A questionable US competition

A questionable US competition


norman lebrecht

January 25, 2020

The 2020 Elmar Oliveira International Violin Competition has reached its final stage at the Lynn Conservatory in Boca Raton, Florida.

Of the four finalists, two are proteges of jury members. Vikram Sedona is favourite student of Silvia Marcovici and Jung Choi studies with Ilya Kaler.

The other two finalists are Igor Khukhua, 27, and Julian Rhee, 19.

The questions?

Were Marcovici and Kaler in the room when voting took place?

Did they vote for their own students?

Did they discuss the final selection with other jurors?




  • JF says:

    This competition has not been around very long. It is every three years, and I think this is the second time for the competition. Because of the relative newness of this competition, it isn’t on everyones radar (meaning violin teachers OR students wishing to compete). So of course it will tend to be more strongly represented by students of jury members. And that is one reason competitions bring in big name judges outside the area who teach (who turn around and talk-up the competition to their own students), because they are trying to build up interest in their competition. The teacher says to one or two of their students “You know, I am on the jury of a new competition that no-one really knows about. I think you should apply.” Please give it a few years before crying foul. Simple growing pains.

  • Keith says:

    Yes, shady. Silvia will be pulling her strings.

  • PHF says:

    Relax, it is Florida.

    • Calvin says:

      I take this to mean that being voted the valedictorian of summer school is not going to be viewed as much of an achievement anyway…

  • Heifetz says:

    O, Sylvia! lolz

    These pop-up competitions are staffed by village idiots.

    Surprised they didn’t invite Bron, Kuschner and Krzysztof Wegrzyn also to officially officiate.

    Why would any presenter have any faith what so ever in a competition result like this is set to be?

  • fflambeau says:

    Julian Rhee, a Korean American student now at Harvard and originally from the Milwaukee area, is amazing. He has won other competitions already.

    Let’s wait to see what happens. It might just be that these are the 4 best contestants.

    • Alma Regina says:

      First – Harvard is not at all famous for its music education, main center are subjects like business and law. I strongly doubt, Julian Rhee studies there. Second – there were a lot of other contestants who also have won other competitions, this is not a criteria.

      • Clevelander says:

        Julian Rhee studies at NEC.

      • Fliszt says:

        Harvard is famous for the musicians who chose to do their undergraduate studies there – including Leonard Bernstein and Yo-Yo Ma.

      • Bill says:

        If you knew anything about music at Harvard, you would know about the program that awards one both a Harvard degree and one from the New England Conservatory.

      • Larry W says:

        What an uniformed (read ignorant) comment! Harvard has educated Leonard Bernstein and Yo Yo Ma. Famous enough?

        • Alma Regina says:

          ? two famous musicians made their undergrad. studies there like 40/50 years ago and this should be enough for providing worldwide fame? Of course Harvard has worldwide reputation but for europeans, universities like Curtis, Juilliard and New England Conservatory are the ones that are immediately associated with excellence in music education.

          • Larry W says:

            You said “not at all famous.” You apparently don’t know that Harvard collaborates with New England Conservatory in teaching serious music students. At least you recognize NEC as being excellent.

      • Weston says:

        Where did Yo Yo Ma attend college, same place as Nancy Zhou. Harvard

  • fflambeau says:

    Kaler is a very distinguished violinist. He is the only person to have won Gold Medals at all three of the International Tchaikovsky Competition (Moscow, 1986); the Sibelius (Helsinki, 1985); and the Paganini (Genoa, 1981).

    Additionally, he has taught at lots of places and has many students: Kaler was formerly Professor of Violin at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York; Indiana University School of Music in Bloomington, Indiana,;DePaul University School of Music in Chicago, Illinois. As of 2018 he currently Professor of Violin at the Cleveland Institute of Music. He has adjudicated several violin competitions around the world including the International Tchaikovsky Competition

    I cannot imagine him to have such a motive, nor is there any reason for it.

    • Alma Regina says:

      Ilya Kaler is indeed a superb violinist with great achievements but his performing career is now not his main center, it’s probably teaching. Everyone knows, if a professor have students that win major prizes at international competitions, this will make him/her more famous and attract better students. Also the institution where this professor teaches will benefit through higher reputation. That is why the optics are no good when students of jurymembers participate. At last edition of Enescu competition, the two prizewinners (2+3 Prize,1.not awarded) were students of jurymembers…

  • fflambeau says:

    It’s a very distinguished group of 9 judges from 6 different countries: “The EOIVC 2020 panel of nine jurists—an increase of judges from its inaugural competition which had seven in 2017—is composed of many of today’s leading violinists and was selected by Elmar Oliveira for their deep commitment to the development of young musicians. The EOIVC international panel of jurists consists of remarkable artists from six countries: Andrés Cárdenes (United States), David Cerone (Chairman of the Jury / United States), Ilya Kaler (United States), Sung-Ju Lee (South Korea), Silvia Marcovici (Romania/France), Mihaela Martin (Romania), Gerardo Ribeiro (Portugal/United States), Barry Shiffman (Canada), and Kathleen Winkler (United States).”

  • James says:

    David Cerone can definitely be political. Ilya is political and self serving like all ex-Soviet teachers. And, Silvia is outright corrupt like her BFFs Krzysztof Wegrzyn and Pavel Vernikov. I have no issue with the rest of the jury. I’m not saying Vikram doesn’t deserve to win, but Silvia Morcovici will be pulling strings to increase the chances of it happening.

  • James says:

    According to Violin Channel, Silvia Morcovici and Ilya Kaler will NOT vote on the performances of their own students and averages will be applied from across the other jurors’ scores.

    Of course, this does NOT stop either wheeling and dealing prior with other jury members and when they do release the scores (apparently they will), I will bet a 5er that Morcovici and Kaler have voted the strongest player into the lowest position they possibly can, in hope of inadvertently nudging their own charge up.

    Old dogs. Old tricks.

  • Larry W says:

    Julian Rhee, 19, has just been awarded 1st prize. He has studied with Almita and Roland Vamos and Miriam Fried. Any questions regarding the honesty or integrity of any of these distinguished judges, the chairman David Cerone, or Elmar Olivera is unfounded and insulting.

  • Alex S says:

    According to the Violin Channel: “In accordance with the competition’s scoring policy, juror Silvia Marcovici was not permitted to cast any votes or opinions on the performances of her current student, finalist Vikram Francesco Sedona. Juror Ilya Kaler was not permitted to cast any votes or opinions on the performances of his current student, finalist Jun Min Choi.”

    If this is true, then it was fair and square. I salute and congratulate Elmar Oliveira for his integrity in keeping his violin competition honest and transparent.

  • Nelson says:

    As usual, a nauseating round of speculation for something none of you nay-sayers has the least bit of first hand knowledge of. Of course, that didn’t stop you guys before, and it won’t stop you in the future….stupidity begets more stupidity. Anyone who knows Elmar Oliveira would think twice about making such unfounded accusations, but what we’re getting from the mob here is not even approaching thinking once. I suppose I should give thanks that the racism card, which is usually heaped on with relish, wasn’t explicitly played THIS time.

  • Elizabeth says:

    I attended the competition, and I’d like to address your questions (I have no stake in this one way or another – I was just there as an observer). First of all, the rules put out by the competition (you can find them on the website) are quite clear – the judges and the performers sign a conflict of interest statement making clear their relationships. They do not have a vote on their own students, and the judges are required NOT to discuss the judging with each other. The judging is numerical. On the day of the semis I overheard them discussing that anyone who made it into the finals had to have at least a certain number and recommending that they use decimal points to try and prevent a tie. After each round each judge went upstairs with David Cerone (head judge) only (they were not allowed to all be in the judging room together) and submitted their numbers, which were tallied by an outside agency, then came right back downstairs. I was downstairs waiting to learn the results, and so saw it happening. Furthermore, there was at least one other quarterfinalist who was the student of a judge (Shiffman) who did not make it past the quarters. And in the finals Choi and Sedona came in only 2nd and 4th of the four finalists.

    The right person won the competition. Please do not call HIS win into doubt just in order to put out a salacious headline. Of the others, Sedona was my next favorite until the finals, but he didn’t win, and I think that was the right call based on the final round. In my opinion Choi’s performance was the best of the three Brahms performances (the winner played Saint-Saens B Minor) and the final judging was based only on the concerto performance. So it would make sense that she came in 2nd.

    Finally, these were all magnificent performers. On a given day one could vote different ways. Oliveira intentionally chose judges who are all themselves teachers and so it is not surprising that some of them had students in the competition. Also in the competition rules – the scoring will be posted on the website. Given questions about other competitions EOIVC seems to be trying hard for transparency and fairness.