Agency owner will judge major piano contest

Agency owner will judge major piano contest


norman lebrecht

September 13, 2020

The jury has been announced for next year’s Iturbi Competition in Valencia, Spain, and eyebrows have been shooting up at the sight of Barrett Wissman as one of its members.

Wissman, a convicted fraudster, is co-owner of IMG Artists.

Sitting on a competition jury he has the opportunity to be both poacher of talent and gamekeeper for his own artists.

Agency bosses have no place on an independent jury, no matter how clean their hands might be, or how sincere their repentance.



  • fflambeau says:

    Some very good people on the judge’s panel including: Arie Vardi and Menahim Pressler.

  • fflambeau says:

    I agree that Wissman is a slug and should not be on this jury.

  • Nick2 says:

    This is a disgrace! Being a convicted felon is one thing. Deliberately falsifying your biography is another. This is one sentence he uses – “You may recognize that Wissman is a visionary artist behind the success of IMG Artists.” As if in 2003 when he took over his controlling interest Mark McCormack, Charles Hamlen and Edna Landau who in fact built IMG Artists into a global network and attracted all its top named artists to the firm had never existed! Since Wissman took over it has been on a slippery slope with several of his key initiatives biting the dust.

    • Simon says:

      Nick2 is 100% correct. I worked in and around the agency in New York for years prior to and after the change in ownership and can attest to the fact that the beginning of the agency’s decline can be timed to the IMG World – Wissman handover.

  • christopher storey says:

    I cannot believe that reputable pianists like Achucarro will agree to serve on a Jury with this man . Do they know his history ?

  • Eduardo says:

    what would Gurnemanz say?

  • Brian says:

    “Agency bosses have no place on an independent jury, no matter how clean their hands might be, or how sincere their repentance.”
    Hm… That being said…. What about all the opera directors that are judging Operalia?
    Why are they allowed and why is this Ok? It certainly narrows the chances of other singers to be contracted by certain opera houses, as they are all employing the Operalia winners/contestants, regardless of their talent (which is many times on an average level)

  • Marullo says:

    This is unfortunately fairly common. Agency bosses have no business being on jurys and abstaining from votes in isolated cases is not a remedy either. Thomas Quasthoff’s agent Machreich sits on his competiton Das Lied (surprise, surprise), Silvana Sintow-Behrens on the jury of the Zinka Milanov competiton and there are countless others. Can they prove that they’ve never profited from this position? There are rumours about really disparaging behaviour towards young singers, some of which made it despite everything lateron. Fortunately, many young singers overcome these traumatic experiences.

  • paganono says:

    The Miami piano mafia is clearly entrenched in this competition (Solaun, Prats, Brodsky – not necessarily a bad thing, just sayin’). And Wissman is there because his former teacher is president of the competition, and he probably made a generous donation. Festival & competition administrators – and artist’s agents – don’t belong on competition juries, as they rarely possess the requisite competence to evaluate artists from a purely musical perspective. Also, teachers such as Vardi shouldn’t sit on such juries: in fact, I personally know many promising young pianists who go to study with Vardi SIMPLY BECAUSE he sits on so many juries. (And somehow, miraculously, his students always win or place high). The Iturbi competition isn’t going to launch an international career anyway, but this jury could have been far better assembled.

    • Pagasisi says:

      Dear Paganono (aka Roberto?), your comments are unfortunate for two reasons. The so called “Miami Piano Mafia”, whatever that may be in your mind, is a group of pianists that can really play. Both Solaun and Prats are amazing virtuoso pianists that almost NEVER sit on juries (I know them both) and hardly teach (so don’t have students to favor). They also won two huge competitions (Enescu and Long) without any help from any “mafia”. So why writing “mafia”? Calling an artist collective such as Brodsky’s artists, that doesn’t participate in any events outside the Miami International Piano Festival, calling them a “mafia” can only show bad faith on your part (or maybe envy?). I don’t know Vardi or Wissman personally, but a piano competition jury that has virtuoso pianists such as Achucarro, Prats or Solaun amongst its members, surely is one to be fair and solidly judged. Brodsky has a 30-year experience discovering and presenting some of the best pianistic talents of the last decades. She is also never sits on juries. How could this jury have been better assembled? About the supposed “generous donation” of Wissman, that is a ridiculous claim, given the times, circumstances and lack of proof on your part.