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Gergiev’s Tchaikovsky competition – not so clean, after all?

No sooner had word broken yesterday of the contestants in Valery Gergiev’s new-look Tchaikovsky Competition this summer than low rumblings were heard from the cello section all over the world.

Several high-calibre contestants who did not make the cut pointed out that no fewer than six of the cello finalists are past or recent pupils of David Geringas, who forcefully chaired the jury.
The six are: Janina Ruh, Norbert Anger, Valentin Radutiu (Germany), Edgar Moreau (France), Seung Min Kang (Korea) and Umberto Clerici (Italy).
This is not quite the jury-rigging scandal of old times but it does suggest that, in Moscow, past habits die hard.

                                       Seung Min Kang. photo:
And Jessica Duchen has just pointed out that there are no British contestants in any category – odd, given the past successes of John Ogdon, Peter Donohoe and Barry Douglas.
Very odd.
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  1. To expand on what Jessica Duchen mentioned, I see that there are no U.S. candidates in the vocal portions of the competition. Singers from my country are usually well-represented in world competitions, so it seems odd that there’s not a single American singer in the lot. Gergiev has conducted at the Met many times and has worked with American singers, so he’s certainly aware we have singers who can deliver the goods. I’d like to know more about the reason for the absence of U.S. singers.

  2. Richard Rodzinski says:

    No British artists are appearing in the Tchaikovsky Competition because not one in any category applied–and that after our having spent a lot of money advertising the competition in numerous British music publications.
    In referring to David Geringas on the screening jury you write that he “forcefully chaired the jury” No jury chairs were assigned and I, in fact, acted as the chair. And the use of the word forcefully could not have been more inappropriate.
    As to Marie Lamb’s question why no American singers are appearing, I, too, would really like to know the answer. Again, we bought large ads at great expense in US magazines. Is it the heavy emphasis on Russian repertoire?
    Richard Rodzinski
    General Director
    International Tchaikovsky Competition
    NL replies:
    Richard, Thank you for the clarifications. I’m not surprised that the UK and US music mags where you advertised attracted no candidates: you needed better advice on where to reach young musicians. Ask me, any time.
    The preponderance of Geringas pupils is less easily explained. He was very much in the vanguard of your publicity.
    best, Norman

  3. Libor Novacek says:

    Once, a long time ago, the competitions started a wonderful career to many great musicians who are on the circuit until today. But if look at the past 10-15 years, it is a very different picture. Very few winners of the top 15-20 international competitions are on the international scene nowadays. I am starting to believe that people who do not win international competition, have lots of luck, personal charm and often ‘befriend’ (explain it whichever way you want!) someone with connections, achieve more and most importantly, are more interesting musicians…
    I also think I know why young musicians now don’t bother to apply. The reason is simple-
    we are sick and tired of the politics and unfairness that is happening, I dare say, in every competition these days.
    We don’t see a point in applying, if we see a famous adjudicator/teacher brining in his students or making pact with fellow adjudicator that agrees to support his students and vice versa.
    We are tired of seeing the same jury members whose careers are purely just being ‘professional adjudicators’ rather than active performing musicians and inspiring teachers. Did anyone ever wondered, why musicians like Zimmerman, Perahia and other big performing artists in all fields and categories don’t take any part in adjudicating competitions? Perhaps it is the issue of their busy performing schedule, but I think there is lots more behind it.
    And one last point- the competitions these days turn more into a ‘showcase’ of finger dexterity and noise making. Sensitivity and creativity is flushed down by note perfect, over-practised, heartless performances.
    It simply reminds me of dog shows, where the main winning point is the perfect bite, well built body, quality of coat etc. Talent, creativity and artistry can’t be measured by any standard, tape measure or weight scales…for this reason I think competitions are simply and utterly pointless.
    Libor Novacek

  4. John humphreys says:

    Norman, there should be a rule for every competition that no student of any jury member is allowed to enter. This is a condition of the Dudley International Piano Competition of which I am chairman and it helps guarantee that fairness is SEEN to be applied. It is common knowledge that corruption (or let’s say undue influence)is endemic amongst Russian jury members of competitions throughout the world. The case of David Geringas is singularly depressing – unless he is not allowed to place a vote in relation to his students which is as it should be.

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