the finalists I know is Alexander Malofeyev. He plays a brilliant Rachmaninov 3rd…..

  • Bill says:

    It’s spelled “Juilliard”

  • Rgiarola says:

    Old fashion? When talent is supposed to be outdated? Or we are joking about the real meaning of all this competition, Lebrecht? I like it. Let me help!

    They did not get any chinese at the final? This is prejudice for sure! Lol

  • MP says:

    You have the first two school info switched. Malofeev- Gnessin
    Colafelice- Bari

  • Dimo says:

    Finales in my opinion
    The order should have been reversed. mistakes made!

  • Douglas Kurz says:

    The tone of the article, as well as the comments below, are a bit off base. Neither gender nor nationality nor any other form of identity politics should pertain to music. As someone who has known the winner, Tony Yun, for several years in New York, I can attest to his amazing balance of elegance and refinement, poetry and brilliance, empathy and passion, lyricism and virtuosity. I have known for years that he would find a place on the world stage before long. I have no doubt that his prize was well deserved and well earned.

  • Roger Snook says:

    I regret to say, that as one who has followed each stage of the competition, I cannot agree with you. It was obvious to anyone who, unlike you, did not know or admire the competitors personally, that he was not the best of the three at any stage of the competition, and certainly not in the final. This is a great shame for the competition, for the true winner, and, sadly, for Tony Yun who will have to live with this debacle.

    • Douglas Kurz says:

      Roger, I have listened to all of the semifinal concerts, which is the best opportunity to hear everyone as a soloist. I personally would choose Tony Yun as the winner of that round, with Mackenzie Melemed a close second. I thought Alexander’s semifinal round was overloaded with heavy warhorses, some of which were not delivered with artistry. I would not even have advanced him to the finals. Of course, these things really are subjective. As for the concerto performances, judged strictly on the three Russian concerti, I might have given Alexander the edge. All of them are extraordinary talents with bright futures. Alexander is already heavily supported by Gergiev, Matsuev, and the Russian machine. I don’t know as much about Mackenzie, but I look forward to hearing all of them perform in New York in the future!