29.5. The tension mounts

It’s an exciting day today in the office. The moment is drawing near when some of the contestants will be thrilled to begetting a place in the semi-finals while others will be disappointed. There will, unfortunately, be a lot of disappointed pianists, because only 14 can be accepted for round two. We have got to know each one of the contestants, so we’ll be rejoicing and commiserating with them. It may sound a cliché, but the office folk support them all :) (though in some music competitions the office staff have chosen their own favourites – only as a joke, of course, and only by looking at their photographs…)

For me, the day has gone arranging for the results. As soon as the last contestant has performed, the jury will withdraw to vote. The rest will nervously await the results. I personally am responsible for seeing that the media get the results as quickly as possible. The contestants have been asked to report here at 9.30 pm, and hopefully the results will be ready by then so there’s time to get them out on the radio, in the newspapers, on the Internet, WAP and all the other media. The round two contestants will also be eager to know their performance and practice schedules. Let’s hope everything goes without any hitches – my computer has been a bit temperamental today so I hope it behaves itself properly when the results are being handled. The press release and schedules are all ready apart from the names, so now we just wait…


My version

First of all, people DO SIGN your comments, It s a horrible habit to say such terrible things without having the courage to sign!

I observed that the "pre selection" was indeed very finnish. I think the main reason was that many other competitions were running at the same time : were were the italians, the germans, the frenchies, the ex soviet republics, the english, the belgiums, the swiss etc...? These countries provides usually almost a third of the participants, and I do believe they just didn t apply (maybe also because the competition doesn t give any concerts for the winner, that is by the way something I don t understand...But Finnish is a very protectionnist country when it turns to music, just have a look at the concert s hall programm and you ll see...)
Even the asians , who usually provides another third of participants, didn t apply...
So what was left ? Russians... and finnish !
It is normal that so many of them were there at the first round !

I ve been studying in Finland as an exchange student since february, and I must say that the piano level is not homogenic, but the best pianists are damn good ! I listened to some very good graduating diplomas from people who were not even selected for the competition!...
Reasons : they have a very strong pedagogic mentality here, practice conditions are simply unique in Europe (three buildings are open 24/24, 7/7, and some really amazing pianos here (go to T talo...)) It is also a country with a great culture and humility in music, what I particularly appreciated. And you must admit that they have some of the greatest musicians (Mattila, Salonen, Mustonen, Saraste Noras etc etc...Plus lots of them we don t know in western europe (I mean south western europe sorry ...)but I heard some amazing performers...) And the winter is so long, dark and cold, that what else can you do except practice ? ;)

So, small country, yes, but definitely one of the most active and performant on european music stage these days...

I must admit I didn t hear any of the finnish people who went to semi final, but remember, they are playing at home, they know the hall, how to make it sound, they rehearsed and performed in it many times (I did too, but obviously not enough ;) )
It s like football : big advantage to play a worldcup at home !! 1998 for ever... And well, as it was said before me, 5 belgiums were in semi final of queen elisabeth...Lots of french in Long Thibaud, chinese in Shangai etc etc...

One last thing : I went this morning for the "feedback", with anxiety because I know it can be really not interesting and painful... Well, first, didn t see a lot of people coming, and I guess everybody was not in the plane already... Ánd then I had some very instructive advices, of course some of them were not always going in the same direction, but if you can make a step backward on your playing, the qualities you think to have, the problems you have, all I heard really made sense... (not trying to get here some friends in the jury, it was just a fact...)

Except for the japanese lady who is so, so , so japanese like "your must practice more your Chopin etude and play your three Ligeti etudes by heart and things like that...)
And on the 10 people that showed up this morning, 2 were finnish... That s a good spirit don t you think ? Anyway, it keep the same proportions....

I totally supported stefanos when he went "in trouble" with a critic, I agree that there is no age to make progress, but I reckon that not many people who think like that are ready to face the jury to hear some critics....

One last thing
My former teacher, Alain Planes, is in the jury, it s his first piano competition ever (as a student or a teacher). so he is totally " clean" of the habits they have in competitions... Well he told me that there is a very good ambiance in the jury, didn t notice anything suspicious... But he was horrified by the way of most people played their classis piece (give him some credit as he was a former student of Pressler and a good friend of Serkin...)

So people, who ever you are, don t be so insulting and self confident about what you deserve or not, please don t insult Finland, a great country for music, give Suomi some credits, and next time you see a finnish in a competition, don t underestimate the finnish spirit!


Simon Zaoui


From day 1: 1 contestants.
From day 2: 4 contestants. 3 Finnish
From day 3: 3 contestants. 1 Finnish
From day 4: 4 contestants. 2 Finnish
From day 5; 2 contestants

From Morning: 4 contestants. 2 Finnish
From Afternoon: 10 contestants. 4 Finnish

It is easy to see that it is important to get your mind and your body in shape to make your self justice!

This goes for both jury and contestants!

A better organization is something to wish for, why not use the evenings like you will for the rest of the competition.

I sincerely hope you evaluate this from all angles and realize all the mistakes that must have occured in this respect during the competition so far!

This competition is a bad joke.

Better pianists are not the finalists...

Competition Results

I agree with another commenter on the outcome of results in competitions---musicians only think it is fair if they are receiving the prizes, if they are eliminated, sometimes a bitterness or inability to deal with the rejection emerges. I also don't believe that because a pianist has had success in one competition, they automatically deserve to do well in another in their own country, like someone suggested.
I think that some of the Finnish pianists were great musicians, and people should not specifically target their performances. It does seem a little strange though that such a high percentage passed. I guess it does not happen so often in one competition that so many of one nationality passes...but why not if they play well? Is it not just a matter of taste?
I have been in both situations in competitions, winner and otherwise, and I have tried to avoid going down the usual route of crying "politics".
I find that developing a strong focus on the development of my musical personality is the most important for me personally. Competition juries sometimes recognize strengths, and sometimes concentrate on weaknesses, it depends a lot on your performance in the moment (yes, we can take some blame ourselves to a certain degree sometimes!), the atmosphere you create, and what the jury collectively will think.
Maybe sometimes these things don't go our way exactly as we would like, but we can still ask ourselves questions after a competition.
Anybody who thinks competitions should be fair should learn that they are not, and should not have solid expectations, in any country. I would say that as a competitior it is better to try to use competitions for our own advantage, to travel, meet people, and play as best we can in the moment. Sometimes it works out great...sometimes it does not.

Life goes on

It does seem like a higher than expected number of Finnish pianists advanced, but what's done is done. Anyone who thinks these things are fair needs to switch careers. Isn't there an old saying that "the only one that's fair is the one you win"? Perhaps a bit of a stretch, but not by much. As far as the jury is concerned, I actually think it is good to have one member from Finland. Why though must they be related to the Sibelius Academy? Is it that small a country? If one counts the number of competitors from the academy, it is high, and perhaps that is fine as I am sure it is a good school. Yet to also have a jury member from the same institution is a bit awkward in my opinion. There is certainly the potential for a conflict of interest.

Oh well, on to the next one. Good luck to all those who advanced and congrats to all who felt they said something musically at the keyboard, even it they did not go on to round 2.

Only one person in the jury is Finnish... how do you justify your comment in that light?

Sorry for the results of the first round!

It is impossible that Finland is the only country in the western hemisphere that has such a big percentage of qualified pianists. Has Lordi's success made you think you are invincible? Don't put your country into awkward positions like this!

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