The Well-Tempered Ear

The famed International Tchaikovsky Competition has been expelled from the World Federation of International Music Competitions | April 25, 2022

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By Jacob Stockinger

One of the granddaddies of all international music competitions — probably the best known and most prestigious — has been disowned.

The International Tchaikovsky Competition — the one that catapulted the young American pianist and first winner Van Cliburn (below, during the competition) to worldwide fame during the height of the Cold War, for which he received the only ticker tape parade in New York City ever given to a musician — has been expelled from the World Federation of International Music Competitions, which was founded in 1957 and represents 110 music competitions and programs to help young musicians build a career.

The move comes in response to recent events in Ukraine — including alleged Russian war crimes during its brutal, deadly and unprovoked invasion.

The famed Tchaikovsky Competition — which started in 1958 and is now for pianists, violinists, cellists, vocalists as well as woodwind and brass players — is held in Moscow and St. Petersburg and is financed and organized by the Russian government. It has launched the careers on many great musicians.

It is co-chaired by the discredited Russian conductor Valery Gergiev  (below right, in 2014), a close friend and avid supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin (below left) and of the conflict in Ukraine.

The expulsion came about because the Tchaikovsky Competition refused to condemn the Russian invasion, as the federation requested.

Here is a link to the story that was published on the website Classical Music, an online publication of the BBC Music Magazine. It contains background on both the competition and the current state of affairs regarding Russian musicians and the Russian conflict in Ukraine. It has a lot of noteworthy links:

https://nam12.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.classical-music.com%2Fnews%2Finternational-tchaikovsky-competition-expelled-from-world-federation-of-international-music-competitions%2F&data=05%7C01%7C%7C6c24b49a0d734e9d8cba08da23b1b885%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C637861543449919994%7CUnknown%7CTWFpbGZsb3d8eyJWIjoiMC4wLjAwMDAiLCJQIjoiV2luMzIiLCJBTiI6Ik1haWwiLCJXVCI6Mn0%3D%7C3000%7C%7C%7C&sdata=RO2i3yy3HKXFxzEBotr4wTvrEONBM0%2FqUjxqt5CPhQc%3D&reserved=0

And here is the response from the organizers of the Russian competition, which takes place every four years. The 16th competition was held in 2019, and the 17th is still scheduled for 2023. (The announcement of the 2019 piano winners — by the Russian former piano winner Denis Matsuev, who has been boycotted because of Ukraine — is in the YouTube-Medici.TV video at the bottom.)

The response — which accuses the federation of “persecuting” Russian musicians and promises that it will be held as usual and remain open to contestants worldwide — is posted on the competition’s website:

https://tchaikovskycompetition.com/en/news/415.htm

It makes one wonder what the effects on the next Tchaikovsky competition will be.

Will potential jurors outside Russia boycott the competition?

Will non-Russian contestants — with the exception perhaps on Chinese and Belarusian performers — avoid participating?

And what will be the effect on the inaugural Rachmaninoff Competition for pianists, composers and conductors that is scheduled to take place this June in Moscow?

What do you think?

Is it the right call by the international federation?

Or the wrong call?

Why do you think so?

The Ear wants to hear.

 


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9 Comments »

  1. As far as I can tell the Tchaikovsky Competition was never canceled during the cold war. I too am ambivalent about this ban. On a practical level it would have been very uncomfortable to send musicians to Russia right now. Banning Russian musicians from playing outside of Russia seems unhelpful.

    Like

    Comment by Janet M — April 26, 2022 @ 3:07 pm

  2. I don’t think the musicians or the competition organizers should have been forced to take a side. Music should remain above the fray.

    Like

    Comment by kingduncani — April 25, 2022 @ 10:50 am

  3. So now we have a “loyalty test” for music, art, and artists before it can be put out into the world? Ridiculous! The arts should be above all of this.

    Like

    Comment by Kathy Otterson — April 25, 2022 @ 8:42 am

  4. I think it is telling the the Tchaikovsky Competition refused to condemn the invasion but did “sharply” condemn publicly the “persecution of…Valery Gerdgiev” (in the statement linked above).

    Like

    Comment by halffastcyclingclub — April 25, 2022 @ 7:13 am

  5. It’s the right call, as sad as the consequence is for musicians (who suffer through no fault of their own).

    Like

    Comment by Deb A-D — April 25, 2022 @ 6:57 am

  6. And somewhere, about now, poor *Van* is spinning like a lathe….
    Viva Zelensky!
    Viva Ukraine!! 🇺🇦

    Like

    Comment by Michael Levine — April 25, 2022 @ 6:15 am

  7. Wrong. The new generation of hard workers was panish . Tchaikovsky’s name is not just a sound. He belongs to Russian culture. It means, he belongs to the whole world, not a government . Another terrible thing is, in continuation, that Russians players were not allowed to participent in Sibelius competition!

    Like

    Comment by Olga Pomolova — April 25, 2022 @ 12:50 am

    • Olga, and what of all the Ukrainian musicians whose lives and careers have been disrupted by the Russian invasion of their homeland?
      The arts do not exist in a vacuum. I fully support the World Federation in its decision to marginalize individuals or organizations which refuse to distance themselves from a brutal regime which has caused a humanitarian disaster.

      Like

      Comment by Stef Moritz — April 25, 2022 @ 7:11 am


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