Spain wins third major contest

Spain wins third major contest


norman lebrecht

May 24, 2021

The Donatella Flick LSO Conducting Competition was won last night by Julio García Vico, 29, from Cadiz, in Spain.

This follows wins by pianist Juan Pérez Floristán at the Rubinstein Competition in Tel Aviv and the violinist María Dueñas at the Menuhin in Virginia. Something must be going right in Spanish music teaching.


  • Archie_V says:

    Sadly, all that’s going right is that some young Spanish musicians with huge potential are lucky enough to be able to go to Germany or Austria to study for several years before they’re in a position to win major international competitions – as in all three of these cases. The raw talent is in Spain, certainly, but the availability of opportunities to develop it is another story.

  • Nothing is Right says:

    “Something must be going right in Spanish music teaching.” Yes, that we leave Spain to study elsewhere…

    • RW2013 says:

      and photogenicism.

    • Anon says:

      Have a look at Conservatoire rosters in the US & France, for example. All Asian names. It’s not just Spaniards who are studying outside their country & going on to win competitions.

    • Anon says:

      That’s pretty insulting to Spain’s extensive govt subsidized conservatory system & to the thousands of outstanding professors who teach there. These competition winners don’t just emerge at 18 & travel. They are nurtured from a young age by fine teachers within Spain.

      • Archie_V says:

        Juán Pérez Floristán’s first teacher was his mother, a professional pianist (and his father is a conductor). He opted out of the conservatory system when he was 16 – frustrated, he has said, by its stifling, over-regimented approach – to study at the private Reina Sofía School in Madrid instead (under a Russian teacher). After graduating, he moved to Berlin.

        As for María Dueñas, she left not only her local conservatory but her country of origin when she was only 11. After studying for a time in Germany, she’s currently based in Vienna.

        I’m not disparaging Spanish music teachers at all. I’m just pointing out that the training provided by the conservatory system is incomplete. Yes, it’s good at bringing students up to a certain level of competence, but it has little to offer them once that level has been reached. If it really did meet the needs of the standout ones, why do they feel that the only way to fulfil their potential is to abandon that system and move abroad?

        • Anon says:

          OK, let me elaborate. Be it thru the national conservatory system or privately, young Spanish musicians are given opportunities for initial training within their own country.

          Floristan’s parents were Spanish. The Reina Sofia is located in Spain & in fact, draws talented students from around the world who also go out & win competitions. By age 16, a pianist of his level is fairly well formed. So I regard him as a Spanish-trained pianist.

          Not sure, but I’m assuming it’s the same with Perianes & Achucarro. We don’t see much about their education, so I assume most of it took place in Spain.

          Here’s the difference between Spain & most other countries: while a musician is being formed in Spain, they are supported. Once they outgrow the training within Spain, they go away to study & come back. They are supported & given ample opportunities to advance their career there. 30 years ago that didn’t mean much. But now with foreign professors & orch players working in Spain and young Spanish talent returning home to play & teach after studying abroad, Spain has advanced dramatically. It now has the classical music infrastructure in place to provide world class experience to their own musicians, which they are doing with a passion.

          It doesn’t matter that Duenas left Spain at 11. To Spaniards, she is a homegirl & is given every opportunity possible to perform in Spain. She was the “It Girl” of the pandemic in Spain. Every Spanish orchestra was calling her to solo. Perianes writes his own ticket in Spain. Achucarro will play to adoring Spanish audiences ’til he’s 110!

          I guarantee you that young Maestro Garcia Vico here is already being courted by Spanish management agencies (who I deduce are avid readers of this blog). He will have a Music Directorship in Spain within 5 years and a fine international career because of this.

          This support, both before and after leaving the country is a huge factor in Spain’s success. If young talent outgrows the training within Spain, of course, they go abroad. So do the Asians.

          But the point is, is that the initial training exists in Spain. There is a public supported conservatory system. There are internationally recognized private and public conservatories like the Reina Sofia and Musikene. There are fine teachers, both Spanish and from abroad, working in Spain. There is public support for Spanish classical artists both in the formative and the professional stages in Spain. The public conservatory system offers employment to the many fine Spanish musicians who don’t play in orchestras.

          But Spaniards, always self-deprecating, don’t recognize their own successes. The public conservatory system, for all its flaws, exists! How many other nations can boast of that? It’s like the Spanish public health care system – Spaniards are among the healthiest and longest-lived people in the world, yet everyone there complains about the health care system. They have no idea what it’s like to live in country where there is no public health care.

          Similarly, before you criticize musical training in Spain, just imagine what it must be like to live in country with no public conservatory system, no fine international private conservatories and no support for homegrown artists.

          Spain is doing it right, IMHO.

  • Alexander Hall says:

    Nationalism has no place in music, but I have to admit I was getting rather tired of the way Finnish conductors have been dominating the scene most recently. There is absolutely no reason to assume that Finnish talent is better than the talent in any other countries. But the factory that has been spawning all these ready-made maestri (and one still not in his mid-20s ended up being handed principal positions in two leading European orchestras) reminded me uncomfortably of what happened in the GDR as part of its over-zealous attempts to bolster its standing in the world. So many leading sportswomen and sportsmen who walked off with medals and trophies in all the major competitions. As we now know, without chemical substances and the inhuman regime behind it all that would not have been possible. So, hey, how good it is to see some very promising conducting talent emerging from Spain. Let’s have more diversity rather than the dominance of one particular country.

    • Rachelle Goldberg says:

      This is down to the superb training of the Sibelius Academy in all departments. For example they introduced Video Conferencing over twenty years ago so that some of their students could do a Masterclass with someone in another country, ie Zukerman in New York. Their music education system up to eighteen is second to none