Finalist attacks jury and refuses to play encore

Finalist attacks jury and refuses to play encore


norman lebrecht

November 25, 2019

The Russian pianist Sergey Belyavsky was upset at missing out on a top prize this weekend at the 11th International Paderewski Piano Competition in Bydgoscz, Poland.

So he took to the stage and, instead of an encore. told the audience what he thought of the judging. And dumped the envelope with his prize.

Many in the audience applauded.

Watch from 0:40

1st prize € 30 000 – Philipp Lynov (Russia)
2nd prize € 15 000 – Kamil Pacholec (Poland)
3rd prize € 7 000 – Yasuko Furumi (Japan)
Honorary mention € 2 500 – BELYAVSKY Sergey – Russia;
Honorary mention € 2 500 – KIM Saetbyeol – Korea

The judges were:
Piotr Paleczny, Poland – Chairman, Artistic Director of the Competition

Lilian Barretto, Brazil

Manana Doijashvili, Georgia

Janina Fialkowska, Canada

Vladimir Ovchinnikov, Russia

Zbigniew Raubo, Poland

Waldemar Wojtal, Poland

Ying Wu, China

Yukio Yokoyama, Japan

UPDATE: It appears that several jury members admitted that Belyavsky originally shared first place in their ballot. Instead of splitting the prize, they were ordered to vote again. This vote resulted in Belyavsky’s elimination. It sounds fishy.

Were the Poles unable to accept that two Russians might win?


  • PHF says:

    Nothing worst than a bad looser.

    • LaJuive says:

      Clearly the panel was biased and bravo to him for his bravery in acknowledging the obvious

    • piano fan says:

      Especially a sore loser at a 3rd rank piano competition adjudged by a bunch of people who (aside from Janina Fialkowska) most pianophiles have never heard.

      • Novagerio says:

        a Piano-fan who never heard about Vladimir Ovchinnikov?…

      • US Classical says:

        Shame on you, if you do not know who Vladimir Ovchinnikov is. You do not get a pianophile tag, bro. True piano fans know gold medalists of Leeds and silver medalists of Tchaikovsky competitions. Are you from Canada and that’s how you know Fialkowska?

        • Novagerio says:

          Bravo US Classical. If one knows about russian piano titans, one is automatically a “russian cyber warrior”. That’s the logic of the lefttards.

    • Thomas Silverbörg says:


    • Bill says:

      What about a bad speller?

      looser: more loose; also, common misspelling of “loser”

      loser: one who loses

      and that should be “worse than” rather than “worst than”

      If forced to write in a foreign language to post here, I would make mistakes, but I would make sure to get any derisive remarks correct to avoid this kind of response 🙂

  • John Borstlap says:

    “Competitions are for horses, not for artists” (Bela Bartok).

    • David K. Nelson says:

      But he elected to enter the thing, presumably knowing that the history of competitions is littered with injustices. Had he won first prize, would he have refused to play the encore and dumped the envelope with the prize? Now THAT would be highly principled. (Also highly foolish, but highly principled.)

      The problem with Bela Bartok’s famous mot is, great horses can have great careers. And Bartok, a great artist, died in circumstances of actual want.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Bartok did not die in poverty because he had refused to enter competitions. He got into financial trouble because he had fled the nazis who were conquering Europe, and in the USA he did not have a reputation comparable with his European one. This fate was shared by many musicians who were famous in Europe but unknown in America. Also Bartok refused humiliating undertakings for the sake of money, because he knew who he was. And when the commissions began to come-in (Concerto for Orchestra, 3rd Piano Concerto, Viola Concerto) it was too late – depression got the better of him and he got ill and parted for a better world.

        Michael Haas has explored the fate of emigres in many interesting articles:

      • PeterSD says:

        Bartok entered the Rubinstein Competition in Paris, early in his career. In the piano division, he came in second to Wilhelm Backhaus; if I recall correctly, no prize was awarded in the composition division (to which he had submitted his Rhapsody, Op. 1, and his piano quintet). Bartok acknowledged Backhaus’s abilities but was outraged that the top vote-getter in composition was one Attilio Brugnoli… no wonder he had no time for competitions, after that experience!

      • Simpson says:

        Horses with great careers are still horses. There are only a few true musicians in each generations, the ones who have true artistry. That has nothing to do with competitions.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      Strange, then, that so many of them are at the starting gates!!

    • “Prizes are for boys” – Charles Ives

  • Thomas Silverbörg says:

    My hero. ALL competitions are decided in advance.

    • Novagerio says:

      Thomas: Like in politics, right? If it’s the result you didn’t expect, then it’s been a rigged election. Then Recount and then a new election, till the “correct” side has won…
      Got it (!)

      • Sue Sonata Form says:

        Like the US President who was virtually disqualified by the bien pensant BEFORE he was even elected and who has been hounded ever since winning – and that was 3 years ago.

        I wonder if these same people will be demanding the tax returns of Bloomberg and accusing him of being a crook? (The old Lefty certainly will!)

        • Mr. Knowitall says:

          If Bloomberg wins the Democratic nomination, then yes, these same people will demand his tax return. Already Bloomberg’s Neanderthal behavior toward women, which resemble those of the P.-grabber and Chief, are being discussed.

        • Brook Eggleston says:

          Bloomberg is ethical enough, so he’ll probably release his tax returns before the primaries, like all the rest of the Democratic contenders. We’re still waiting to see trump’s!

        • MWnyc says:

          Bloomberg released tax returns as mayor of New York City, I believe, and would doubtless happily release them if it got to the point where he was a serious contender.

          And in a very long career as both a high-profile businessman and mayor of the largest city in the U.S. and one of the most watched cities on Earth, he was never accused of being a crook.

          Neither of those things are true of Donald Trump.

  • Mick the Knife says:

    I hope there aren’t too many like him about to become an adult. He needs to learn that it is not about him all the time. By not playing for the audience he has made countless enemies. Why? Because he just discovered that you don’t always get what you want? That there is unfairness? Grow up, kid!

  • Soundon says:

    “Criminal stupidity of the organizers/jury” is spot-on. They gave him the prize for the best semifinal recital,
    prize for the best Paderewski, and his final concerto was very strong. All of this points out that Belyavsky should be
    among the winners.

  • Calvin says:

    Biased in favor the other Russian, who won? I am not sure I follow.

  • Bill says:

    Might not be an entirely unproductive action. Likely more people are going to notice him having done this than would have taken notice of the 11th place finisher in a competition which is itself not exactly of the first rank…I don’t recall any breathless articles here on SD handicapping the prospects of the competitors in this competition before it happened!

  • Zsolt Bognar says:

    Sergey Belyavsky is an amazing pianist and dedicated artist, whose growth over the years is equally fascinating. Competitions usually select winners that appeal to a consensus of a jury—which is rarely too exciting. It’s easy to judge conceptually this behavior, but I as pianist have frequently attended or participated in plenty of events in which all the young musicians were aware of some of the dirty dynamics of the juries—including one in Poland where the winner was preselected by the chair of the jury (His teacher), chosen, and promptly forgotten. The truest test of artistry is long-term growth and dedication, not the competition wins that rarely lead to careers anymore.

    • Jeffrey Biegel says:

      It is what one does post-competitions that sustains careers. Looking back, the most important opportunities were meeting new friends, presenters taking notice, learning new repertoire while maintaining the traditional, and doing it all with respect and dignity.

    • Terence says:

      I think you have expressed it well Zsolt. Paraphrasing you, I would go further and say “the truest test is artistry”.

      But there is always the subjective: I prefer Mieczysław Horszowski* to most current pianists, and I prefer Kreisler to Heifetz.

      *even though I always have to look up the spelling.

  • Karl says:

    Any publicity is good publicity maybe? Can I have his € 2,500? Isn’t that a lot of money to chuck?

  • Bruce says:

    Although I love watching competitions to hear new artists, no competition is fair. I have great empathy for this pianist.
    So often, folks say that a musician is “the best,” because she/he has won a competition. Winners are often the first to say that they hate competitions. They know that many competitors are equally good. Competitions often make stars of musicians. It is a terribly unfair part of our music world. There are thousands of outstanding, accomplished musicians. We often only hear a few of them.

    • John Borstlap says:

      That last sentence is very true. I have often been surprised about the very high quality of performers I came across who happened to live a rather shadowy existence, and quite a few who lived in the limelight of shallow attention, matching their superficial prowess.

  • UPDATE: It appears that several jury members admitted that Belyavsky originally shared first place in their ballot. Instead of splitting the prize, they were ordered to vote again. This vote resulted in Belyavsky’s elimination. It sounds fishy.”

    I also had 3 (!) bad experiences with this competition.

    Here is the one-sided feedback I received from one of the 2 (!) selection round jurors in New York, when I simply requested feedback to my no-pass results, and did not dispute anything.

    I received this very inaccurate description of my playing, and I certainly did not cheat in the Liszt Orage:

    Here are my comments on Michael’s performance:

    Beethoven 111 1st m.
    Tonally harsh, accents very hard, a sense of instability rhythmically. little dynamic shading. Just black and white.

    Chopin Op. 25/11
    Right Hand very stiff, wrist locked. No legato, a lot of gaps between position changes and overly accented beats.

    Liszt Chapelle
    Dotted rhythms too acutely dotted and clipped for the majestic nature of the character.
    Essentially re-wrote the opening octaves
    Apart from the harshness of the marcatos, the overall affect is somewhat scherzo-like due to excessively short staccatos.

    Scriabin Etude Op 65
    Like the rest of this program, much too bangy and tonally unsophisticated. I had wished for moments of leggier, legato, cantabile at some point in this program.

    Liszt Orage:

    Liszt Chapelle:

    Scriabin Etude Op 65:

    Take with the Op 111+Chopin Etude back to back

    I stand with Belyavsky.
    Many of these competitions are forgetting BASIC HUMAN DECENCY.

    • Karl says:

      Who ordered the jury members to make the change? What would have happened to them if they had refused to change their votes? How much money to the they get paid?

    • Thomas says:

      The comments on your playing are correct.

    • Vladimir says:

      Indeed, if the comments are so one-sided, no matter what or how one plays – then the contestants truly are at the mercy of the jury, with little oversight.

      In this case, it does not matter what the contestant’s playing sounded like.
      Nobody should be subject to such rude and disrespectful comments.

      Do we know the name of the jury member??

    • Grazzidad says:

      Just listened to the Orage. What a fantastic performance, technically AND musically. Your playing has something in abundance that I found somewhat wanting in Belyaev, actually: sweep.

  • Bruce says:

    That update certainly makes things look as bad as people think.

    Reminds me of a report I saw on a presidential “election” 20+ years ago in the middle east. I think it was in Syria, but I’m not sure. Armed guards watched as voters put their ballots in one of two boxes, to vote for the incumbent [dictator] or the challenger. While western TV cameras rolled, a woman voted for the challenger. A guard stepped forward and suggested that she had made a mistake put her ballot in the wrong box. Perhaps she would like to correct her mistake? Clearly terrified, she took her ballot out of the “challenger” box and put it in the “incumbent” box. The incumbent won his re-election with 100% of the vote — which he trumpeted as a sign of his people’s devotion.

    (P.S. for those of you about to demand proof and documentation, I don’t have any. This is just something I remember seeing on TV many years ago while casually watching the news.)

  • Thomas says:

    The guy isn’t that great. There are some nice performances of the winner on YouTube, so the jury can’t be too far off in their decision.

  • Piotr says:

    “they were ordered to vote again.” ah the corruption 🙂

  • Suzu says:

    Seems like the video got removed due to a copyright claim on behalf of the Paderewski competition

  • Shawn says:

    I can’t imagine how many young pianists have considered doing this. I remember when Bozhanov refused the Fourth Prize in the Chopin Competition. From what I understand, neither pianist took issue with losing, but rather changes or mistakes in the judging system. Someone like Belyavsky basically plays in competitions for a living, so I can understand that he doesn’t appreciate when the integrity of these competitions is compromised.

    • Grazzidad says:

      Bozhanov is, to me, a genius, the best competition pianist I’ve heard in at least 20 years. HOWEVER, he really botched the concerto round, *and* the judges decided to discard all prior scores… WHAT? I have all the individual scores from the competition, and it was neck and neck between him and Avdeeva (who also didn’t shine in the concerto, while Wunder did). In any case, Bozh claimed his teacher had fallen ill, which appears to be true, but it hardly endeared him to the competition, just taking off like that.

  • Enquiring Mind says:

    The distribution of likes and dislikes shows the truth about competitions; for every winner, there are lots of losers who commiserate. Emanuel Ax said the purpose isn’t to win, its to be noticed at a competition. But I think that he meant to be noticed for the music produced not the toxic petulance.

  • fflambeau says:

    For pretty obvious historical reasons, the Poles do not like the Russians (and vice versa). This “result” is not surprising and the pianist is likely correct.

    By my count, 3 of the judges (of 9) came from Poland including the jury chair. How international was this competition?

  • adrienne says:

    There is no justification for this kind of offensive public tantrum. It is an insult to the audience and to the music he was expected to perform. A true artist’s commitment to the music and the audience remains absolutely the same whether performing at a competition or a solo recital. Grace, dignity, and making music are much higher callings than competition prizes. Arrogant expectations of winning and tantrums when he didn’t win is a hideous display of narcissism. Shame shame shame on him. I hope he will mature enough in future to care more about making music and his listeners than the prizes. Time will tell…

    I can also add to this discussion that a member of the jury at this year’s Paderewski told another contestant that she was the one and only artist in the entire competition! This jury member was extremely upset with the decision to have eliminated this contestant even BEFORE the last rounds…

  • mary says:

    Music competition judging is right up there with figure skating competition judging in the 1970s: totally biased, totally unaccountable, totally corrupt.

    But that’s what makes it fun to watch. The scandal, the tears, the tantrums, the rumors, the boycotts. Ahh, bring back the Soviet blocs of judges vs the Western European blocs.

  • Luke Jones says:

    I get quite fed up of reading about these kinds of stories coming out after competitions and even worse the kind of sycophancy that comes with it. In my own experience competitions are tough, many people have prepared hard for it and everyone is trying their best to be at the top.

    I think it’s the grossest insult to your fellow competitors and indeed the ones who didn’t even make it to the finals to simply snub your prize and make an accusation of corruption because you didn’t get the prize you want. Unless you have proof, accept your place and whinge about it in private and then get over it.

    Of course if you have proof that corruption has occurred then by all means criticise and condemn but anecdotes are not enough.

    It seems a most hideous self-serving bias in competitions that when ‘I’ win first prize, it must be fully transparent and completely free of corruption since they chose ‘me’! How right they were! – Of course forgetting that no doubt there will be countless people in private that begrudge your first prize thinking that others deserved it more than ‘you’. So is it corrupt or not?

    But how can you know without proof? Simple answer is you can’t. You enter, hope for the best and hope that the result comes in your favour, and if it doesn’t, get on with it, enter something else, try and forge other paths to developing a career, get creative and focus on trying to be the best you can be.

    • Zsolt Bognar says:

      Hello Luke—be sure to read the update at the bottom of the story. That information is now corroborated through multiple sources.

      • Luke Jones says:

        Well, once the sources are made public and corruption is proven beyond reasonable doubt then Sergey Belyavsky has my unbridled support.

        I just feel in my own experience in competition allegations of corruption rarely go beyond hearsay and simply make for a juicy anecdote. Often these things can then end up being trial by media and the competition in question is just deemed guilty without proper examination which is not beneficial for anyone.

        If he is proven correct, then the competition will not attract any competitors worth his/her salt in future and will rightfully lose any legitimacy as a serious event.

    • JustGuest says:

      you wrote so much in this comment, bud you did not listen to what Belyawsky said. You mentioned corruption, not him. Check the video (on youtube) and I hope you will change your opinion.

  • Richard Berkeley says:

    Not an encore, his recital.

  • Irene Cheng says:

    Well done Sergey! Cheers from Hong Kong! xxx

  • Mr. Kenner says:

    this competition is very fishy indeed. there was also a very long selection process to even get selected for this particular competition, who knows what went on behind closed doors when selecting the participants.

    also, those who criticize Belyavsky’s playing: we all look forward to you posting your own recordings for our enjoyment.

    good day
    -Mr. Kenner

  • Save the MET says:

    These competitions have been sleazy, over-rated and stacked for years. I suggest they are no longer relevant and in today’s social media world no longer discover great young talent.

  • Save the Chopin Competition says:

    It seems that 2 jurors tied to this Paderewsky competition have been announced as jurors of the upcoming Chopin competition in Warsaw.

    Namely: Kevin Kenner, and Piotr Paleczny. Mr Kenner is well known for his biased and unrelenting downvoting, btw.

    Kevin Kenner is also tied to the 2020 National Chopin Competition in Miami, where he is the Chair – the first prize of that being $100,000 and automatic acceptance into the Warsaw competition where is is also on the jury.

    That being said, I’m sure that all of this is done completely fairly and it is only a coincidence that the Paderewski competition has a summer academy where young pianists can unofficially study with the same jury members that will vote for or against them.

  • Jennifer says:

    Really does sound fishy to me. Why couldn’t they recognize dual champions?

  • Herbert von Solti says:

    It really does smell of rat in this scenario. One can’t help but admire the Russian’s guts. I don’t know whether this will hamper his career or not. I do know this. If it were a Polish Pianist who had this happen to him in Russia, his behavior would have made him an international hero.

  • There was a much worse case of outright fraud in the Weimar-Bayreuth Liszt Competition last year.

    The winner, who was very good in the previous rounds, played the Liszt Totentanz in the finals which was clearly sub-par.

    His teacher since 2016 – Natalia Trull, was in the jury, and based on whatever flawed points system they had – he was still awarded the first place for his plodding train wreck of a performance.

    That was not his fault, personally, but it was very insulting to the 2 other finalists who actually learnt their concertos.

    Nothing new under the sun, folks.

    Sooner or later, these organizations will be audited and we will know many interesting things. That is, if the public interest in music ever demands it – at this point, it does not.

    These competitions are often judged by people of questionable qualifications to begin with.

    • Grazzidad says:

      Lis(z)tening to it now. Not a winning performance, IMHO, but not so horrible that it would preclude him from coming first, based on what were presumably other good performances in the competition. I don’t see how this is a “scandal” unless there were improprieties in the judging.

      I still remember Igor Roma’s barnbuster of a performance: What a talent.

  • Paderewsky Hath Risen says:

    This particular competition had 185 applicants, 56 were accepted into the competition itself.

    One wonders how those votes were tallied, and by whom?

    The selection round juror names are not indicated.

    Shady indeed.
    There need to be some regulations put in place, including live streaming in the selection rounds.
    There is no excuse, it is the 21st century. This can be set up cheaply with a phone, if funds are seriously an issue (taking a look at the application fees, funds are NOT an issue)

  • ZS says:

    Why wouldn’t you show pictures of the jury and make the title of your post more like the update line? You’re missing the story. Why play into the fiction that these competitions are fairly judged?

  • Saxon Broken says:

    It seems a little tactless to demand that someone who didn’t win one of the prizes gives a recital. The performer is unlikely to be in the best of moods when asked.

  • Oisfetz says:

    They did same than in 1935, first Wieniawsky violin contest, when they gave first to Ginette Neveu, a teen French of 15, over second to David Oistrakh. Well, he was a Russian, and worst, he was a Jew.