C o m m e n t a r y Tchaikovsky Competition discovers budding performers

No musical event which Moscow hosts is better known in the world than the Tchaikovsky Competition of young performers. The reason why it is so popular is quite simple--it is the world's only music contest in which the host country assumes all costs to cater for, and accommodate every competitor from the initial tour on to the finish.

The contest owes many problems to the arrangement. Overwhelming hospitality made the previous, 11th contest an utter failure as very mediocre boys and girls known as "music tourists" flocked in merely to make an appearance. Profoundly shocked violin, piano and singing juries refused to award Grand Prix, while cellists did not get a single prize at all in an unenviable sensation.

Previous contest records were far more honourable. Launched in 1958, the Tchaikovsky Competition came as an announcement that Soviet culture was emerging from behind the Iron Curtain. The dictatorial Communist Party qualified it as principal cultural event under its sponsorship. Dmitry Shostakovich, composer of genius and of spotless global reputation, led the organising committee. The maiden contest discovered Van Clyburn the superb American to the world.

Generous government allocations and managerial efforts promptly advanced the Tchaikovsky to join the world's foremost music competitions. Top-notch performers were among its winners--pianists Vladimir Ashkenazi, John Ogdon and Mikhail Pletnev, violinists Victor Tretyakov, Guidon Kremer and Sergei Stadler, and singers Elena Obraztsova, Tamara Sinyavskaya and Evgeni Nesterenko, who is leading singers' jury in the current competition.

Held once in four years, the Tchaikovsky Competition follows a sublime creed to bring hitherto unknown performers into the limelight.

Initially meant for pianists and violinists alone, it was eventually extended to cellists and singers.

Due conclusions were made from the latest, scandalous competition to thoroughly change the arrangements. Anyone who cared to come was welcome to the previous contests. Now, "tourists" will find their way barred as every applicant has to send in a video recording of his performance well beforehand for the jury to make a preliminary selection.

Next, the organising committee chose--better late than never--to reckon with permanent and pointed criticisms of Russian jury members' bias toward Russian contestants.

More foreigners than ever are on the juries this time, and an overcomplicated hundred-point estimate system, which made machinations so easy, is now gone. There are only three marks for the two initial tours--"yes", "no" and "maybe", and a narrow range of 21 to 25 points for the finals.

Last but not least, jurymen whose pupils are competing will not vote in the third tour on an idea advanced by Vladimir Spivakov, who leads the violin jury.

We hope the trouble-shooting will make the competition just. The public will know it June 23, when winners are announced.

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