How were you able to e-mail me privately? I have yet to figure out how exactly these forums work; I assume that the return address from which the link was sent was not a genuine e-mail address ...
As for the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition: I used not to think very highly of that whole institution (perhaps it was a certain prejudice on my part against American pianists, music schools, and competitions. Plus, it's named after a living person, who hasn't had the time to establish a legacy or become a legend). Somehow, it was difficult for me to see it on the same level of prestige as, say, the Chopin, Queen Elisabeth, or Tchaikovsky competitions. The first, as you probably know, has produced some formidable names amongst first-prize winners (Bella Davidovich, Maurizio Pollini, Martha Argerich, Garrick Ohlsson, Kristizan Zimerman). So have the latter two: however, I've been told that the Tchaikovsky has declined somewhat in prestige -- thanks to intense politicization. Of course, you can argue that ALL musical competitions are highly political; there are good reasons to suspect that in some cases, the outcomes are already fixed in advance (not unlike those of figure skating competitions or beauty pageants) ... Indeed, one of the reasons why I hated piano competitions (especially the Tchaikovsky) was precisely that they seemed to be won all or mostly by Russian or Ukrainians; if not, other Eastern Europeans. Somehow, there is an insidious bias toward pianists with highly exotic-sounding, unspellable, and unpronouncable names (wasn't Olga Hicklenlooper obliged to adopt the name of her nearest Slavic relative, in order to make her Carnegie Hall debut? Henceforth, she becamed known as Olga Samaroff). That being said, there's no denying that Russians, in a way, rule: it's hard not to be taken by that rare combination of power, technical virtuosity, and soulful musicality. There must be something about their culture that breeds that sort of thing ... However, not everybody is impressed: have you read Benjamin Ivry's critical comments on the Van Cliburn competition (which in recent times has risen in my personal estimation)? From Wikipedia: One newspaper columnist, Benjamin Irvy, has written in the Wall Street Journal that the Van Cliburn competition was a well run piano competition when it started in 1962. In 1966 it selected the talented Radu Lupu as gold medal winner. Since then, however, the jury in the competition "has more often resulted in odd picks", including Olga Kern and Alexander Kobrin, who respectively won in 2001 and 2005. Irvy contends that the recent picks chosen in 2009, gold medalists Haochen Zhang and Nobuyuki Tsujii, ignored Di Wu, "the most musically mature and sensitive pianist competing in the finals". Yeol Eum Son took second prize and the jury did not award a third place contestant. Irvy criticized that requiring every competitor in the 2009 competition to play chamber music with the "brash" and "imprecise" Takács Quartet from Hungary did "precious few favors" for quintet listeners. Since no third prize was awarded in the 2009 competition, an additional contestant was not given opportunity to make a CD recording sponsored by the competition. Finally, Irvy questions whether Van Cliburn himself, now 74, would have been able to win under the current rules and standards for selecting a winner. The Van Cliburn competition, according to Irvy, has turned into an opportunity for career-advancement.
Love reading all that about the competitions!
And btw, I don't think it's particularly a fault of the competitions that they don't much pick who the standouts of the generation will be, and I love them for what they are.The pic you saw was from one of the amateur Cliburn competitions (which began in 1999). The Chopin organization now does them too, and I'll be going to it in September.
About the e-mail: I sent it to you through your profile on this site, not through my e-mail or from my e-mail. (Had nothing to do with my e-mail.)I'm not sure how that works either. :-)
The reason for my wanting your e-mail was that this discussion is somewhat off-topic, and sooner or later likely to be erased by the administrator (of course, I realize there is an "Off-Topic" section on this forum, where people exchange posts about politics, among other things). So I thought it best to exchange further messages in private.
As is common knowledge: whoever wins a piano competition is not necessarily the *best* contestant in the field; rather, he's the one who simply offends the fewest jurors (and you never know what kind of day any one of them had, what he ate for breakfast, whether he holds a grudge against your teacher).
In the documentary coverage of the 2001 Van Cliburn, there was a heated debate after the second round of the competition: one of the semi-finalists (name withheld) was deemed to be the best of the 12, by three of the jurors; three other jurors thought him the WORST. I'm not sure if he made the finals ...
Also common wisdom is that if Vladimir Horowitz were alive, and a young man participating in any of these major international competitions, he not only would not win but also, probably wouldn't even survive the first round.
Indeed, Evgeny Kissin is a world-class concert pianist who never participated in, much less won, either the Chopin, Tchaikovsky, the Queen Elisabeth, or the Van Cliburn (for all practical purposes, I guess those competitions could be called "The Big Four").
Well, judging is not supposed to be objective, and most reasonable contestants understand that winning is not about being judged the *best* (Johan Schmidt of Belgium said, in 1993, that "I'm competing against myself only" -- unlike an athlete who competes in sports).
Speaking of outstanding amateur competitions, there actually are several of those: there's an impressive YouTube clip of Rupert Egerton-Smith (a Briton who works as a business consultant in London) performing Ravel's Gaspard de la Nuit (one of those overdone show-off pieces, along with Stravinsky's Petrouchka, at international piano competitions). Many of these contestants actually underwent serious, formal training -- and even have the goods to pursue professional concert careers (but have chosen not to).
I'm with you on all that, including that Horowitz very possibly wouldn't have gotten past the 1st round of most major competitions these days.
BTW I know that Rupert guy, from the amateur events. (I know essentially all the people you might come up with from those.)
Regarding OT getting deleted: I don't think that happens as long as nothing bothers anybody. But I agree that it's not good to have extended dialogs off the subject. Still, I like confining my online participation to just the public forum.