Monday, August 10, 2009

Competitions and cattiness

This damning story on piano competitions appeared in the New York Times a couple of days ago. The story brings out the evils of the competition tradition -- a tradition which, as you might have guessed, is getting bigger all the time.

The numbers are fascinating. Before 1945, the story says, only five international piano competitions existed. By 1990 the number was 114 and now there are 750! (Those figures come from the Alink-Argerich Foundation in the Hague. I love that such a foundation exists.)

As I admittedly admitted before, I am torn on the topic of piano competitions. I do think that in competitions, music takes a back seat to trying to figure out what the judges will vote for.

And it is common sense that things will get dicey when a juror has his or her students in the competition. I saw that at the first Van Cliburn International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs (ponderous title, big mouthful) when we had that situation, a prominent juror with one front-runner student in the contest. Everyone whispered about it and we did not think it was fair.

I do not think there is an excuse for that situation. Can't they excuse that juror and find another juror? A juror for a competition should not have a horse in the race. And say this juror's student won. It would not be fair to him to have his victory sullied by rumors that he was favored.

Anyway, I agree with the Times story on these points.

But I have to admit I take a satisfaction in that piano competitions are so high-profile these days. Such a big interest, not to mention big money, in classical piano! Who woulda thunk it, as we say here in Buffalo, with all the other stuff going on and claiming the public's attention. That cannot be altogether a bad thing.

Here is another reservation I have with the story. I think we have to be careful when it comes to flinging around gossip or things we have no way of verifying. That comment Charles Rosen is quoted as making, where he says that Rosalyn Tureck voted a contestant down "because he played Bach better than she did" -- I would worry about writing that.

They had better be sure, you know? Rosalyn Tureck is dead but she remains a real pianist with a real reputation and to speculate about her like that is catty, risky and unfair. That is Miss Tureck at the top of this post. We do like our moody black and white pictures on this Web log from time to time.

Alas, these pianists, sniping at each other.

Sometimes it seems the competition never ends!

1 comment:

  1. fascinating indeed, its incredible, what goes on in those competitions and how people talk about it- you can never be sure what's hype and what's not. Enjoyed reading your blog - i am also just starting off - nice to meet here. Ilona