Source: The Dark Side of Piano Competitions, by Michael Johnson, AUG. 7, 2009 [reproduced here also]

[...] A petition now circulating has attracted more than 500 signatures urging “transparency” and an end to the secret ballot. A questionnaire from the same people asks pianists to list jurors they would least like to perform for. The survey was organized by two competition level pianists.


I would be simultaneously heartened and saddened every time I saw this wisdom, which also reminded me of Charles Ives’s famous statement, greatly strengthened by the fact that he uttered these words to the Pulitzer Prize committee in refusing their award, that “prizes are for little boys.”

Also, where can I find the petition above?


1 Answer 1

  • Glenn Gould wrote an anti-competition essay titled "We Who Are about to Be Disqualified Salute You!" (in The Glenn Gould Reader)

One of the most eloquent arguments against music competitions was made 50 years ago by outspoken Canadian pianist Glenn Gould, who tore them to shreds in an essay entitled “We Who Are About To Be Disqualified Salute You!” To Gould, competitions were circuses that favoured conventionality over originality and mediocrity over excellence. Also, he argued, competitions were superfluous, as the best musicians inevitably come to the world’s attention regardless. And he described the kind of audiences these events attracted as a “partisan, odds-quoting, book-making mob.” (SOURCE)

  • Vladimir Horowitz:

I am absolutely against. Absolutely against. Fool hearted. Fool hearted, and I will tell you why. First of all, you are like commis voyageur [salesperson]. You go with the sack and you go where I can try and things like that. And then, the most important, you choose people not by excellency, but by elimination, and that's not right. You have to choose somebody by excellency but not by elimination. So it depends who's playing there. And then it depends on who's judging. The judges, you know, sometimes there are some politics, too. Lots of politics, because there's my pupil, there's the other pupil; I don't like this teacher, I like this one; and things, you know; and it is never clean. So I'm against that. (From the video linked above.)

  • John O'Connor

Esteemed Irish pianist and educator John O’Conor believes that [piano competitions] are “a necessary evil”. (SOURCE)

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