Zakhar Bron fixes another competition

Zakhar Bron fixes another competition


norman lebrecht

December 02, 2019

The Novosibirsk international violin competition was won by Sara Dragan, from Poland. She is a student of the jury chairman, Zakhar Bron.

Sara, 20, is promising and may well make a career on her own merits. The prize is worth $2,000 and the competition is obscure. But the farce allows Sara to style herself a competition winner and Zakhar to show he can still produce them.

This latest little victory has history.

In 2018, Sara won the Wieniawski competition in Lublin, where the chairman was…. you guessed.

A year earlier she won the Young Paganini competition in Poland. It was founded by her mother, with a Bron assistant on the jury.

So it goes.

And the competition industry continues to turn a blind eye.



  • violinist says:

    I am surprised her fingers could even move given the temperature in Novosibirsk at this time of year. Or maybe the cold gave her the shivers to help with her trills?

  • Esther Cavett says:

    I don’t understand the logic of this long-running issue in SD.

    Suppose for a minute that he is a really great teacher. Therefore he’ll attract the greatest students, who in turn will have the most chance of success in competitions.

    What is all this cause and effect that he fixes ? Wooly journalism, I’m afraid

    • Clean Competitions! says:

      I believe Bron doesn’t care about any accusations about corruption. Every time he makes a fake prize winner from an average or even mediocre student there are hundreds of ambitious tiger moms queuing up to get private lessons from Bron to eventually be awarded a prize in one of the competitions dominated by him. With growing number of students he needs to create more and more obscure competitions. Preferably in remote locations without internet. There are no videos of this competition on YouTube.

    • Brettermeier says:

      “I don’t understand the logic of this long-running issue in SD.

      Suppose for a minute that he is a really great teacher. Therefore he’ll attract the greatest students, who in turn will have the most chance of success in competitions.”

      Okay, sure. But let’s say that he is a bad teacher but he doesn’t want to be considered as such. Following your logic, he should let his mediocre students win competitions, too, because then he’ll attract the greatest students, who in turn will have the most chance of success in competitions.

      But you are right: The (individual) winning strategy is always to let your guys win. (Hint: That’s the problem.)

      And that’s why you shouldn’t be on the jury if your student takes part in the competition. (Doesn’t rule out vote trading, though, but it is a step in the right direction.)

  • Clean Competitions! says:

    All prize winners seem to be his students. The second prize at senior category, Laura Handler, as well as the junior prize winners – Teo Gertler (1), Laura Koster (2), Ivan Kerbiou (3).

    It would be cheaper to hold the competition in Interlaken, but I guess it is easier to hide the auditions from any audience in Siberia…

  • Anon says:

    I met this girl 7 years ago, we were participating in the same competition. Cool gal, and she plays well! Shame Bron got possession of her.

  • Jeffrey Biegel says:

    Here is the question: list ten artists in piano, ten in violin, ten in cello, ten in conducting, sustaining performing and/or recording careers today who have won First Prize in competitions in the 1980s and same for 1990s. Go!

    • smartass pianist says:

      I would not put you on that list!

      • Ellingtonia says:

        I have read quite a number of Jeffrey Biegels postings on here over a number of years and have always found them polite, constructive, sensitive but also pragmatic. Your comment is that of a complete ***ole and deserves to be treated as such.

    • Bill says:

      probably tough to do, just as putting together similar lists of performers of the same vintage who didn’t win competitions but still are in front of the public in a significant way would be. It’s a tough business and even the more talented don’t necessarily last all that long.

      • Jeffrey Biegel says:

        This is true, Bill. The point made is that the reasons for competitions need to be tweaked, the repertoire re-structured to benefit the past and future, juries carefully selected, not just in those instrumental categories. Looking back, the competitions were fabulous opportunities to meet people, to make new friends, build repertoire and be visible.

        • Bill says:

          Agreed on all points, I think. And heretical it may be, but I dare say that even a competition of dubious fairness will offer those opportunities to the competitor ready to seize them.

          • Jeffrey Biegel says:

            The spark that a competition win is like a candle that can only flicker for so long. It takes more than a win to sustain a career.

  • Charles says:

    Disgusting. This girl is equally to blame for her reputation being in tatters.

  • Lmore says:

    All competitions are fixed in some way…In the US, even all of the local competitions are fixed by teachers and local conductors–there’s no hope for any talented kid that is not in the lucky circle of fixing. The music schools…..the same thing.
    Many a heart is broken because very early on they realize no matter how much they practice, or even if they are hands-down the best player in the competition….they will lose. Of course, this is after paying for pianists and entry fees that will, in turn, support the dirty organization and well, winner’s prizes.
    Kudos for anyone that speaks out against these abominations.

  • Dave says:

    All I know is that photo says dirty old man to me.

  • Violonmaman says:

    Can’t understand why people keep entering these competitions… Be smart, do your research before entering any competitions and participate at your own risk — Capitalism 101.

  • Angel says:

    You write about Lublin 2018.Were you there, Norman?
    Because I was and listened to all of the junior section of the competition as well as much of the senior section. As far as who did well, I strongly believe that it would have been difficult for the jury to reach other conclusions. Furthermore, many other people who were present at the competition and with whom I spoke, were equally satisfied with the results.
    I would also like to add that I noticed at the competition in Shanghai 2018 that Bron had absolutely no qualms with giving students of his who did not play at a high standard on the day quite low marks.. (the voting of every single jury member was open to the public)
    I am quite sure there are many different things taken into consideration for such competitions and that sometimes unusual results are seen, but not more so in Bron’s competitions than in any other. I think it might be very interesting for you to actually attend one of these events.

  • xyz says:

    I have been listening to Sara few concerts, moreover I have conducted one with her playing solo. She is an amazing musician, regardless of her age, teacher etc.

    • Carlos says:

      Unfortunately Zakhar Bron isn’t making many top students or soloists in the last few years. He has had only two or three that are making it into the international platform : Ellinor D’melon, Monè Hattori and Aleksey Semenenko (older generation of Bron students). Ellinor is signed at IMG and is playing concerts with top artists like Mehta, Jurowski or Mutter and Monè Hattori Is signed to the corrupt agency Wright Music Managment(previously ICA) is playing with all of Japan’s top orchestras. But after this, he is really not much more successful and for what I can see, These three students are no longer possessed by Bron but are really great players. Sara dragan is definitely not at their level. Talented, but it would be hard for her to make an international career. And being under brons wing is probably the thing that will get you the leader into the international platform.

  • JarvanIV says:

    Well, maybe he did something fishy, maybe he didnt. But this time, Sara well deserved it. She was better than others.
    Just one thing, instead of just focusing on Zakhar Bron all the time, perhaps write something about Brahms Competition? It is far worse than any Bron’s competitions… Kropfisch family, Frischenschlager, say smthing about what they do every year in Brahms Competition. There are so many competitions are like this. For example, Dinu Lipatti was also like this. Hannover Joachim as well, big Wieniawski competition where Vengerov messed up…. etc…

    • Guest says:

      It might well be that Sara was the best among those who went to Novosibirsk. Because no intelligent student does enter a competition with Bron in the jury if he or she did not take lessons with Bron.

      You are probably also right about the other competitions you mentioned (don’t know them).

      It’s time for a radical reform of the competition system:
      1. No teachers on the jury. Every contestant has to sign a declaration that he or she shall be disqualified if there will be evidence that he or she has been a student of one of the jury members.
      2. All applications with links to application videos to be published on the website (because often qualified students don’t get invited)
      3. Live stream of all rounds with videos archived on YouTube
      4. Scores of the jury to be published immediately after the last round.

      But this will never happen as these fake competitions guarantee that there will be always enough participants in the expensive masterclasses of the jury members…

    • Guest says:

      Lol. Here is a video of Sara at the finals

  • Darel says:

    This amazing girl has won 60 competitions. And you write only about those 3. Such is journalistic reliability. This is a wonderful violinist. Have you ever been to her concert? What kind of person are you? Each of your articles is filled with anger and hatred.

    • Guest says:

      60 competitions? Do you count all local and regional events at the music school? Any serious competition without Bron or his entourage in the jury? Did you listen to the video? How about intonation (leaving less objective criteria such as sound production, interpretation aside)?

  • Catherine says:

    Well done Sara, she is a really an exceptional violinist. I heard several of her performances and I am sure she will have a long international career. This is not the first competition that she wins, not the tenth one but sixtieth all around the world. Sixty coincidences ? It must be rather talent and hard work. You are amazing Sara, carry on!