Just in: Two Poles standing in Chopin Competition finals

Just in: Two Poles standing in Chopin Competition finals


norman lebrecht

October 16, 2021

The last 12 contestants are:

Ms Leonora Armellini, Italy (pictured)
Mr J J Jun Li Bui, Canada
Mr Alexander Gadjiev , Italy/Slovenia
Mr Martin Garcia Garcia, Spain
Ms Eva Gevorgyan, Russia/Armenia
Ms Aimi Kobayashi, Japan
Mr Jakub Kuszlik, Poland
Mr Hyuk Lee, South Korea
Mr Bruce (Xiaoyu) Liu, Canada
Mr Kamil Pacholec, Poland
Mr Hao Rao, China
Mr Kyohei Sorita, Japan


  • ACorelli says:

    The results are becoming more and more odd…

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    Only 3 women??!!! Somebody needs to be given the executioner’s noose. Whatever happened to equity, diversity and inclusion??!!!!

    • Mark Mortimer says:

      As usual with you Sue- a highly entertaining but ridiculous line of enquiry. Who cares quite frankly if there are 3 lady finalists in The Chopin Competition or not or whether there are more Asians than Poles or Americans etc.. The 3 ladies probably play beautifully or at least better than the other men in the opinion of the jury. A much more relevant question is why- even at this most prestigious of musical contests (with an expert Chopin jury-not just a load of dabblers) are some of the most deserving competitors not reaching the final?

      • BRUCEB says:

        Mark — it seems like at every competition, some of the most deserving competitors (in somebody’s opinion) don’t reach the final. Even in competitions with knowledgeable juries, so their opinions aren’t just based on hair-tossing & cheekbones. It’s part of the game, I guess.

    • Von Carry-on says:

      Ludicrous. E,D&l are never criteria in a competition. The only criteria is how well they played and how much music they made.

    • Derek says:

      You have to train and work extremely hard to earn it. Your skin color will not guarantee you for a standing here. This is not a social welfare. F..K diversity!!

    • Jobim75 says:

      Sounds like ironic comment, but nowadays might be first degree….

    • Jobim75 says:

      Sounds like ironic comment but nowadays might be first degree….

    • 65JP says:

      [This abusive comment has been redacted.]

      If thi persistent troll returns to this site we will expose his real identity.

  • Zac says:

    What a quality field. Shame not to see Miyu Shindo make the final though, thought her B Minor Sonata was unbelievably sonorous and soulful.

  • Tim Smith says:

    They axed Nikolay Khozyainov and Szymon Nehring while keeping a bunch of absolute mediocrities. This “competition” has zero credibility.

    • Phil Smith says:

      I didn’t hear any mediocre by this wonderful group of pianists. I was surprised Szymon Nehring was not advanced to the finals. As a matter of fact, I thought his playing was a reincarnated Chopin. His technique was flawless and musicianship beautiful. I thought he would have and should have won. Sadly, I had not heard of any members of the jury.

      • Mark Mortimer says:

        Yes quite Phil- I would say echoes of a young Rubinstein, Pollini or Perahia- an astonishing misjudgement by the jury- which may come to light as to why later. He maybe should have quit whilst he was ahead in 2015 contest

  • Wonder if any of the rounds are available on the Internet, as with the Leeds?

  • Mark Mortimer says:

    Some of them are very worthy no doubt- but whats happened to Szymon Nehring- an absolute scandal he’s not in the final?! Something badly wrong with the judging there. Well- at least he reached the final & was a laureate of the 2015 contest. Maybe he didn’t need to enter this time or was advised against it. But good luck to him- he’ll have the biggest career of the lot. Competitions are futile perhaps at the end of the day..

    • Trifonov368 says:

      Nehring is certainly excellent, hardly great. But he’s far better than Garcia Garcia, Eva, and Leonora.
      The best are Bruce Liu, Aimi, Sorita, and Rao.
      And the winner will be among them.
      I am a classical pianist.

  • Arthur Lindgren says:

    The jurors have done themselves a grave disservice by advancing to the finals a certain fraction of immature posers (I won’t name any names) with an unidiomatic style and/or tacky and inappropriate sound plus often distractionary stage antics unredeemed by any particular genius and even any special feeling for Chopin — whilst sidelining worthier contenders.

    This year’s jury, largely put together from the same tired mugs of 2015 (and alas sans Argerich or Nelson Freire), can however still save its bacon by awarding first prize to Hyuk Lee, a rare and authentic talent with complete technical address and no mean insight, if anything a more interesting artist than his fellow countryman who won in 2015. He certainly is the only one deserving of first place, and most definitely so after the baffling results of the third round.

  • Couperin says:

    Its an awesome field of talented young musicians. If you’re that upset you’re favorite isn’t in, then boo-hoo for you. Every jury is made of individuals with opinions. For example, if I was on the jury, Shindo would’ve been out after Round 2. And yet she’s loved by many viewers of the competition. Oh well! I prefer the cerebral, focused and intense playing of Kobayashi to the over-exaggerated faces and hand/arm movements of Shindo. And for those who always cry about the jury being “conservative”, watch every round by finalist Martin Garcia Garcia. He is certainly not the “cleanest” finalist, but for any missed note, he offers a rare combination of unique musicality, large-scale control of the music, wit, energy and articulation. I’m glad he’s in the final! He reminds me of Pogo.

    How about we celebrate the insane amount of talent these young musicians display?

    • BRUCEB says:

      “How about we celebrate the insane amount of talent these young musicians display?”

      I would argue that’s largely what is happening… although since the finals are a zero-sum game, adding anyone to the list means removing someone else, so it looks like tearing down others is the main activity going on here.

      (Yes, there is a fair amount of “what a bunch of losers” talk, but most of it is in service of “they should have taken this or that insanely talented player.”)

    • Trifonov368 says:

      I suggest you google Garcia Garcia’s Cleveland contest on ytube. You will see he is the most overrated pianist in modern history.
      He played the Rach3 in slow motion with unreal missed notes. And the most butchered Ossia I’ve ever heard in my life!

  • Paganono says:

    4 students of jury members passed to the finals. Just sayin’…


      Contest RULES state: Teachers may not vote for students. It is clearly stated.

    • Kelly Chan says:

      Actually 5 of the 12 finalists are current students of a jury, according to information posted on the Chopin competition web site in the “competitors” and “jury” tab. So it is fairly transparent. They do have a rule preventing teachers from scoring their own students. Reasonable rule I suppose. However, subjectivity and bias will always exist – nature of the beast. I can safely say that most contestants entered the competition knowing full well what might be at play. It’s still the most prestigious competition in which they wish to involve themselves -regardless.

  • debuschubertussy says:

    So proud of Eva G! Such a mature and interesting artist for someone who is so young

  • Ya what says:

    On the whole, a very impressive bunch. They’ve kept the truly interesting ones in, who have a lot of artistry and originality and yet always faithful and in the style of Chopin. It’s all for the play – there are about five of them who could win or at least deserve 1st prize. Seong Jin Cho would’ve struggled this year!

  • Anton Sie says:

    Aimi Kobayashi’s performance of the Preludes was extraordinary. So much character!

    I also enjoyed Hao Rao’s performance very much. He’s only 17 year old, but his playing is incredibly mature.

  • Xabier Armendáriz says:

    Frankly, I do not agree with some decisions of the Jury; for example, I think the finest contestant was Piotr Alexewicz, and I am really upset that he is not in the final. His versión of the 24 Preludes, Op. 28 was really Good, and he showed much more imagination tan anybody else in the competition. And I am glad that Martín García, from Spain, has reached the final, but I honestly think also should have been out after the third round. I think he showed he is a really skillfull player, but also not really exceptional.
    However, I do agree on the elimination of Nehring. I think he didn’t improve on his efforts in 2015; he deserved then better luck, but not now. My new prefered contestant, as long as I have Heard the contest, is Aimi Kobayashi. I think she really has improved a lot since 2015, and is the most mature contestant of the lot.

    • Trifonov368 says:

      Check out Bruce Liu’s Scherzo in E major, etude Op. 10,4 and his Sonata in B flat minor.
      He is amazing – A powerful virtuoso with excellent musicality.
      Aimi was indeed very impressive in her 24 preludes. The best I’ve ever heard her.
      Sorita is also impressive.
      And Hao Rao is perhaps the most talented 17 yo I’ve heard in years.
      Yes, I heard every pianist in the competition repeatedly before I drew these conclusions.

  • Dan says:

    Teachers may not vote for their students, but they can sabotage other strong contestants by not voting for them, and voting for contestants that pose less of a threat to their students. This explains why some contestants surprisingly advance very far (you know who), and some very good ones are surprisingly eliminated (you know who).

    • TTP says:

      Such speculation can be verified by the examining the scores of each jury member accorded to each contestant, published after the competition is ended.

    • Kelly says:

      There could be camaraderie score given by one jury member to another jury’s student(s) out of trust, respect, relationship building or for whatever reason. The fact that score sheets will be made public does not help here. For however long the Competition allows jury member’s students to compete, this perceived bias will never go away regardless of the truth. Fortunately, we have music to focus on.

  • Afe says:

    Rooting for Hyuk Lee & Kyohei Sorita!!

  • Katen H says:

    Yes, a travesty that Nehring isn’t in the finals.

  • Karen H says:

    Yes, a travesty that Nehring isn’t in the finals.

  • Sorita must win!
    Such a talent and so modest – see how he never takes his eyes off the conductor.

    • Frank says:

      Of course does take his eyes off the conductor most of the time, I’d be worried if he didn’t, but I agree with what you’re possibly trying to say. Sorita’s concerto was a class A demonstration of a pianist who is ready for the big stage, also in the way he communicates with orchestra and conductor. However, we have yet to see what happens when Bruce Liu plays last. Sorita and Liu are AFAIC the main contenders for the nr 1 spot.

  • Jacob says:

    Overall the level of the contestants has been so high that the jury’s job is exceptionally difficult. In fact, I doubt Chopin himself would even pass the preliminary round, with Rachmaninov just about scrambling to get to the Mazurka-round. If I can guess, the top 3 will come from the group of Kobayashi, Sorita, Garcia2, Rao & Bruce Liu. I thought Gadjiev was the strongest contender before the final round, but his concerto performance was a bit sloppy to have been received well.

  • Dhopin says:

    fair is judges do not know who is playing and cannot see the competitors – just listen live and as many times as they want from recordings as well. there should be no first or last player advantage/disadvantage

  • Daniel says:

    Bruce Li absolutely does NOT deserve the top prize for the simple reason that his final performance is lackluster, lacking emotional elegance and technical refinement. His only saving grace is having more power in keyboard execution.