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Time for a fresh look at Piano competitions
Murray McLachlan
(published in ‘Classical music’, April 2007)

Traditionally the music profession has tended to be divided into pro and anti factions with regard to competitions, and of course this has led to lively discussion and debate in magazines such as ‘Classical Music’ and elsewhere. However one could say that there has tended to be a much more relaxed, philosophical attitude from those in favour of competitions in recent years. Perhaps this is because a significant number of very talented artists have made tremendous international impact without the help of victory in one of the blockbuster competitions (think of Lang Lang, Jean-Yves Thibaudet and Evgeny Kissin, to mention but a few). But nonetheless, the ‘do or die’ competitive attitude is still encountered today, especially amongst piano students themselves, who can tend to be rather over-dramatic on this subject, to say the least. Recently, for example, I chatted to a couple of very gifted young pianists from one of the London Conservatoires about their careers, and was horrified when they both agreed that ‘unless you have won something major by the time you are twenty-five, you may as well forget a career’. I tried to make the point that perfecting the art of piano playing was a lifetime endeavour that could not be compared to tennis or gymnastics, but was told that ‘piano playing may not be competitive, but life most certainly was!’  More...
Posted: 1 October 2008