an blog | AJBlog Central | Contact me | Advertise | Follow me:

Only one first prize in Germany’s foremost music competition

The final results are in at the ARD competition in Munich and they are … a massive fudge.

The first prize was withheld in every section except viola, where South Korea’s Yura Lee got the judges’ vote. Well done her, and them.

yura lee


In the other three disciplines – violin, bassoon and piano trio – only second prizes were given.

So who’s at fault? Is the talent inferior? Are the judges indecisive? Or is the whole competition business in need of a mighty overhaul?


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


  1. Alexander Hall says:

    I can’t see why failure to award a first prize is an indication of “fudge”. Anybody who has been following the ARD competition over the years will know that gaining a first prize in any of the disciplines is quite rare and a considerable achievement. Instrumentalists often go on to positions as principals in leading orchestras or have been known to enter the competition as existing section leaders in order to boost their profile in the musical world. There are not many competitions that anyone can point to which have that kind of cachet. In any case, why shouldn’t outstanding musicians be regarded in the same way as top wine vintages? Why should each year produce exactly the same kind of top-notch quality? Vines, like young instrumentalists, can be affected in many different ways.

  2. There must be something wrong Norman. There’s not a single Brit in sight unless hidden in the trio section. Couldn’t possibly be our fault, could it?

  3. Nicholas Daniel says:

    When I judged the Wind Quintet Competition there the excellent Christoph Poppen was running it, and he said ‘the best person gets the top prize’. This was a sea change from the previous regime, in which I participated in the 80s with no first prize given, which had followed the idea that a first prize winner must be some kind of wild exception. I think the former desirable and the latter a flawed plan to distinguish ARD from other great competitions and nothing to do with the level of young musicians world wide, which is very high. For instance I just heard an Australian 15 year old playing at Soloist level.
    Surely it’s arrogant to say that the best players don’t deserve the top prize. I have watched online performances from the Bassoon competition this year and Rie Koyama, who’s performance absolutely delighted me, and Sophie Dartigalonge who is a member of the Berlin Phil, certainly deserved to be something more than 2nd prize winners.
    I shall be on the jury in Prague in May and I shall be campaigning actively to give the best player the first prize. I shall report on it!

    • Alexander Hall says:

      I agree that really outstanding players deserve to be given the top prizes. There is, however, a very real danger of debasing the coinage if the highest awards are handed out willy-nilly whenever there is any kind of competition. That is how successive UK governments have ruined the education system whereby young people, all lauded to the skies by their teachers as being “so talented”, walk off in droves with A* passes and universities are unable to distinguish between applicants who all have the same amazing qualifications. If we can agree that maintaining the highest standards of excellence in the musical world is a number one priority, there is no dissent between us.

      • Nicholas Daniel says:

        I agree it must have high standards, it really does. we are not talking about one country here like the UK, but my real point that I should have made clearer is that in my experience there are often more than one person inside every competition who deserve the first prize. I believe that given the huge proliferation of competitions the management and directors are just trying to say something about them themselves as a competition at the expense of incredibly talented people.
        Of course it’s highly likely that the Bassoon jury simply couldn’t choose between them and found the job hard. I’m all for sharing prizes, but not for withholding the first prize for some imaginary better player of the future.
        A decision not to give a first prize would have been guided from those not on the jury, most likely, as we were by Prof Poppen.

        • Michael Schaffer says:

          My understanding is that it is common practice at the ARD competition to award no first prize, but two second prizes if they think the two best musicians are equally good, is that correct? Or are there also cases when they award no first prize, and only one second prize?

  4. David Hlawiczka says:

    Will she try solo, chamber or orchestra playing I wonder.. Good on her and best of luck.

  5. Tiffany Hore says:

    I don’t think this is unusual in arts competitions is it? There have, for example, been five years since 2000 in which the Genee International Ballet Competition hasn’t awarded a gold medal; “The Gold medal is only awarded when a candidate demonstrates exceptional technical skills, an innate response to music, outstanding performance qualities and charisma”. I think I read the other week that it’s similar at the Wigmore Hall song competition (though I might have misremembered that)?

  6. Peter Rieckhoff says:

    Both is true, Michael. The rules of the competition don’t allow the nomination of two first prizes. so they’ll both get a second prize automatically. No first prize but one second prize has also been awarded several times in the history of the competition.

    • I wonder why they have this rule? It certainly didn’t hurt the Tchaikovsky Competition, nor any of the winners, to split the 1st prize between John Ogdon and Vladimir Ashkenazy in 1960.

  7. It might be interesting to know that in 2006 Ms. Lee has won the Leopold Mozart Violin Competition in Augsburg. Obviously she is top notch on either instrument.
    The ARD competition has a long history of not awarding first prizes in some categories. For instance, up to now there have been only three first prize winners of the oboe competition in the course of more than half a century (Heinz Holliger, and Maurice Bourgue, both in the sixties, and a full 40 years later Ramón Ortega Quero). Since the winners of a second prize without a first one being awarded comprise eminent players like Hansjörg Schellenberger, François Leleux, and Stefan Schilli, among others, one may find reasons to wonder, what politics might determine these decisions.

  8. Sorry, that should have been 1962.

an ArtsJournal blog