Day 11

One would think that this is a free day, so no need to write something. Suddenly, I'm in the middle of an argument with a critic, who very kindly decided to make his point. What more can somebody wish for? It is very interesting to have this kind of debates publicly, especially in Finland. (I caused it, I know, there's no complaint in the previous sentences...)

Then, another throws in the middle of the comments a statement by the chairman of the jury and rector of the Sibelius Academy Dr. Gustav Djupsjöbacka; and of course the same person asks for a comment.

So, yesterday -or earlied last weekend- Dr Djupsjöbacka made a statement published in the internet site -at least- of the Turun Sanomat newspaper. I copy the translation of it here as made by the commentator -and add to it the missing phrase at the beginning: We've been thinking about the age limit, and this is something we'll consider after the competition. It is true, that if one doesn´t have a career before 30, it scarcely happens later. We saw also in this competition, that the young ones do better [my translation would be that: young ones get along well].

As I stated in the Finnish page of comments, I found the statement rather natural. Many competitions have profiled themselves in such a way that they either favor younger competitors (e.g. Paganini & Sibelius violin competitions) or older -more mature?- ones (e.g. Esther Honens & Van Cliburn piano competitions). Maybe this is the case with the Maj Lind competition -one without any tradition internationally. I couldn't know anything about it; you can ask the organizing commitee. Here you can find its members.

It is true that very rarely one gets an international career as soloist after having turned 30. Few exceptions exist. There are however other kind of careers one pianist can have late, such as accompanist, lied pianist, orchestra pianist, correpetitor at an opera, or chamber musician. A friend of mine, post-graduate here in Docmus dept., earns his living as correpetitor in German operas; he did start however only at his late 20's early 30's. As we recently saw, Mr Jouko Laivuori -a fantastic pianist indeed working at the Finnish Radio Symphony- did splendid as soloist with Messiaen's Tûrangalila Symphony.

It is nevertheless a fact, that if the age limit was 30 in this and the previous edition of the Maj Lind, Albert Tiu wouldn't have give a great performance of the Barber concerto, Irina wouldn't be competing right now, and about 11 other competitors wouldn't have come at all in 2007 (from which by the way, most came to the competition and didn't cancel!!!). A greater age limit gives the chance to more mature -and more diverse- players; if this is not a good reason, than nothing else is!

The timing of the statement was definitely wrong. No need to say something like that just before the finals; the last day of the competition would be enough, and it would make it on the next day's newspaper. On the other hand, it wouldn't be as important as it is now, because the attention would go to the prizewinners, but so what? Furthermore, nobody -from the press I mean- will be anymore interested about the competition anymore, few days, or a week, after it finishes. This is news now!

It is as well unfair towards one of the finalists -a foreigner by the way- who understands Finnish, and is over 30...

Good rehearsals with Leif Segerstam and the Helsinki Philharmonic to all the finalists!


Monday, June 4th


Learning in competitions

I spent the two weeks of competition listening, watching on the streaming, debating on this internet site with a few active people...
I would like to give now my opinion about what I felt in these few last days...
First from the concerto final, Sofia was totally over everybody, she is a titan, no need to extend on her abilities, one thing I was a little frustrated is that she also have amazing expressive abilities , and she doesn t use all of them... Who I am to say such a thing? I would be blessed to have the quarter of her abilities... But well that s my opinion anyway, I felt some shyness maybe sometimes not let the music sing by itself but forcing a little bit (in the slow parts...)
I was disapointed by Irina s Chopin yesterday, I really loved her semi final recital, and already spoke about it here... She seems to be such a delicate person and artist, but in my opinion sometimes Chopin is also a strong polish composer, close to the ground, and not always looking up in the clouds...But she didn t deserve the last prize:

That s my point : you can listen to total out of style haydn sonata in the first round (Roope), or Mozart in the second round (Sofia), at the end, only the last impression matters...
That s a problem with many competition, as said Gustav yesterday, the jury tries to see who s serving music the best (or something like that)... Well no doubt that Roope and Sofia were amazing in the concerto final... But that s only one impression, and plus in a terrible hall where you barely hear the half of the notes....

I guess according to what I heard in the chamber music stage roope would deserve to have a first prize, as Sofia was kind of disconnected to her partners and playing alone (and that s not really a critic, she s in the straight line of the great russian pianists, who for most of them (except Richter) were not the greatest chamber musician ever, I think it s a way of playing totally based on sound production, and sometimes being focused on this doesn t help to hear some other kind of sound around like violin or cello...I may be totally wrong too !

The last thing I have to say, is that I was totally ashamed by the very very gentle comments on the web site since semi final about Marko Mustonen... yes he has a "big sound", yes he has an "attitude" and a nice suit...
But for god s sakes, he can t play legato for one second or express something in a natural way, it or brutal or too sugary... And his understanding of music is quite poor...(prokofieff 8th sonata ?)
He is still young of course but seems already pretty sure of what he is doing, and that s not serving music in my opinion... Something sounds and looks more like :" Marko is going to show you what he can do with tchaiko 1st".
Well, sorry but I prefer when tchaikovsky is talking to Marko...
So I totally disagree with Risto-Matti Marin, Roope s choices in tcháikovsky were much more raffined and clever that marko 's... This concerto is not a war field !

For me it was a very helpful experience as it s my second international competition only, and to listen from the beginning to the end was great!

Good luck to everybody, I had an amazing time since february in Finland, and will miss it!

Simon Zaoui


Stop calling this an international competition! It is for the school and it's pupils who are sometimes of another nationality, which makes it possible to say "international".

Is it really meaningful to put very young persons on stage with a symphony orchestra when they are not convincingly ready with the work they are supposed to play? The applause at home is note the same as the applause in other parts of the worlld!

Music lover

queen elisabeth's, for Music Lover

Why do you think there weren't six Finnish pianists in the finals of the Queen Elisabeth's competition?

Isn't it rather obvious... they were all here!

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think the same people could attend both competitions because of the timing, and it does sound very natural that the best Finnish competitors would rather prefer to attend Maj Lind.

Maj Lind

I can't read Finnish, but I understand that this wealthy lady was not of Finnish origin, she loved piano music and she wanted to promote the Sibelius Academy's piano department for developing the art of piano playing. She had of course experience from other cultures than the Finnish and it's music.

I have a suggestion: Why don't you take some, or all, of the money to help your students to participate in other great competitions. The recently finished Queen Elisabeth competition had not one single Finnish competitior in the semi finals. How come you didn't have six players there too if you have as high standards as you claim to have?

Use the money in a more sophisticated way to promote your country and your students!

And why not give out scholarships for talented foreign students who come to study at your academy? This would give a much stronger result for both the academy and the competitiors! They seem to work in the shadow of the pupils with roots in the Finnish woods. And the younger the better!

You could also have visiting professors on long term basis giving new aspects to your piano department and the whole school! Why not a Maj Lind visiting professorship?

It is also strange that you seem to have jurors in the newspapers and the national broadcasting company, who clearly take sides for one participant or another, mostly Finnish. I know that in a fairly small country people know each other well, and they also know how to behave before each other. It is painful to see how this makes the competitors a mean of showing off publicly for other members of "the establishment". I sincerely hope that such is not the case in other competitions.

After all this is not an ice hockey match, so sport journalistm is not at all appropriate , nor is nationalism!

Music Lover


I totally agree with mr joamets, it s nort because Gustav himself didn t had a career before 30 that he must believe that he is a rule for everybody !


Tanel, thanks you for writing that.

What you told about your history adds perspective to this discussion.

It is important to remember that not every wonderful artist is a child star, and that people can find their personal way of playing also later in their life - someone because of the army, someone because bad teachers when young and someone just needs some time to mature.

Many a pianist in an international competition can play the piano very well in terms of technique. That´s why I think it should be the most important thing what one has to say.

Greetings, K

age of career

I forgot to sign, my name is Tanel Joamets

age of starting concert career

I am Estonian pianist and surely wish all the best mostly to our Irina, but also good luck to everyone! I just want to tell that mister Djupsjöbacka not only didnt have right to say so in the middle of competition, but he was not right at all. I am now 38 years old and having about 30 solo recitals each year abroad, so i can say i have an international career. But I was already 32 when i first became a laureate of international competition, and already 35 when real concert tours started. There are many reasons, I chose the profession of musician only in the age of 20, after military service in Soviet Army; and honestly the system (or musicians maffia) here in Estonia never encouraged me, always choose the younger one if we were quite equal with someone. Almost none of those promoted youngsters now plays abroad. I think this kind of attitude is very narrow-minded. Real musicianship is something that developes all life long, and from the other side, if we give too much to someone who has not found his real self yet, he gets to the circus of international career too early, and he will never have time to look for his real self any more. Many of them have returned to concert syages only after big crisis and time-out. People in judging, be careful!!


Tässäkin kilpailussa nähtiin, että nuoret pärjäävät...

young ones get along well

It is possible that Gustav D. meant exactly that. Pärjätä means also "to get along well" or " to succeed".

However , if someone says "hän pärjäsi kilpailussa", it rather sounds like he/she got one of the top prizes. When one speaks about a competition, the word has a meaning of winning the others.

Conspicuous is also, that he uses the past tense: "We [already] saw in this competition..."

In the finals there are also not-young contestants. So this could make one wonder if the decisions have been already made.

I understand very well why people are bothered about his statement.

Perhaps he didn´t mean his statement to be exactly what he said. Or perhaps the journalist cited erroneously. Or perhaps it was a freudian slip...


I find it most unfair to beguile as many pianists as possible into coming to the competition with a high age limit if the jury thinks that being young is more important factor than the quality of playing.

Of course, had the age limit been considerably lower, about 25% of the candidates wouldn´t have the chance at all.

A piano competition, just like an army, seems to need some to be the cannon-fodder, don´t you think.

Under such circumstances the achievement the older finalists seems to be even more eminent.

And I am NOT saying that the younger finalists don´t deserve their place in the finals. The chairman´s statement just makes me think that this jury finds it easier to be fair to them.

Recent comments