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Jury Member Explains Why They Gave No Gold to Violinists at the Tchaikovsky

By Laurie Niles
July 1, 2015 22:05

After Wednesday's unusual outcome in the violin division of the 2015 International Tchaikovsky Competition, in which no First Prize was awarded and the rankings went 2-3-3-3-4-5, I stated in a comment that "It almost feels like a breach of contract, to fail to grant the awards as promised."

I received an e-mail from jury member James Ehnes, who was taken aback by this statement.

"The rules, as published on the competition website, state that a gold medal can only be awarded in the case of a competitor receiving a super-majority of first place votes," Ehnes wrote. "We didn’t have the numbers. You and your readers can disagree with the results, but to state that we failed to grant the awards as promised is untrue."

Ehnes is technically correct. The awards, though they were not granted as expected by millions of viewers, were indeed granted as specified by the rules of the competition. Here is an explanation of those rules:

The general rules of the Tchaikovsky Competition, as stated here, say that "depending on the results achieved and with account of the fixed quantity of prices, the juries have the right a) not to award all prizes, and b) divide prizes between contestants (exception: Grand Prix and 1st Prize)."

Also, the jury rules, as stated on this page, say that "The 1st Prize/Gold Medal (the tied vote is unacceptable) can be awarded by a majority of votes (with a deciding vote of at least 8 out of 11). For special prices [sic] each judge will give one name; prices will be decided by simple majority of votes. Jury decisions are final and not revocable."

I think that the "tie is unacceptable" clause led some people to believe that the jury was required to award a gold medal to one laureate, thereby required to actually come to that super-majority consensus. However, taken with the other rule, that states that the jury has the right "not to award all prizes," the jury apparently is not actually required to award a first-prize gold medal.

So the jury did its assigned job, but what was the result? I was ready to celebrate a competition that did a stunning job of attracting worldwide attention this time around, with a reported 10 million viewers via the Internet, and so many wonderful performances. But the failure of the competition to produce a winner in the violin category, or even a clearer ranking of the laureates, was both disappointing and deflating, for participants, for audience, and for the future of the Tchaikovsky and other violin competitions.

Tchaik 2015 finalists

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No Gold Given in the 2015 International Tchaikovsky Competition Violin Division

By Laurie Niles
July 1, 2015 10:36

In a puzzling presentation Wednesday in Moscow, the 2015 International Tchaikovsky Competition awarded no gold medal in the violin division, awarding a silver medal to Yu-Chien "Benny" Tseng. There were also three bronze medals, and a fourth and a fifth place prize.

Benny Kim
Yu-Chien "Benny" Tseng

The violinists appeared to be ranked in the following way:

  • Silver medal: Yu-Chien "Benny" Tseng, 20 (Taiwan)
  • Bronze medal Pavel Milyukov, 31 (Russia)
  • Bronze medal: Alexandra Conunova, 26 (Moldova)
  • Bronze medal: Haik Kazazyan, 32 (Russia)
  • Fourth Prize: Clara-Jumi Kang, 28 (Germany)
  • Fifth Prize: Bomsori Kim, 25 (South Korea)

  • Special Prize, Best Performance of a Concerto with Orchestra: Clara-Jumi Kang

TchaikovskyThe competition, which has been in progress since June 15, includes violin, cello, piano and vocal divisions.

Competition officials said that, thanks to the Internet, a record-breaking 10 million viewers from 179 countries watched the competition, which featured 61 musicians from 22 countries. Gala concerts will take place July 2 in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory, and July 3 in St. Petersburg. Those can be watched on live feed via Medici.tv, where archived performances are also available.

Jury members in the violin division were: Salvatore Accardo, Liana Isakadze, Vadim Repin, Boris Kuschir, Ilya Kaler, Maxim Fedotov, Vera Tsu Wei Ling, Mihaela Martin, Victor Tretyakov, Michael Haefliger, James Ehnes. (Vadim Repin replaced Leonidas Kavakos in the final rounds).

Congratulations to all participants!

* * *

First prize in the cello division was awarded to Andrei Ioni?a (Romania); first prize in the piano division was awarded to Dmitry Masleev (Russia); first prize for women's voice was awarded to Yulia Matochkina (Russia); first prize for men's voice was awarded to Ariunbaatar Ganbaatar (Mongolia). The Grand Prize of $100,000 for all categories will be announced later this week.




  • First Prize: Yulia Matochkina (Russia)
  • Second Prize: Svetlana Moskalenko (Russia)
  • Third Prize: Mane Galoyan (Armenia)
  • Fourth Prize: Anina anoinina (Russia)


  • First Prize: Ariunbaatar Ganbaatar (Mongolia)
  • Second Prize: Chuanyue Wang (China)
  • Third Prize: Hansung Yoo (South Korea)
  • Fourth Prize: Dmitry Grigoriev (Russia)


  • First Prize: Andrei Ioni?a (Romania)
  • Second Prize: Alexander Ramm (Russia)
  • Third Prize: Alexander Buzlov (Russia)
  • Fourth Prize: Pablo Ferrández (Spain)
  • Five Prize: Seung Min Kang (South Korea)
  • Sixth Prize: Jonathan Roozeman (Netherlands)


  • First Prize: Dmitry Masleev (Russia)
  • Second Prize:Li George (USA)
  • Second Prize: Geniušas Lukas (Russia/Lithuania)
  • Third Prize: Daniel Kharitonov (Russia)
  • Third Prize: Sergei Redkin (Russia)
  • Fourth Prize: Lucas Debargue (France)

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The Week in Reviews, Op. 88: Sarah Chang, Gil Shaham, Joo Yeong Sir

By Laurie Niles
June 30, 2015 11:12

In an effort to promote the coverage of live violin performance, Violinist.com each week presents links to reviews of notable concerts and recitals around the world.

Gil Shaham performed the Barber with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

  • The Sydney Morning Herald: Even in high-energy passages, Shaham's playing is never rough, distorted or less than immaculately beautiful, and above this shines a benign musical generosity giving his playing majestic mastery."

Sarah ChangSarah Chang performed Bruch’s First Violin Concerto with the Brevard Music Center Orchestra.

  • Greenville News: "Chang...brought a robust sound and chiseled clarity to the concerto. The first movement was impassioned, the second delivered sweetly. Chang dashed off the famously lively third movement with brio."

Joo Yeong Sir performed the Tchaikovsky with the Hertfordshire Philharmonia.

  • The Herts Advertiser: "The former Purcell School student’s performance demonstrated exactly why she is earmarked by many as a rising star. Seductive and packed with rich tonality, it was a totally committed and delightful performance."

Joanna Frankel performed Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto No. 1 with the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra.

  • IOL Tonight: "The first movement, an extended Nocturne, displayed the pure, full tone of her playing, as did the third movement, a Passacaglia, a theme and variations on an unvarying ground bass. The second movement, a fiercely agitated Scherzo, and the final wild Burlesque, provided ample evidence of her remarkable technical skills, and her remarkable stamina."

Satu Vanska performed the Bach with the Australian Chamber Orchestra.

  • Manly Daily: "Vanska’s performance brought out the melancholic elegance of the work while (Richard) Egarr’s hand gestures from the keyboard kept a subtle grip on the volume control."

In other news, noted film and television composer Danny Elfman is working on a violin concerto, which he hopes to have finished by spring.

Please support music in your community by attending a concert or recital whenever you can!

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Stars Shine at Janine Jansen's International Chamber Music Festival 2015

By Heather Kurzbauer
June 30, 2015 01:08

Festivals of all sizes, shapes and orientations burst forth with special gusto in the summer season. From the well-established master-meets-artists-of-the-future formats embraced at Marlboro (Vermont, USA) and Kuhmo (Finland) to the glitterati dance of the big names at Verbier and Aspen, classical music aficionados can choose from an embarrassment of musical riches as temperatures soar. In the intimate chamber music sphere, festivals that bear the signature of famous musicians are trending. Janine Jansen's 5 day June fest in Utrecht (NL) boasts no less than 46 events including several musical marathons, a complete children's program and repertoire ranging from the early Baroque to the improvised. Visitors can even indulge in a musical Tour de Bike that offers performances throughout the city or enter a mobile concert hall dedicated to young talent.

The Dutch violinist Janine Jansen, a star on the international music scene in the enviable position to call the shots in terms of appearances and repertoire choices with leading orchestras, finds her grounding in chamber music. "In this, the very essence of musical communication with a small group, your deepest emotions come to life. Chamber music has been my guiding light since my first introduction to music as a child." Reverence for spontaneity and truth in music making and a love for her 'hometown' prompted Jansen to take make her dream public.

Photo by Ben Bonouvrier, used with permission

The quaint, canal-lined streets of Utrecht have provided Jansen with artistic sustenance since birth. Several family members were associated with the city's ancient Dom Cathedral where her father Jan served as organist for over two decades. The legendary violinist Philippe Hirshhorn and Boris Belkin exerted an indelible influence on the teenage Jansen at the Utrecht Conservatory. For the 12th consecutive year, Jansen gifts her heart and prodigious lust for music to her hometown community in a madcap five-day musical voyage.

Like most invitational festivals in which a top artist takes center stage, the line up of 'friends' is spectacular: Amihai Grosz (viola), Andreas Ottensamer (clarinet), Denis Kozhukhin (piano) violinists Alexander Sitkovetsky (violin) and Boris Brovtsyn are all well-known to discerning audiences worldwide. Yet, Jansen is not concerned with star-studded players lists or crowd-pleasing programming. "For me, music and friendship are intertwined by understanding and energy and of course the ability to learn pieces like the Penderecki Sextet in no time and be able to laugh. That we enjoy each others' company is part of our music making!" Unknown repertoire and a plethora of undiscovered performers are cornerstones of Jansen's Festival. And, her programming calls for great ingenuity on the part of her distinguished counterparts. To witness how artists of this caliber connect their energy from classical repertoire to improvised music sets this festival apart from others.

In an evening devoted to the essence of Hungarian music, an 8 pm program of challenging chamber music compositions, Brahms Clarinet Quintet and Bartok's early masterpiece, Piano Quintet Sz. 23 was followed by hours of Hungarian gems in which The King of cimbalom performers, Oszkár Ökrös joined Jansen and co., in a tear-jerking, foot-stomping romp through Hungarian dance forms. Berlin Philharmonic cellist Stephen Koncz provided intriguing arrangements in which The King in his breathtaking virtuosity and Ottensamer as folk music clarinetist nonpareil vied with Jansen, Sitkovetsky and Brovstyn to interpret a dizzying array of tempo variations and mood swings.

Gertrude Stein quipped, 'there is no there, there' referring to a soulless place without a sense of cultural identity. Jansen's Utrecht is more than THERE during a festival that is as much of a celebration of life as it is a celebration of an artist and her musical choices.

* * *

From 2014: Rachmaninoff's "Trio élégiaque in d klein" and Tchaikovsky's "Souvenir de Florence" - Janine Jansen with a star-studded line-up: Vilde Frang, Lawrence Power, Julian Rachlin, Nicolas Altstaedt, Jens Peter Maintz, Torleif Thedéen, and Alexander Gavrylyuk.

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