Ousted Lang Lang pianist publishes his exchanges with the jury

Ousted Lang Lang pianist publishes his exchanges with the jury


norman lebrecht

May 02, 2019

The Australian pianist Shuan Hern Lee has asked us to share his response to being evicted from the Lang Lang piano competition in Sjenzhen this week, as detailed previously on Slipped Disc. It takes the form of an open letter to a jury member.

Letter from Shuan Hern Lee:
Dear Maestro Pompa Baldi,
I’m very upset for what happened in ShenZhen.
I found it deeply saddening to read your article on Slippedisc.com, especially when its from someone I truly respect. It was only after reading this article, that I have fully understood what has happened. Unfortunately, for us all there was a huge amount of miscommunication and misleading information from the committee.

To be very honest, I entered this competition only because I believe in and trust the professional opinion of you, as well as a few other international jurys’ reputation. Therefore, we trusted its higher and more reliable level of fairness, thus, deciding to enter my first international competition in China. It was totally unbeknownst to me, that such things would actually happen, from the committee and organisation. I have heard and experienced last minute rule changes in the past, on the scene of international contests, but this was not only a simple rule changing problem. None of this would have happened if we were told that before the final round, we were only allowed to play 2 pieces.

You are probably extremely surprised to find me acting this way in this week’s competition, and you may think of me as a very arrogant person because I seemingly did not want to leave out the third piece. I am very sorry if I have offended you and the other jury members in this way, as I have never intended to break things up like this. I sincerely apologise solely to you and to the jury members for any disrespect caused. However please understand, that all this could have been avoided, if it were not for the committee’s heavy lack of clear clarification of rule changes.

Personally, I do not support the idea of last minute changes in rules. I believe that the majority of competitors are like me, studying the rules and regulations very thoroughly, before deciding whether or not to enter, and what repertoire to choose. This is because competitors prepare for months and years, just to compete in less than a handful of international competitions. Changing of rules at the last minute can sometimes be very unfair for certain competitors, as each competitor uses different tactics or strategies in every different competition they enter. If a last minute rule change, unmentioned in the original regulations, applies to all competitors, it may still cause certain competitors’ strategies to be disadvantaged.

However, my frustration with this competition, does not lie within the fact that the rule changed at the last minute. If the rule changes had been clearly stated to me, even at the last minute, I would most definitely have obeyed. Even if you have been told, or think that what I state in this letter is untrue, the things that you have heard from the people around you and the organisation, may not be the same as what the committee have informed me. I really do not know if you have been told false accusations, from the organisation and committee or from other parties, but i can fully assure you, that we have not spoken a single ‘untrue’ word within this whole issue.

First of all, we were not informed that every competitor will be playing only the concerto and the chinese piece, and that the third piece will be definitely excluded, in the final round. Below, for proof, is the entire conversation screenshotted from WeChat, that the committee and my mother had. (It will be better if you could find a few chinese people who have good English translation skills, who are not from the organisation, or have anything to do with the competition, to translate this.) What you will see, is the last conversation we ever had via message, with the committee.

I agree to what you said about this being strange, sad and seemingly absurd, and I am honestly sorry that we all feel that way. But please read the clear reasons behind why I behaved like that. ____________________________________________________________
This is the translation of the conversation:
29th of April 2019
6:54 pm
Committee: Tomorrow’s junior group arrangement:
The competition starts at 9:00 in the morning. Tomorrow morning, please gather at the North Gate at 8:15 and sign in at 8:30.
Performer playing order
First: Concerto
Second: Chinese works
If there is enough time, you can play more
7:08 pm
Us: Do we have to follow the order? We would like to play the chinese piece first, and then concerto? Is the remaining time still included for our 25 minutes performance? Or is it because of too many competitors so you cut the time short?
8:11 pm

Committee: Juries decided.
(At this stage, they did not directly answer any of our questions at all.)
8:22 pm
Us: But there will definitely be 25 mins for everyone’s performance right?
Because when we first enrolled, We asked few times, and the rules said that the performance order is to be decided by ourselves. But for now order is not important. Will there definitely be 25 mins for us to play? They wont stop us before 25 mins right? Otherwise wouldn’t that be unnecessary to ask us to prepare the last piece in the first place? Please confirm this. Thank you.
(We asked so many questions, because we needed to know whether or not to still practice Prokofiev toccata for the next day. If they did not state, ‘If there is enough time you can play more’, we wouldn’t ask all these questions.

8:36 pm, we tried to call them, in order to clarify this issue, but nobody answered the call.
Us: We are hoping that the committee will not change the rules at the last minute. (We were really hoping to communicate with them.)
(After one hour we still did not know what to practice for the next morning.)
9:45 pm Committee: We did not change the rule. It’s just that the Jury members had a meeting and decided. (What did they decided? They did not state.) Because the chinese piece and the concerto, is important for the prizewinning decision, therefore, we need to listen to it first. (They still did not say that the third piece is canceled.)
Us: Program order of the pieces won’t matter. But would like to know if we still can have 25 mins to perform? As long as they won’t stop us before we reach 25 mins.
Committee: Whether or not the bell rings, is up to the chairman of the jury.
(At this stage, they still have not answered our questions, and did not tell us that we were only allowed to play two pieces.)
Us: Did the rules state that(the jury could cut us off within the 25 mins)? (Quoted the repertoire section in the rules, that every performance was maximum 25 mins) So does that mean that you shortened the competitors performance time and changed the regulations? If you ring the bell after the 25 mins when the competitor is still playing, there is no problem. But we do not think it is very fair to ring the bell before 25 mins, because in your regulations, you stated that everyone had a amount of 25 mins to perform.
(At this point, we asked all this questions because we did not know that everyone had to play ONLY 2 PIECES. We only thought that it was calculated by the jury chairman’s (one person) preferences. We also thought clearly that it was calculated by time, not by the sheer amount of pieces.)

Committee: Competitor parent. You can contact the chairman of the jury personally and discuss this matter. We are only in charge of notifying the competitors. (This is a very unusual request. Although we do not understand why they want us to communicate with the chairman of the jury directly.)
Us: Is it possible to communicate with her? (We try to follow the committee’s instructions to clarify the matter.)

10:02 pm (We felt that this was becoming more confusing, and that we needed clarifications urgently. We needed to confirm this, so that we can mentally and physically prepare for tomorrow’s repertoire. Our competition was scheduled very early in the next morning, and it was already turning late by this point of our conversation.)(Please note, we are foreigners in China, and there is no access to pianos around us to practice in the early morning. Therefore, in the next morning, we only have 20 mins before we go on stage. We really needed to clarify this desperately so that we know what to practice beforehand.)
Us: If so, please give her(the chairman of the jury panel) contact to me.
We have entered more than 10 country’s competition. We have met with situations where organisers enter more finalists than the amount planned. But we have never met with situations where the organisation shortened finalist’s repertoire time, due to the extra numbers of finalists. Changing the time in such a last minute manner, is not fair, and not following regulations.
Because competitors choose repertoire according to repertoire time. Whether it is 20 mins or 25 mins, will have totally different repertoire. We totally understand if you bell us to stop after 25 mins. But to stop us before 25 mins, is not right. We have entered 30+ international competitions. Including Tchaikovsky, Cleveland, etc, but to be this last minute, and to change the time limit, is our first time. “If there is enough time, you can play more” what does this mean? Do these kind of things only happen in China?

No matter what happens to the results, if the committee does not follow even its own rules, it is very disappointing. (The reason we said this, is because if we knew in advance that we would be solely judged on the chinese piece and concerto, and not the third piece, we would have chosen a much harder chinese piece, instead of ‘Sunflower,’ a simple 2 minute piece. I think it is very normal for us to think that this change might affect the result. We became more asserting, because we really wanted a solid answer, and clarifications like ‘yes’ or ‘no’, which in the end, we never received.)
10:08 pm
Committee: The things that you say, we will pass on. However, we never said that we would cut short the time limit. Only that for this competition, these two pieces are the most important, and should be listened first. These few days, there have been many contestants that just played 20 mins. Sometimes, they even went over a bit, and we did not stop them. We are humans not robots.
(This was one of the most misleading part of this conversation. It sounded to us as if, we were allowed to play all three pieces! If other contestants did not get stopped exceeding the time limit even by a bit, we should be fine! Because our repertoire is definitely under 25 minutes!)

10:15 pm (However, by now, we still had a hunch that they were going to shorten the time, therefore, we really wanted to make sure that the hunch is either right or wrong, as they still did not directly clarify at all.)
Us: Originally there was supposed to be only 6 people entering the finals. In the end, there was 10. We have no problem with that at all. But cutting the time limit, changing the rules, has a big problem. If we had known that there were only two pieces, we would have chosen another piece.(instead of sunflower) Competitor’s repertoire and choice of pieces will always be based on the time limit. The choice of pieces or repertoire will definitely affect the result. If we were stopped within our given 25 mins, we will definitely make a complaint. Hope you communicate with the jury chairman, before the finals begin, in order to avoid unfairness.

Whatever order of the piece, we do not mind. (As long as we get 25 mins to perform)
Committee: Then you guys can follow the jury’s decision, and perform in order. Regarding to your concern, we will pass it on.

(We have tried asking questions, probing answers, to no avail. Not even a single ‘yes’ or ‘no’ has been established at this point. What was the jury’s decision? It was never clearly stated. So by this stage in our conversation, we thought that we could play 3 pieces, just that they might cut us off at a shorter time limit than 25. However, unfortunately, we were heavily mislead by the committee and we guessed wrong.)
Us: But the rules of a system or a game, cannot be changed on the spot. If a game is like that, who will dare to play it? Please pass the message on urgently before the finals.
(We immediately quoted and sent the picture and from the rule no. 3.) “Competitiors should play from memory. Order of performance should be decided by competitors themselves.”
Actually you have changed two rules, our chinese piece is only suitable to play as the first piece.
(They did not reply whether if our statements and questions were correct or not. After this, we did not get any more messages from them, and nothing they had said, clearly stated that anything was confirmed.) ___________________________________________________________
On the day of the performance, I still practiced the toccata,(3rd piece) in the morning. When we arrived there, and we asked one of the organisers in the front desk, “We actually have some concerns, about what is going to happen today. You know that we had a discussion last night about the repertoire. What was the final decision?”

Very arrogantly, the chinese lady in the white dress, smirked and said “If you have any problems, you can talk to the jury now, while the jury is walking off during the 5 minutes break!”
By entering so many international competitions before, we knew we are not supposed to talk to any jury members before the competition ends. So we did not approach the jury members, even if we were completely able to, and we followed competition rule no.5, which is normally the same rule in the majority of all international piano competitions. Until now, we still do not understand why the committee pushed us to talk to the jury members directly even before the competition ended rather than simply stating the change of new rules. (First in WeChat, and the second time in that instance.)
As I went backstage, I immediately consulted a lady there who was listed as part of the committee members. (Whose name I do not want to reveal in public, although I would be more than happy to send you her name privately, from the back pages of the competition program, under the heading of ‘committee members’.) I asked her, if it was acceptable to perform the Sunflower first, Toccata second, and then the Rachmaninoff 3rd concerto. I wanted this order, so that the jury members, can hear all of the three pieces, and if there was not ‘enough time,’ in case, they could cut off the ending of my concerto, which I would much rather. At that time, I was only thinking that the time may be shortened, not knowing how much I was mislead.

Please understand, that if I knew, that everyone could ONLY play 2 pieces, I would
never have performed my Toccata, and I would never even ask the committee member this question. She answered, “Yes no problem. It’s fine. As you wish.” This was the first clear clarification I have ever received regarding this matter from the organisation.
During my performance, after I finished the chinese piece, I was surprised to hear the bell only after few bars of my toccata. I thought, “I hadn’t even reached 4 mins of my performance, and they tried to stop me.” I hope you understand and can see from my point of view, that under that stress and confusion, left from the night before, I chose an extreme choice. I was completely not aware that they only wanted to hear the two set works; the concerto and the chinese piece, and that the third piece was completely unnecessary. However at that exact instance, I did not think it fair, to stop my performance only at 4 mins, so I continued and went on, and decided to successfully finish my toccata, then to stop. Maybe in another time, in another situation, I would have stopped straight away. But I must clarify one thing. At that time, my actions and choice not to stop, was purely out of confusion that was caused previously, and it had nothing to do with anything else, such as disrespect, arrogance, etc. I apologise if it was viewed as anything other than that.

Previously, in many competitions, there will be bell rings, and that is completely normal, as long as it is stated from the beginning and in advance, in the rule. For example, I competed in Gina Bachauer, competition heats, and they wrote many months beforehand in the competition regulations, that in the heats, they would actually stop me with a bell ring, when they have heard enough. This, I have also experienced many times in other international auditions and competitions. All these years, I have followed these rules to the end. I can once again assure you, that my actions did not stem from arrogance or lack of humility.
We have fully expressed our concern to the committee the night before the finals. We do not think we have spoken or written aggressively. We do not believe that we were wrong to fully communicate and share our concerns with the committee. However, the committee ignored us in the end, and never clearly spoke about the new rule changes. I’m not sure what the committee told you about what they notified us. But there was certainly no sentence saying ‘we will only hear the two pieces and the third piece will not be needed’ at all. My point, is that what they had told us, was extremely vague, as you can see, and that it was never even close to coming to a clear conclusion.

About “Having heard nothing further, we thought that Shuan Hern begrudgingly accepted this request” as you can see now, is not true from the evidence of our conversation. It would be more factual to say that the committee arrogantly disregarding our continuous spamming of questions and requests to clarify things. We were the ones sending the last message, requesting clarification, and not receiving any. We never even had any clear statement in detail about the new rules.
Moreover, why did the organisation, on WeChat, post that my mother and I had ‘on multiple occasions tried to contact the jury members privately before the competition and broke rule no.5’? This is not true at all. Do they have any solid evidence? You are probably the only person that I’ve met most, (3 times in my life, all under strict competition circumstances) on the jury panel. The last time I even talked to you and Maestro Slutsky was in E-piano 2 years ago! Other than that, I have never said a single word to any other jury members on the panel before.

As you may know, I have entered many international piano competitions, and few of which, the jury may change the rules, etc. But, the problem does not lie in that. The problem, lies in the confusion that the organisation and committee’s communication causes. If the new rules were clearly reinstated, we would not impose or question them of rule changes, because in that case, we would have known that the finals performance duration, is calculated by pieces and not by time limit, which will be quite fair for all competitors. In comparison to having the chairman of the jury solely choosing when to stop us during the performance, as we were clumsily explained to, by the committee.

Regarding to, “This disrespect continued afterwards on social media, where he started spewing venom about how this was a sort of conspiracy to deprive him of the chance to win.” I would like to ask you if you can ask the committee to prove this from our WeChat posts? All we were saying was that we did not care about the prize, as we wanted the fairness and the respect, but that is because we did not know the new rule, until we read your letter, as we thought we were mistreated by the whole competition. There was absolutely nothing about depriving me of the chance to win, and would be more than interested if the committee would show us any evidence of this.
In conclusion, I hope you understand, that I am not acting as an arrogant person, or an angry complainer. I had no idea that the jury members were told that all the competitors have already been notified to ‘play only two pieces’. After reading your letter in Slipped- disc, only then did I realised that this situation was nothing more than a victim of circumstances, or misleading information, which could have been easily avoided by the committee members. I meant absolutely no disrespect to the jury panel, and what I did on stage, was definitely not out of arrogance and disrespect, to you or the jury panel. Rather, it was out of confusion. I honestly did not hear the chairman or anyone’s voices, above noises of the audience and the piano. I apologies profoundly. Nevertheless, all that I am humbly and simply requesting now, that we clear this confusion up together.

To be honest, It really hurts me in the heart to see such competitions like this, where people can see that the way the committee communicated with us, was in a very unclear and misleading way. I think that because of this, it is perfectly normal for the public to be suspicious of the committee.
Moreover, I realise that I will be under a lot of media attack, from showing in this letter that the committee is wrong and questionable in their actions. However I just want to state, that in order to establish a fair, transparent and successful competition, the committee, has to be able to give the exact same, and extremely clear instructions, rules and regulations beforehand, especially for last minute changes, to both the jury, and to the competitors, in order to avoid miscommunications and confusions like this.
Nonetheless, I strongly agree with what you said about talent and ability and should go hand in hand with humility and kindness, and I will continue to strive for this in life. However sometimes, things around you can take the matter out of your hands, and swirl and twist it too far, thus completely blotting out the real reasons behind your actions in the first place.
This letter’s only motive, is to clarify this situation. I whole heartedly apologise solely to you and to the jury members, for reacting in an extreme way. Regretfully, I must strongly state, once again, that none of this would have happened, if it were not for the organisation and committee’s poor and incompetent communication skills.

Thank you very much for your time and understanding. Yours sincerely,
Shuan Hern Lee


  • M McAlpine says:

    Competitions are two a penny these days so this guy probably thinks making a fuss like this will get him more attention than actually winning cf Pogorelich. It probably has already.

    • Petros Linardos says:

      The only parallel I see with Pogorelich is that there a scandal around a non-winner. Yet in Pogorelich’s case the uproar started from the resignation of Martha Argerich from the jury. As far as I know, Pogorelich’s behavior on and off-stage was appropriate and not attention seeking.

  • George says:

    How is that possible that 9 other participants exactly understood all information right and played 2 pieces with no further drama?

  • Gerry Feinsteen says:

    Besides the fact that we all know who he is now—and that’s what he wanted after all—if he had actually won the competition after that daredevil act, 9 other competitors would have been reasonable to protest his victory, no?

    “only a handful of international competitions each year.” Is that a joke? First off, this one wasn’t really that big (anybody here following it before this? —that was a joke—), and there’s literally an international piano competition every month, maybe more.

  • Pianist says:

    What a dignified, humbling and clear response from someone that has obviously been wronged and misjudged as a person. If he wasn’t informed of the last minute rep. change, kudos to him for playing his piece unnerved by the disturbances from the audience and the jury, that says a lot about his focus and concentration. It was saddening to see that the jury decided to go public with an open letter, especially knowing that some of the jury members have passed through the ordeal of competitions in their own time. Personally, I wish him all the best for the future.

    • Brevity says:

      The repsonse is anything but ‘clear’. It’s rambling, repetitive, stressed and as a result delivers a repost like a damp squid. He may be right. But, he definitely has issues with conciseness…

      • Spana says:

        Not sure everyone should be judged on their English language ability when there’s a high chance it’s not their first language…

        • Petros Linardos says:

          As a non-native English speaker, I’ll agree but up to a point. We can give Mr. Lee the benefit of the doubt and not read his wording too closely. It doesn’t look like any linguistic limitations got in the way of writing a less repetitive letter.

        • Marie says:

          Exactly! And most Americans speak only English, not even Spanish!

        • Sammy J says:

          Pretty sure English is his first language as he was either born or grew up in Australia where he still lives

      • Zhao says:

        I have exact opposite opinion about Lee’s response. I normally have issues being patient enough to finish reading lengthy wordy stuff. However, I had absolutely no problem reading Lee’s response, as it is perfectly written. He indeed need to have much details included to respond to every point in the original post of Mr Pompa-Baldi. This only shows how well Lee is in control of his own emotion. Yes indeed, at the point Mr. Pompa-Baldi posted this lengthy letter with tons of accusation and many untrue/unconvincing information with obvious intention to summon vast attack to him over the internet, Lee has every reason to be outrageous, loose his cool, venting like most of people not only the teens. However, he was not mad at all! He calmly stated that he was upset and disappointed and went on explaining all that relevant to every single point Mr. Pompa-Baldi included in his letter, in most sincere and professional and rational manner! I was indeed astonished to watch this young man, not long ago, on the competition stage, playing extremely well with incredible control of his musical expression. Now I thank Mr. Pompa-Baldi who initiated this huge internet discussion and benefit me with this opportunity watching Lee’s performance out side of the competition stage. And again, he did so well, as perfect as he did on stage. A true maestro would be really happy and even excited to see such a well-rounded youngster approaching and will take over the future stage with/after them. I found all Lee’s explanation into great detail are necessary and sufficient and very well worded. Words from calm/cool brain can make such sense and be this convincing. I wish to congratulate young Lee for his wonderful response. His self control is in consistence with his music performance, which is not commonly observed even in among adults, let alone teenagers.

        I have every good wishes for this young master for an unlimited brilliant future, as a pianist, or even as a Judge.

  • fflambeau says:

    I support Shuan Hern Lee’s position.

    Given what happened to him, he is being overly kind to the judges and especially to Pompa Baldi.

    Last minute rule changes that are unexplained (and perhaps the result of getting a “favorite” to the winners circle) are completely unprofessional. I had no idea contestants are treated like slaves.

    • Pamela Brown says:

      I agree that it seems the contestants were not treated with any respect when it came to changing the rules mid-stream. That alone is very difficult to understand. I wish Shaun Hern Lee the best as well.

  • May says:

    It’s ironic that it doesn’t even occur to the entitled brat in question that he might have personally benefitted from the changes made to the rules: he simply assumes that he would have advanced no matter what to the next round. A dose of humility might help understand, maybe he would have been eliminated had the rules not been changed. As for his protests about no knowing what he should practice that evening: were he truly prepared, a few minutes of practice wouldn’t make a bit of difference.

    • Nick2 says:

      What a disgraceful comment!

    • Mofotzky says:

      A brat? Really?
      These contestants go through hell to prepare and play at a high level.
      He has every right to defy the jury and question spontaneous rule-changes when it is done after the contestants played and before the announcement of results.

      More contestants need to come forward and protest this.
      Why do we all gladly pay the $175 or more fees, spend money on plane tickets, housing etc AND practice for all this high risk, low reward enterprise.

      Any rule change has to be set BEFORE anyone plays a note.
      Just my two cents.

      One other thing: all this negativity is tainting one of the most beautiful things – music and music-making.

      Sure, competitions may not be the most pleasant thing – but can we at least petition that rule-changes are avoided, period?

    • C. H. says:

      Maybe you should read the first part written by jury membre Mr. Pompa-Baldi. Even him clearly stated he was in a position to win it. It is a fact.

  • Mofotzky says:

    The jury changed the rules last minute, something which IS annoying after people have prepared several months!
    The competition organizers had many months to set the rules.

    As for his behavior, well, it is about time someone complained and protested. You know that to enter most competitions, you pay a fee of $150 or more just for them to see your application?

    He SHOULD be outraged. Whether or not he should have behaved how he did, and if it was a misunderstanding – is a different story.

    Competition rules have gotten more ridiculous. In the past – more people were admitted to round 1. Now, some big competitions select 20 people (or less) just from prescreening tapes….

    We’re all a bit fed up….

    • Fan says:

      Exactly. Classical musicians are not and should not be sheep. Those competitions, like most academic conferences, are scams in the first place and the jury members are little more than Wizards of Oz hiding behind their apparatuses. Good for Lee, whatever his motivations are.

    • Jenn says:

      Obviously he neglects to mention that this competition was part of a fully charitable music festival meant to benefit all music students, it is free to enter, free practicing facilities, costs nothing at every stage and free for the audience.

  • Curious says:

    I can’t help but wonder if both sides are posturing for the potential lawsuit.

    • Nick2 says:

      A lawsuit? That’s surely ridiculous! Are you really being serious? How is a young pianist going to have the funds to fight a lawsuit? And where is the jurisdiction? China? This is not a legal issue.

  • Zsolt Bognár says:

    I saw a couple comparisons here to Ivo Pogorelich at the 1980 Chopin Competition, but that situation was very different: there was no confusion there about the rules or whether they were being defied, and Pogorelich was endorsed vocally and dramatically by Martha Argerich. Pogorelich didn’t play beyond a jury calling time; there were no controversial behaviors other than his interpretations.

    • Mofotsky says:

      Also – is there a video link to the previous rounds? Was any of this competition live-streamed?

      In my experience, competitions are more transparent if each performance can be viewed.

      Much of this scandal can be cleared up if a video of the event is posted by the competition.

    • Fliszt says:

      And now that Pogorelich’s 1980 Chopin competition performances are on YouTube, everyone can hear why the jury didn’t pass Pogorelich to the finals. His was very tacky, affected, narcissistic playing, and shame on Martha for defending it.

  • Tamino says:

    First world ivory tower problems.
    But wait, is China first or second world today?

  • Nick2 says:

    I would love to learn 3 things. First, why did the Jury break the competition rules and permit 10 finalists in place of the stated 6? Why did the Jury Chairman not do his duty by insisting on 6 and using his casting vote, whatever the other members thought? That is what a Chairman is for!

    Second, what precisely and when was the information about the change of number of works to be performed provided to each participant by the organisers?

    Third, why did the competition organisers so cavalierly decide to shorten the amount of time for each finalist when they could easily have shortened or cancelled some of the ancillary masterclasses and other events instead? What was this? A serious competition or a sort of children’s party with the competition participants as irrelevant playthings? Certainly the Jury and the organisers seem to have approached it as more of the latter than the former.

    • Bill says:

      I believe the jury chairman said they took more finalists so they could better discern who was the most deserving by hearing the closely matched competitors play additional repertoire.

      We’ve got a group of 10 competitors that based on what we’ve heard so far are all too close to distinguish. We only wanted 6 finalists.

      Two choices:

      1) we can take all 10 and hear them all play some more music in the hopes that with additional challenges presented by the final repertoire, the entire jury will be able to make a good decision on who should get the prizes, or

      2) the jury chairman should arbitrarily pick 6 finalists of the 10, with no explanation given, but let’s just hope that the best player of the day makes the cut

      Yeah, #2 definitely sounds like it will be the most fair and effective way to solve the problem, doesn’t it? With most competition posts here, everyone and their brother is accusing the jury chairman of rigging the competition!

      • MP says:

        But that’s what competitions are. What if you heard the 10 and couldn’t pick the 3? What if you couldn’t rank the 3? It could possibly go on and on. If you can’t make up your minds, don’t judge. Don’t attack a kid under extreme pressure because you couldn’t do your job properly. Anyway, this was not one of the important competitions and the jury has other motives of furthering their careers and gaining power/students/influence, as everyone knows. Don’t pretend you care so much about the fairness and the contestants. It’s quite laughable. It’s nauseating that Pompa-Baldi decided to make this public and put it in social media. I have lost all respect for him. And presenters and conductors don’t trust competition results such as this seriously anyway. Shuan Hern is obviously a pianist of great talent, much more than Pompa-Baldi, I should add. Please Shuan Hern, only participate in the important competitions with more respectable jury that is run professionally.

  • Tom says:

    One other perspective that I see wasn’t mentioned in previous comments. If music competitions have any chance of preparing artists to the real musical world, is having the participants deal with the unexpected. Yes, there are rules and regulations, but once those pianists go out there, they *will* have to deal with the lack of rehearsing time, the piano not ready or up to shape, the order and pieces played switched at the last moment, etc. That’s part of the life of a traveling musician. Even if not intended, this case proved Mr. Lee still needs some work on adjusting to the unexpected.

    • Mofotzky says:

      That might be a good point….
      However, a competition a presents a certain set of rules which you agree to before entering.

      Sure, in real life – you can adjust the repertoire as needed – but that is your professional engagement. A competition is meant to be a controlled, reasonably objective way of comparing artists.

      A competition should have a fixed set of rules.
      Any changes should be made before anyone plays a note.

      Mr. Lee’s position would have been stronger if other contestants protested the rule change.

      At any rate, the bottom line is – now he is likely blacklisted from future competitions, yes – he is responsible for that, but it is very sad.

      What can we do to ensure that each competition who wants to belong to the World Federation of International Music Competition – adheres to some basic rules?

      One of these rules would be to prevent any changes in the parameters of the competition – and if any change is made – it should be done WELL before the start of round 1.

      Also – is there video footage of the described controversial event?

  • Tweettweet says:

    What puzzles me most, is that a so-called grown-up jury member is naming and shaming a 16-year old guy. I’m wondering if Mr Pompa-Baldi has tried to speak with Shuan Hern Lee himself. He has not mentioned that he spoke with him, so I assume he hasn’t, otherwise you would be stupid not to mention that. If you write such a disgraceful article about somebody, especially that person is a minor, you should at least have spoken with the person himself.

  • Lin says:

    He got him disqualified was not that he played his 3rd piece. It’s that he didn’t stop when the judge rang the bell and told him to. If he stopped and says it’s an misunderstanding. It would’ve been fine. But he chose to ignore judges. And that behavior had nothing to do with miscommunication. So I understand why judges disqualified him because of his disrespectful behavior.

  • Fliszt says:

    This is a lot of useless commentary over a non-event, involving an insignificant competition, and an over-competitive competitor. He claims to have entered over 30 competitions – WHY would anybody in their right mind enter so many competitions? What good would that do anybody, other than to get branded as someone whose playing is middle of the road enough so that it offends the least number of jurors. This guy should exit this merry-go-round, get himself a good teacher, study chamber music, and become a musician. There is NO future for professional contest players.

  • Ben says:

    This pianist violated the ground rule of Musician 101: “Always keep the dirty laundry in-house”

  • Nick2 says:

    I have looked back at the Jury Chairman’s original letter to this blog. He says –

    “After the first round, we decided to take not 6 finalists, but 10. It’s a MUCH HIGHER NUMBER, but the jury unanimously felt IT WAS NECESSARY. There were several contestants tied, all with high scores, and WE WANTED TO GIVE THEM ALL A CHANCE to showcase their talent one more time, in the final round of the competition.

    “THE FESTIVAL HERE HAS TO TRY AND KEEP ON SCHEDULE [my caps], because aside from the competition there are other events such as masterclasses and lectures. We needed to try and finish the competition as close as possible to the original time.”

    The reason for this entire mess is confined in these paragraphs. So the Jury members felt 10 finalists “was necessary”. Necessary? Even with the rules of the Competition clearly stating 6 finalists? The Jury Chairman absolutely failed in his duties by not sticking to the rules. Feeling others should be given “a chance to showcase their talent one more time” is zero excuse. What would happen if the Jury at all Competitions felt they had carte blanche to accept anyone who merited a place in the Finals? Total chaos, especially when an orchestra and loads of overtime could be involved! If Jury members abdicate their responsibilities in such a cavalier fashion, why impose any limit on the number of finalists in the first place? It’s nonsense!

    He then made everything much worse, especially for himself but also for the other Jury members, the Competition organisers and young Mr. Lee, by publicising the matter and trying to defend an indefensible position.

    This Chairman was perfectly well aware of the time constraints and the need “to try and keep on schedule”. Oh really? Yet he as Chairman made the decision to increase the number of finalists. No, sir, it was not the Jury’s decision. As the Chairman, whatever your colleagues felt, it was ultimately your decision. Can you please advise us if, before finalising that decision, you talked to the organisers to inform them that this would require an additional 66% of time for the Finals? Did you inform the organisers that the Jury would only increase the number to 10 if that additional time could be provided by reducing the number of the ancillary lectures, masterclasses etc.? From your letter it is very clear you did not. Once again you failed in your duty.

    The Chairman was fully aware of and acknowledged that “we needed to try and finish the competition as close as possible to the original time.” So he was perfectly well aware of very definite time constraints. Another massive reason not to increase the number of finalists. Sadly it is now very obvious that Mr. Pompa Baldi should never be invited to chair a Jury again.

    • Mike says:

      Were you there? Apparently not. First of all, Mr.Pompa Baldi was not the chairman but a spokesperson for the judges. Second, in his post, he did mention that jury has the right to modify the rules as long as the fairness is not affected. Third, Mr.Lee was outed not because he played one more piece, because he showed disrespectful behavior towards judges. Mr.Lee does have a good point that there was miscommunications. And no one likes that competitions changing rules last minute. But they did and they have the right to do so. Other 9 pianists understood without any drama. Not only mr.Lee didn’t, he started a embarrassing drama. If he stops playing when the chairman rang her bell, everything would’ve been fine. He’s 16 yo, and he is playing a victim card here. In someway he is a victim. The last minute rule change, rude stuffs, vague comments. But all the misunderstanding cannot be an excuse for his disrespectful behavior.

    • Carlos says:

      Pompa-Baldi was not the Jury chairman. Please go back and read the original letter again.

      • Nick2 says:

        My apologies to Mr Pompa-Baldi and readers here. I did indeed miss the line about the Jury Chairman. But my comments remain pertinent. Although not the Chairman, I believe Mr.Pompa-Baldi and his colleagues should have been perfectly well aware of their duties as Jury members and the havoc that could be caused by such a major increase in the number of finalists. It seems he did not, as he was the one to write publicly to Slipped Disc. I don’t know the Jury Chairman’s experience in chairing an international Jury. But both she and the other Jurists should have been far more aware of the consequences of both their responsibilities and their decisions.

  • chrisc says:

    Competitions, competitions, competitions, competitions, competitions, competitions…………..competitions so what there is always one next week.

  • Nick says:

    Sounds like a typical “lost in translation” case. It is hard to imagine that Mr. Pompa-Baldi would be dishonest, and, judging from Mr. Lee’s letter, Mr. Lee exhibited no lack of humility or understanding the situation.
    Pogorelich’s case is completely different, had nothing to with procedural misunderstanding. Pogorelich “offended” some underdeveloped tastes of the jury members. Ms. Argerich demonstrated unheard of bravery then and it did not change much as far as formal results of the competition goes! I am sure that Shenzhen Competition will not suffer and its image will remain the same, as it is the case with Chopin Competition in Warsaw. It certainly casts no shadow on a wonderful human being and pianist Prof. Antonio Pompa-Baldi, who, in position of the Jury president was obligated to react, hence his correspondence with the contestant.

  • duduu says:

    It pains me to see all the mean words and hate directed at this teenage boy. I have known Shuan Hern Lee for many many years, and he is one of the most humble and kind person I’ve ever met. Yes he did something wrong and his attitude was deserving of the consequence he faced, but please do not call him a “spoiled brat” and other hurtful things if you don’t know him personally.

  • Tess says:

    I have served as host family for two International competitors, once college age and the other at junior level. Even with Federation competition, years of experience and clear communication there was confusion each time. With this change of rules Mr. Lee’s description is plausible. And choice of repertoire and allocation of practice and performance time is real concern for young musicians. Jury cannot be certain how instruction change was communicated by committee or interpreted in each interaction, they only know their intention.

  • Rina says:

    This particular competition is really laughable. They changed NOT ONE but THREE rules and ONLY informed the contestants in an unclear manner the NIGHT BEFORE the finals! 1. Need to play only two instead of three pieces. 2. From pieces could be in any order to having pieces in strict order of concerto first then Chinese work. 3.Increase the number of finalists to ten instead of six. This is absurd. Which world class competition does that? It severely diminishes the credibility of this competition.
    The other thing I noticed is the constant push by the committee to get them to query the jury themselves, which would obviously break rule no. 5. Were the committee members even clear about the rules themselves?? It is clearly a very poorly run competition.

  • Sarah Jonson says:

    It is a very sad and unfortunate situation. I am not surprised at all that it actually happened in China, where you can pay to get practically everything. Just recently a Chinese young woman was discovered to have paid 6.5 million U.S. dollars to an agent to get a place in Stanford University. An estimated 70% of Chinese students’ visas have to be cancelled due to their inability to continue in the Western educational systems.

    In contrast, the Chinese students who went to study overseas in the seventies, eighties and early nineties were mostly outstanding young people, who had to struggle to get scholarships and to be completely independent to make a new life. They are now in service of humanity in all continents.

    Competitions of all kinds have been commercialised and in many cases corrupted. I wonder how ethical the specific competition was, from the organisers, adjudicators to the sponsors. Why were the finalists increased from six to ten? Did someone pay too big a sum to be denied entry into the final?

    I took a specific interest in this case as I have a child of similar age who also has been learning piano. Personally I would never take my child to China for any competition. This is too traumatic for any young people to bea. Only God knows how much hard work and sacrifice this poor Lee child has gone through even to get to this place.

    Music is the language of the soul. It is a beautiful gift from heaven. Let’s all strive to keep it pure, uncontaminated by this world. I feel quite certain that the adjudicator who wrote the article is genuine and unaware of the complicated situation in China.

    I would also want to convey a message to Lang Lang. I have read your book many years ago and I cried for your circumstance, your perseverance and your attainment of success. You are one of our favourite family pianists and my child watched many of your Youtube videos for inspiration.

    What I want to express is: Please always remember where you came from and and the journey you have traversed. Fame and material abundance is not the purpose of our existence. Please remember that there are many little Lang Langs like you around the world, who cherish the same dream like you. For curiosity, I watched a few videos of Shuan Hern Lee, I am astonished at how similarly he performed like you in style. I would not be surprised that you are his role model.

    I would also like to convey a message to all who were involved in the competition. First of all, it was a great service that you have performed to create this opportunity for these talented people. However, for every action, there is a reaction. The universe is never static. At the end of our journey, we all have to face ourselves, our own conscience. Look within and your heart will tell you the truth.

    Finally, I would like to leave a few words with Shuan Hern Lee. No matter what happens, life goes on. You have great talent. Do not give up. If you are a star, you will always shine. No leaf and no cloud will be permanent to block out your light. Have faith, like the bird who knows that the dawn is coming, even though it is still dark all around you.

    Kind Regards to all who feel and think deeply,

    Sarah Jonson

  • Gaspard says:

    It doesn’t matter. He won the 1st place of Cliburn

    • Kathy says:

      Yes he did.. which is a mystery to me. He ran away with the Rach3…the orchestra could barely keep up. His CHOPIN was technical.. not musical. JiWan Yang was the shining artist of the final round and will go further in her career than this arrogant young man.. no matter how many competititions he wins.

  • Kathy says:

    The only contestant to not understand?? Really?? And if Mr Lee was the poor victim of misinformation why did he play through the bell as arrogantly as can be?? He deserved to be disqualified.

    • Rina says:

      I had the same question, but if you have read the comment from Yoon Sen Lee in the original report, you probably might know why. I guess he is just a young inexperienced lad misguided by his dad in that particular instance.