Mahler Competition takes down winner’s video

Mahler Competition takes down winner’s video


norman lebrecht

July 07, 2020

The supposedly triumphant concluding concert by Mahler Competition ‘winner’ Finnegan Downie Dear has been taken down from Youtube and all other media (indluding his agent’s website) by the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra. Opinion was forming that it was just not good enough.

Which is hardly surprising since the competition broke every rule in its own book.

No-one from the organisation has attempted to contest the serious shortcomings raised by Slipped Disc, deficiencies that disable both this round of the competition and all of its results.

It brought discredit on Mahler’s name, and on everyone involved.



  • Couperin says:

    Darn! Is the video archived anywhere? I wanted to see it!

    • The View from America says:

      You didn’t miss much.

    • John says:

      It would anyhow be mission impossible as you will fall asleep after 5 minutes. A conductor who’s conducting 50% under tempo and do not conduct just following instead of leading an orchestra.

      • Couperin says:

        Wow. Not that I haven’t had to suffer under that kinda conducting many times in the past. But they weren’t “award winners’ by a long shot!

      • Schoenberglover says:

        Watched FDD’s Mahler 4 yesterday and didn’t even realise I’d fallen asleep. Things got even worse when Barbara Hannigan came in for solo, a very overcooked & laboured performance just like the conductor’s. I’m usually a big fan of hers in contemporary music but not on this occasion. Congratulations & best of luck to Maestro Dear & hopefully he gets better with time.

  • James says:

    As far as I’m aware, Mr. Dear didn’t do anything wrong except enter a competition and give a performance that some found lacking. The previous two threads about the competition on this site have seen heaps of abuse piled on Mr. Dear, which seems simply unkind to him and wholly undeserved, no matter what you think of his conducting.

  • AskonasCult says:

    Norman, time to stop. Elements of the competition were a farce. Same with most competitions. But stop mindlessly sabotaging FDDs win. Time to move on.

  • Misha says:

    I managed to watch the video, they were right to take it down.

  • CancelMahler says:

    Jakob Hrusa said at ceremony that ‘jury was completely unanimous’ in decision. Does that sound like a good jury, where no difference of opinion is expressed or tolerated?

    Final concert sadly much better than prior rounds. They also took down those videos, where FDD made orchestra fall apart in new piece and can’t explain how he beats.

    • CancelYou says:

      I know exactly which part of the premiere session you are referring to. If you knew anything about conducting, you would know that Finnegan was completely clear in how he beat it. The second clarinet seemed to fall asleep for a moment and it took him a while to work out what was going on. Finnegan dealt with it professionally, flexibly, and as quickly as he could.

    • Wilhelm says:

      As one of the jury members told me personaly, He would not let FDD pass the first round

  • debuschubertussy says:

    What’s interesting is, how any different from the vast majority of piano competitions out there? Other than Daniil Trifonov’s wins, it seems like nearly all major international piano competitions in the last decade or so have been fraught some one judging controversy or another. That’s the nature of competitions, really.

  • RW2013 says:

    He will have to find some genuine energy if he wants to make the right impression at Barenboims house next season.
    The few “Sir Simon sees God” faces aren’t enough…

  • OperaOrchPlayer says:

    Seems quite disingenuous to put it up only to take it down again. If this is truly a by-the-books competition then they shouldn’t have anything to hide. And if they’re going to spin his career off of the win then promoters/fixers should be able to easily watch the winning performance.

    Do we know whether it was the request of the orchestra or at the behest of the management?

    I see Askonas are already touting it as a win for Harry Ogg on their website. Is it really a ‘win’ if he was eliminated in the semifinals? That seems pretty disingenuous too. Seriously, do they think us plebs in the orchestras don’t notice?

    Disclaimer: nothing against FDD or Ogg but tired of competitions.

    • Suggeritore says:

      Disclaimer : I know Finn and have worked on the same piece ( Beat Furrer’s Violetter Schnee last year) with him in Berlin. I will do so again when he comes to conduct our Turn of the Screw. I watched quite a bit of the semis and all the final. I thought Mr Ng was better in the semi than in the final where he seemed to me out of his depth. So sharing the third prize between him and the other semi-finalistes seemed a good thing. Secondly, as someone who won third prize in a UK conducting competition in the 1980s, whatever prize you win the real work starts afterwards, and for decades after if you are lucky. For me, in the final, it was only a choice between FDD and Herr Jung.

      • OperaOrchPlayer says:

        While I take your point re. FDD, I don’t agree with the splitting of the 3rd prize.

        The jury must have thought Ng performed demonstrably better than Wilson or Ogg in order to put him through and eliminate the other two. They cannot simply erase either his winning semi-final performance or their decision. It doesn’t matter if he didn’t perform as well in the finals – he must have performed better than the eliminated semi-finalists and that alone should warrant his 3rd place position.

        What does it say about the jury’s judgement if they’re so insecure that they decide to renege on their own semi-final verdict. That can only mean that all of their judgements deserve like scrutiny or that they’re corrupt and handing out prizes to those whom they need to have a career boost.

        • OperaOrchPlayer says:

          Apologies: Wincor or Ogg

        • OperaOrchPlayer says:

          I’ve just found out that Wincor was a long-time student of Mark Stringer.

          That means that the two eliminated semi-finalists who were reinstated to share the third prize were managed by a member of the jury and taught by a member of the jury.

          Rotten to the core.

          • norman lebrecht says:

            Wincor was trained as a pianist and oboist and studied composition at the Anton Bruckner Private University in Linz from 2009 to 2014. In 2012 she founded her own choir, Bunte Steine, which has won national and international competitions.

            Since 2014, she has studied orchestral conducting in Vienna at the University of Music and Performing Arts with Mark Stringer and was invited to study as an exchange student at the Franz Liszt Weimar School of Music.

        • SUGGERITORE says:

          Just a minute… There was no semi-final verdict except to pick three people for the final. Personally, I thought Mr Ng was better in the semi than the final, but that doesn’t mean he “won” the semi. And although I have ZERO inside knowledge (and have only emailed with FDD to congratulate him) my guess is that the jury felt that he and Mr Jung were in a group of two, and picked a winner from there, and thought that “on the day” Mr Ng was not up to what they thought was the standard they wanted for a 3rd prize alone. I guess they could have not awarded the 10K€ to anyone. IMHO, better to split it between what were in effect 3 semi-finalists than not use the money at all.

          The whole point of a competition is to hand out prizes (that helps career development in many ways) and to give the winners a career boost. If Finn turns out not to be the next Dudamel/Shani etc then there is no harm done.

          In my case, back in the dark ages, the winner also could not sustain the spotlight and big appointments that happened afterwards.

          Finally, as this has long on too long I think, in all “artistic” competitions in rounds, you are judged on your performances from beginning to end, not just the final. One jury member said to me afterwards “I thought you were the stand-out candidate in the first round, but in the final, your got much more technical and stopped making music”. I think he was probably right. I also think they picked the right winner back then. It is all SO subjective, and actually, music-making is a business. People are there to get on, make a living, and in these horrible times, merely survive. Schluss!

          • OperaOrchPlayer says:

            We will agree to disagree.

            I find it absolutely, patently clear that by passing Ng to the finals the jury judged him to have performed better in the competition, at that stage, than either Wincor or Ogg. That his performance in the finals didn’t compete with Jung or FDD is irrelevant.

  • Alles Mahler says:

    … that’s not what the local newspaper wrote about the winner:

  • Malcolm James says:

    I know thy say that there’s no such thing as bad publicity, but the controversy might actually harm FDD’s career more than if he had been quietly eliminated in an earlier round. Whatever the shortcomings of his interpretation (which I haven’t heard), you have to feel sorry for him on a personal level that his win has been tainted in this way.

    • Holt says:

      i feel more sorry to the non Askonas who spent months in preparation for this competition. No one told them that they just cannot win.

  • Rob says:

    What was Marina Mahler doing on the judge panel? I could be wrong, but she is not a musician ??

  • John Rook says:

    Whatever the shortcomings of the competition, should FDD’s win and subsequent reputation be sullied by this AK-47 attack? Was he responsible for the mess surrounding his prize?

  • player&conductor says:

    I watched the competition and felt a deep disappointment. Mahler Competition is one of the most famous conducting com but this year they chose some young conductors who couldn’t even clearly show a phrase by hands. And most of them didn’t know how to rehearse.

    A top-class Orch like Bamberg Sym doesn’t need to be told something like “imagined atmosphere” or any vague words like this. They only need the concrete information you want, shorter or longer, more legato or less staccato, that’s enough. And at least, a professional conductor should try to show their ideas by their body, instead of mouth. I feel sorry that my bamberg colleagues played always totally in their own beautiful way when some participants only beated mechanically or waved arms without any musical levels and infos. For a competition, players should keep playing exactly what the conductor shows, like a mirrow to tell the difference.

    I agree that young talented conductors deserve time and experience to make progress. But when you picked 12 candidates out of over 3,4 hundreds of applications all over the world, people surely don’t expect to listen to a suffocating tempo in the winner’s concert and have to figure out why the jury made eliminated semifinalists awarded as a finalist.

    If a competition makes people doubt about the fairness, everything is meaningless.

  • Wincor is the best conductor in the universe says:

    The author of this article obviously intended to justify why Ms. Wincor should be awarded a prize.

  • player&conductor says:

    There‘s one participant I prefer not to mention the name, whose behaviour made me totally confused. The conducting ability was awful and clearly not well trained. Musical thoughts were also usually superficial.

    I later googled the name and watched the video of a recent masterclass he/she took with a Maestro. Another disaster.

    I don’t want to mean any offence, just target to the thing itself, how could this participant get selected and even make a career?

    • Lars says:

      I watched and there was definitely a participant in the first round who was a total amateur, with no coherence in his rehearsal… I wonder if we are thinking of the same person

      • Harry Potter says:

        Lars, I think you both are thinking of different persons. But yours one is definitely Russian.
        What’s regarding the last Malko competition? In the previous Norman’s post you said about it. I’m super interested!

  • Cutebelik says:

    Via a conductor friend with scores, I am led to believe that FDD adhered to Mahler’s own metronome marks in his performance of No 4. So, was Mahler also wrong?

    • Question says:

      There are no metronome markings in the 4th symphony. There are tempo indications but no metronome numbers. It is amazing how many people comment on this site with an attitude of authority when they have obviously no idea what they are talking about.

      • Keith says:

        No metronome on Mozart either but we all have an agreed area where it probably should be.
        His Mahler was 50%undertempo and completely ignored Mahler indication : bewegt, Frisch, nicht schleppen.
        It was a long agonizing Schlappen orgy

  • AGAIN? says:

    I wonder why they post it again?

  • A-Tempo says:

    In the urtext score (universal edition) it says that a performance should last around 54 minuted.
    FDD performance lasted 65 minutes.
    With all the respect to interpretation and artistic liberty-thats not Mahler. At the best case, this man simply doesn’t understand the music and at the worst case he doesn’t care what Mahler wrote.