The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: How useful are piano competitions? You can watch them live now via streaming. | October 17, 2010

By Jacob Stockinger

I have to admit that I like watching music competitions, especially piano competitions — and especially piano competitions where i know the repertoire.

I think live streaming is still pretty amazing.

Which is why I spent part of this past week watching the 16th International Frederic Chopin Competition in Warsaw, which runs through Oct. 23.

It has been streamed live, which often seems like magic to me — one of the major blessings of the web and the Internet and personal computers. Here’s a link:

The Chopin Competition site also has an extensive video archive and lots of other information, including information about the jurors and past winner. Go explore the homepage site and have fun.

But maybe we should take the Chopin competition — or the International Tchaikovsky Competition or the Van Cliburn competition or the Artur Rubinstein competition — too seriously.

Same goes for violin, singing, chamber music and conducting competitions.

A recent story in The Wall Street Journal helps to put in all in perspective. I particularly like the opening anecdote.

Here’s a link:

And if you are looking for color background  and commentary, try this live blog from the Chopin competition by Emma Baker for the British music magazine Gramophone.

Here’s a link to her latest entry (as of this writing) with lots of others, including her watching the jurors watch the performers (one of my favorites) that you can read:

Do you stream competitions?

Do you think competitions uncover major new talent?

The Ear wants to hear.


Posted in Classical music


  1. […] Source: Classical music: How utilitarian have been piano competitions? You can watch them live right away ar… […]

    Pingback by Classical music: How useful are piano competitions? You can watch them live now via streaming. | 7 Top M Download — October 26, 2010 @ 11:07 am

  2. Classical music: How useful are piano competitions? You can watch ……

    Here at World Spinner we are debating the same thing……

    Trackback by World Spinner — October 20, 2010 @ 9:43 pm

  3. I’ve been glued to the computer’s screen, too. I was pulling for a friend, and friendship aside, an extremely talented musician, Mei-Ting Sun (he won the US Chopin a few years back). And I was also watching Evgeni Bozhanov because his playing struck me as profoundly beautiful in the Cliburn.

    And a Russian lad, playing a Fazioli piano and — or so it seems to me — channeling the visage of Chopin himself, Daniil Trifonov was equally excellent.

    But I’m at the point that if I NEVER hear another Chopin etude the rest of my life, it’ll be just fine.

    How the judges can keep it straight is beyond me. And starting tomorrow eight of the 10 finalists will play the same concerto. Sigh.

    The Gramophone blogger can’t resist commenting on the “pretty dress” of a contestant. Others can’t stop themselves from commenting on facial expressions or body movements.

    I think the Kalamazoo-based Gilmore competition is conducted much better — none of the possible winners even knows they’re being judged. They’re seen by various folks who then report back to HQ.

    Finally, although even these tin ears could tell the difference between the bell-like Fazioli and the rest, I couldn’t tell the difference between the Steinway, the Kawai and the Yamaha.

    So the only fair way to do this is to put up a transparent screen so the audience and the judges are forced to pick a winner on the basis of the music only.

    And even then… Talent will out. Competitions make BAD choices sometimes, notably the last Cliburn co-winner from Japan. His handicap played a bigger role in his win than did his playing.

    Finally, a careful listening to the Chopin more or less shows there’s not a gnat’s eyebrow distance between the playing ability of the contestants. They’re all wonderful pianists whom I’d willingly pay to hear.

    What sets the winners aside, jury awards be damned, is an innate God-given talent that just can’t be defined other than Genius.

    And those folks win, no matter what happens in a horserace.

    Here’s a really good blog:

    And a really good book about the whole competition “thing” is, I believe, called “The Ivory Trade.”

    Comment by Michael Scott — October 17, 2010 @ 10:06 am

    • Hi Michael,
      I quite agree about the repetitiousness of the repertoire. You cite Etudes. I have also heard enough versions of the Polonaise-Fantaisie to last a while.
      But I do love hearing different sets of the Mazurkas, which are not performed so often.
      And yes, we will hear too much of the concertos since Chopin only wrote two.
      But I guess that’s what you have to expect at a Chopin competition.
      It is amazing, however how many different ways the same notes of a Chopin can be made to sound.
      Thank you for the book title and especially the blog, which I will check out.

      Comment by welltemperedear — October 17, 2010 @ 10:31 am

  4. […] original here: Classical music: How useful are piano competitions? You can watch … Posted in 19, Classical Tags: chamber-music, Chopin, Classical, classical music, […]

    Pingback by Classical music: How useful are piano competitions? You can watch … | Download MP3 whit — October 17, 2010 @ 6:03 am

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