Welcome to the Piano World Piano Forums
Over 2 million posts about pianos, digital pianos, and all types of keyboard instruments
Join the World's Largest Community of Piano Lovers (it's free)
It's Fun to Play the Piano ... Please Pass It On!

SEARCH
the Forums & Piano World

This custom search works much better than the built in one and allows searching older posts.
(ad 125) Sweetwater - Digital Keyboards & Other Gear
Digital Pianos at Sweetwater
(ad) Pearl River
Pearl River Pianos
(ad) Pianoteq
Latest Pianoteq add-on instrument: U4 upright piano
(ad) P B Guide
Acoustic & Digital Piano Guide
PianoSupplies.com (150)
Piano Accessories Music Related Gifts Piano Tuning Equipment Piano Moving Equipment
We now offer Gift Certificates in our online store!
(ad) Estonia Piano
Estonia Piano
Quick Links to Useful Stuff
Our Classified Ads
Find Piano Professionals-

*Piano Dealers - Piano Stores
*Piano Tuners
*Piano Teachers
*Piano Movers
*Piano Restorations
*Piano Manufacturers
*Organs

Quick Links:
*Advertise On Piano World
*Free Piano Newsletter
*Online Piano Recitals
*Piano Recitals Index
*Piano Accessories
* Buying a Piano
*Buying A Acoustic Piano
*Buying a Digital Piano
*Pianos for Sale
*Sell Your Piano
*How Old is My Piano?
*Piano Books
*Piano Art, Pictures, & Posters
*Directory/Site Map
*Contest
*Links
*Virtual Piano
*Music Word Search
*Piano Screen Saver
*Piano Videos
*Virtual Piano Chords
Page 2 of 3 < 1 2 3 >
Topic Options
#1247281 - 08/11/09 12:56 PM Re: Piano Competitions' Dark Side [Re: izaldu]
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8483
Loc: Ohio, USA
i think that article is really right about the current judging system, which is broken. i also agree that judges should judge contestants without seeing or knowing who's playing but only listening to the pianist playing, which will eliminate the pre-assumption of the contestant.

in recent Cleveland competition, i saw some judges just flipping over the contestant bio/program during competition recitals. even though there's nothing wrong about it, it would give the judge the assumption before he/she even hears the performance, i think. if judges are only listening to a pianist without knowing about him/her, then it would be more likely for the judges to judge the performance by the performance or music creation itself, which would ensure some fairness at least, and judges will not know whether it's his/her student who's playing.

i totally agree also that there should be some standard judging system setup to ensure all transparency in scoring. every judge's score should be shown immediately after each performance and highest and lowest score should be excluded. i think like the skating system, there should be 2 different levels of judging - 1) technical aspect and 2) artistic impression (of a performance), and 2 parts should be made up for the total percentage of whole scoring.


Top
Ad 800 (Pearl River)
Pearl River World's Best Selling Piano
#1247356 - 08/11/09 03:02 PM Re: Piano Competitions' Dark Side [Re: signa]
hv Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/18/04
Posts: 1226
Loc: Cape Cod
Another approach, as opposed to excluding high and low scores, is to aggregate only rankings. That prevents a judge manipulating the outcome by low-balling everyone but their favorite.

Not sure I agree with the concept of contestant anonymity. Sounds dehumanizing. Like going to a concert with nothing on stage but a CD player. Perhaps a Disclavier might be a slight improvement.

Not sure I like the idea of dehumanizing the judging either. Can you imagine a criminal jury passing a verdict with no deliberation or discussion? Might as well have a machine do it. Just need the right programmer.

Howard

Top
#1247389 - 08/11/09 04:16 PM Re: Piano Competitions' Dark Side [Re: hv]
eweiss Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/28/09
Posts: 2393
Loc: Beautiful San Diego, CA
I know this won't be a popular position on these forums, but I think the whole idea of a piano competition is absurd.

Competing for what? Money? Fame? Career? And who wins? A handful of people who can play the dead composers extremely well?

The more I think about it, the more absurd it becomes to me. They even have this kind of thing in the art world where a few "judges" award ribbons to what they think is the "best" art. Absurd again.

The real reason for piano competitions is to draw attention to classical piano music and publicize a practice that, when you really think about it, damages more people than it rewards.
_________________________
Play New Age Piano
http://www.quiescencemusic.com

Top
#1247419 - 08/11/09 05:33 PM Re: Piano Competitions' Dark Side [Re: eweiss]
Kreisler Offline



Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13773
Loc: Iowa City, IA
Originally Posted By: eweiss
Competing for what?


Attention.

However you look at it, competition, performance, even posting on internet forums, is basically a way to get attention. It's part of being human. Everybody does it a little differently, and everyone may state different reasons for doing it, but I think it all boils down to attention.
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

www.pianoped.com
www.youtube.com/user/UIPianoPed

Top
#1247435 - 08/11/09 06:08 PM Re: Piano Competitions' Dark Side [Re: Kreisler]
J Cortese Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/20/09
Posts: 357
Loc: Los Angeles, CA
Personally, I love blind competitions or auditions. I keep remembering the stories of big orchestras that didn't have blind auditions who just coincidentally happened to have only white men in them. The second they started having blind auditions, women and non-white performers just "happened" to get picked. Now, many orchestras that started out all white and male for decades have become nearly half-and-half, with far more minority participation.

Blind auditions are the only thing that's fair. I would feel much more comfortable and as if I were being judged on my music and not my makeup in a blind audition.


Edited by J Cortese (08/11/09 06:08 PM)
_________________________
If there is a banner ad in this post, please be advised that the owners of the company traffic in illegal drugs and have been caught in compromising positions with farm animals.

Top
#1247442 - 08/11/09 06:29 PM Re: Piano Competitions' Dark Side [Re: J Cortese]
pno Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/27/05
Posts: 1042
Loc: ♪oron♪o, on♪ario, canada...
Originally Posted By: J Cortese
The second they started having blind auditions, women and non-white performers just "happened" to get picked.


In that case blind audition is not going to help the "complainers" of competitions then. grin
_________________________
♫♫♫ ♫♫♫
YAMAHA C2M PE

Top
#1247445 - 08/11/09 06:32 PM Re: Piano Competitions' Dark Side [Re: Piano*Dad]
John Citron Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/15/05
Posts: 3925
Loc: Haverhill, Massachusetts
Originally Posted By: Piano*Dad
You know, I wonder what Liszt's audiences thought about his volume? We know what the piano's thought, if pianos could think!



...And Liszt's piano was much softer than our's today. I heard an 1840 Erard in a concert two weeks ago. The three pianists from Mainland China included their teacher Yuan Sheng. This very old instrument did not sound thin and tubby, but very much like a modern piano except the sound volume was ear piercing. He along with his two students played everything from Liszt's Concert Etudes, to Chopin Ballades, Nocturnes, Preludes, and other pieces.

Liszt supposedly broke the pianos built during his day. I wonder how much this is true or just stories because these people played this instrument just like anyone would play a piano.

It's too bad the the competitions have come down to this. The shear noise level is inexcusable, and very damaging aurally in the end.

John
_________________________
Nothing.

Top
#1247476 - 08/11/09 07:45 PM Re: Piano Competitions' Dark Side [Re: John Citron]
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10354
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
My point about Liszt is that loudness is not a modern conceit. The instruments he was using later in life likely could make a racket every bit as loud as today's concert instruments.
_________________________
Grotrian 192 #156455

https://www.youtube.com/user/dhfeld/videos

Top
#1247480 - 08/11/09 07:58 PM Re: Piano Competitions' Dark Side [Re: Piano*Dad]
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10354
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
Is the drive toward technical pyrotechnics (fast and loud, which everyone seems to deplore) driven by the character of judging? Are the tastes of these supposedly stupid conservatory professors the real problem? I doubt it. I suspect what we are seeing is the rational strategizing of the contestants. The ability to play soft and sensitive slow pieces or movements may simply be taken for granted. You have to toss some of this stuff in between your tours de force, but it isn't the meat of your program. This is not the fault of judging. It is inherent in the high level of the all of the performers.

There is a rather clear parallel with 'sports' like ice skating. To my untrained eye, ice skating competitions are not really won or lost on graceful and slow body movements but by whether or not you hit your triple or quadruple jumps. These truly high level athletic pyrotechnics are actually the most 'objective' thing in the judges arsenal. The skaters' emotional depth only counts when there is essentially a tie on these other technical aspects of the performance.

Now, I suspect that there may still be some room for panache and originality. But it has to come after you have demonstrated that your technique is first rate. But exhibiting panache is risky. You may put off people who have a particular sound in their mind that they associate with composer X. Well, that's the subjectivity that people seem to want.

There's a line in horse racing about people who always bet the chalk. They're called losers. We're all worried about competitions forcing everyone to play in the same boring style. I'm not convinced that this is true, and it probably isn't a rational strategy either. In a winner-take-all competition, playing it safe is almost guaranteed to get you .... a pat on the back. You have to stand out to win. If you are one millimeter worse than the person the judges choose or one kilometer worse it doesn't matter. You lose. In other words, if your choice of how to stand out offends a judge and you lose, that's tough, but you were likely to lose anyway if you played it safe. The prize only goes to the venturesome person (assuming they're all technical virtuosi) who stands out in a way that impresses a sufficient fraction of the judges. The winner is thus likely to be a risk taker.
_________________________
Grotrian 192 #156455

https://www.youtube.com/user/dhfeld/videos

Top
#1247496 - 08/11/09 08:26 PM Re: Piano Competitions' Dark Side [Re: Piano*Dad]
pianoloverus Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19267
Loc: New York City
I think that the talk about a pianist's ability to play loud and fast(or have incredible technique... however one wants to describe it)as:

1. the most important contest winning attribute in today's competitions

2. a quality that has only recently become important

is a significant overstatement. Almost all the great pianists of the past and the contest winners from 50 or more years ago were also terrific technicians.

I think there may be a lot more pianists today with incredible technique than there were 50 or 100 years ago. And I think one must have terrific technique as a prerequisite for winning a competition.


Edited by pianoloverus (08/11/09 08:27 PM)

Top
#1247511 - 08/11/09 08:57 PM Re: Piano Competitions' Dark Side [Re: pianoloverus]
Andromaque Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/29/08
Posts: 3886
Loc: New York
I am currently reading Janos Starker's autobiography called The World of Music according to Starker. As you probably know Janos Starker is among the world's best cellists and foremost teachers. He is known to have steadily refused to sit on competition juries due to his specific persepctive on competitions. Here is a quote from a response to a question during an interview:
"I find that the competition system is flawed. As far as I'm concerned, the competition system should be set up such that the preliminary rounds are simply for judging whether a person controls instrumental and musical aspects well. The only ones who should reach the final rounds are those that unquestionably play their instruments at the highest possible level and are unquestionably solid and learned musicians. Then and only then should the element of personality come into play, whether they are doing something different and whether they have something to say.

Competitions clearly don't operate this way because people are winning who are not at the highest level instrumentally, but who advanced through the competition because of their personality. I admire many of my colleagues, but I'm not about to get into arguments about the rules of a competition when lives of young people are affected."

He also recommends that the judges of the final phase be non-cellists. I happen to see alot of wisdom in this approach.
I do think that the progression towards fastest and "showiest" is almost predictable in view of the growing number of well-trained players and the thriving competition circuit. However this does not validate the selection parameters. After all, the highest purpose of technical wizardry is to be placed at the service of interpretation, expressivity and the generation of memorable beautiful music.

Top
#1247520 - 08/11/09 09:05 PM Re: Piano Competitions' Dark Side [Re: Piano*Dad]
John Citron Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/15/05
Posts: 3925
Loc: Haverhill, Massachusetts
Originally Posted By: Piano*Dad
My point about Liszt is that loudness is not a modern conceit. The instruments he was using later in life likely could make a racket every bit as loud as today's concert instruments.



Sure the newer instruments made quite a racket, but still it was much softer than we have today. Liszt, Gottschalk, and others played big as well as softly. That was their way to show off. There's still a dynamic range to the music, which seems to be ignored or frowned upon by the competition performers. The old pianos didn't hurt the ears or cause deafness like the modern ones can.

John
_________________________
Nothing.

Top
#1247531 - 08/11/09 09:31 PM Re: Piano Competitions' Dark Side [Re: Andromaque]
pianoloverus Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19267
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: Andromaque
I do think that the progression towards fastest and "showiest" is almost predictable in view of the growing number of well-trained players and the thriving competition circuit.


If there is indeed a "growing number of well-trained players", then I don't see why that should result in a progression towards fastest etc. I think this assumes the judges have an incredible lack of taste/sophistication/musical understanding. In significant competitions, the judges are virtually all far more accomplished musicians/performers than all but a few on this fourm.

In fact, if all or most of the players have very excellent technique, then I think that could easily make musical aspects of their performance more critical in deciding amongst them.

Top
#1247535 - 08/11/09 09:34 PM Re: Piano Competitions' Dark Side [Re: John Citron]
pianoloverus Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19267
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: John Citron
There's still a dynamic range to the music, which seems to be ignored or frowned upon by the competition performers.
John


After listeining to virtually all the competitors in the Cliburn Competition, I cannot think of a single one who fits that descirption.

Which one of the pianists in that competition do you think would fit your description?

Top
#1247541 - 08/11/09 09:41 PM Re: Piano Competitions' Dark Side [Re: pianoloverus]
John Citron Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/15/05
Posts: 3925
Loc: Haverhill, Massachusetts
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Originally Posted By: John Citron
There's still a dynamic range to the music, which seems to be ignored or frowned upon by the competition performers.
John


After listeining to virtually all the competitors in the Cliburn Competition, I cannot think of a single one who fits that descirption.

Which one of the pianists in that competition do you think would fit your description?


I was thinking more of the local competitions and the young crop of students I've seen coming out of NEC. Perhaps the VCC is way above the local yokel stuff that most people see.

There's a former NEC student that I know that ended up with hand injuries because her teacher pushed her to play louder and faster when it was too far beyond her technique. I've lost track of her since her days at NEC so I don't know of her status now. It's too bad if this is what the judges want and what the public likes to hear.

John
_________________________
Nothing.

Top
#1247542 - 08/11/09 09:42 PM Re: Piano Competitions' Dark Side [Re: pianoloverus]
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10354
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
Heck, I loved the chutzpah of the guy who actually played the Moonlight Sonata. That took guts. It didn't work out for him, but it was a great risk. Sure got some people talking.
_________________________
Grotrian 192 #156455

https://www.youtube.com/user/dhfeld/videos

Top
#1247543 - 08/11/09 09:43 PM Re: Piano Competitions' Dark Side [Re: John Citron]
ProdigalPianist Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/08/07
Posts: 1049
Loc: Phoenix Metro, AZ
I don't deplore fast and loud playing when the music calls for it. I am endlessly impressed by the technical virtuosity demonstrated by the contestants I saw. I will never be that good.

When I said I was shocked by how few impressed me with their musicality...I didn't mean they didn't play musically. I meant I was expecting to be similarly blown away by their interpretation of the music, as by their technical skills. And what I was shocked by, was that not every one of the contestants blew me away in this regard as I expected. I don't know if I am saying this well at all.

I have an utterly unscientific method of "judging" the musicality of a performance. If the music makes me visualize pictures in my head (as if it were a soundtrack of something), I am touched by the musicality of a performance more than the technical skills of the musician. If I sit there noticing how technically proficient they are, rather than the music itself, then I am not as impressed by their musicality.

As I said, I may not know great art but I know what I like. When I spoke later to those whose knowledge and insight in judging a performance I do trust, I was rather gratified to find that they liked the same contestants I did, FWIW.

I don't think judges or conservatory professors are stupid. I have no more business second-guessing the judges of a piano competition than I have grading an advanced theoretical physics dissertation. Even if I had any business judging, I would not want to. At the level of a top competition, where the baseline technical skills are incredible, what do you judge anyway? Whether you like a particular performer or piece of music is so subjective.

Not that I am any great expert on the subject, but I thought from reading the few accounts of those performers and teachers who did not like the effect competition has had on music, that the main problem with competitions as they saw it, was that risk-takers, far from being the winners, were the ones least likely to win. Performers who take the greatest risks tend to be the ones judges and regular listeners either love or hate. The winners, so this theory go, are the ones who do NOT take risks.

And at any rate...the only truly factual, non-subjective point I made was that my ears hurt. I really don't think your ears should hurt from a piano competition (not in a room that was big enough for the piano anyway). I don't see why the ability to play softly and sensitively should be any more taken for granted than the ability to play fast and loud.
_________________________
Adult Amateur Pianist

My only domestic quality is that I live in a house.

Top
#1247551 - 08/11/09 09:52 PM Re: Piano Competitions' Dark Side [Re: pianoloverus]
Andromaque Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/29/08
Posts: 3886
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus


If there is indeed a "growing number of well-trained players", then I don't see why that should result in a progression towards fastest etc. I think this assumes the judges have an incredible lack of taste/sophistication/musical understanding. In significant competitions, the judges are virtually all far more accomplished musicians/performers than all but a few on this fourm.

In fact, if all or most of the players have very excellent technique, then I think that could easily make musical aspects of their performance more critical in deciding amongst them.


Pianodad's answer illustrates well how the "progression" I mentioned has occured.
Judges notoriously disagree on aspects of musicality. It is one of the mysteries and cruelties of music making and music appreciation. A supreme artist in your eyes may barely register for me and vice versa. In fact in the book I mentioned previously there are plenty of interesting anecdotes about this issue. Artists with as impeccable credentials as Rostropovich, Richter, Fritz Reiner, von Karajan, Argerich have notoriously disagreed when evaluating competitors or other artists. I think that "quantifiable" parameters such as speed, playing difficult repertoire and "virtuosic" (usually transcriptions?) pieces probably end up being the common denominator about which most judges will have to agree. I may be wrong of course but that has been my impression for a few years now.

Top
#1247561 - 08/11/09 10:06 PM Re: Piano Competitions' Dark Side [Re: ProdigalPianist]
pianoloverus Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19267
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: ProdigalPianist

When I said I was shocked by how few impressed me with their musicality...I didn't mean they didn't play musically. I meant I was expecting to be similarly blown away by their interpretation of the music, as by their technical skills. And what I was shocked by, was that not every one of the contestants blew me away in this regard as I expected. I don't know if I am saying this well at all.


Are you referring to the Cliburn Competition? If so, which pianists did you find musically deficient? If you were "blown away" by the technical performance of all the pianists. couldn't that just mean you could more easily compare their technique to your own?




Originally Posted By: ProdigalPianist
At the level of a top competition, where the baseline technical skills are incredible, what do you judge anyway? Whether you like a particular performer or piece of music is so subjective.
You judge musicality as well as technical skill. One judges musicality based on one's musical understanding.

Originally Posted By: ProdigalPianist
Not that I am any great expert on the subject, but I thought from reading the few accounts of those performers and teachers who did not like the effect competition has had on music, that the main problem with competitions as they saw it, was that risk-takers, far from being the winners, were the ones least likely to win. Performers who take the greatest risks tend to be the ones judges and regular listeners either love or hate. The winners, so this theory go, are the ones who do NOT take risks.

I don't think risk taking per se is necessarily undesirable. If the performer's interpretation or repertoire is unusual, it won't have a negative effect if he can convince enough judges that it is interesting or better yet, terrific. It's possible that if one's interpretation is highly unusual, it could mean not winning a competition if enough judges give enough low votes. It's also possible that a highly unusual but good interpretation could win a competition.

Originally Posted By: prodigalPianist
And at any rate...the only truly factual, non-subjective point I made was that my ears hurt. I really don't think your ears should hurt from a piano competition (not in a room that was big enough for the piano anyway). I don't see why the ability to play softly and sensitively should be any more taken for granted than the ability to play fast and loud.


Which competition did you attend? How close did you sit? Which pianists do you think played so loudly your ears hurt and never played softly and sensitively?

Top
#1247570 - 08/11/09 10:14 PM Re: Piano Competitions' Dark Side [Re: Andromaque]
pianoloverus Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19267
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: Andromaque
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus


If there is indeed a "growing number of well-trained players", then I don't see why that should result in a progression towards fastest etc. I think this assumes the judges have an incredible lack of taste/sophistication/musical understanding. In significant competitions, the judges are virtually all far more accomplished musicians/performers than all but a few on this fourm.

In fact, if all or most of the players have very excellent technique, then I think that could easily make musical aspects of their performance more critical in deciding amongst them.


Pianodad's answer illustrates well how the "progression" I mentioned has occured.
Judges notoriously disagree on aspects of musicality. It is one of the mysteries and cruelties of music making and music appreciation. A supreme artist in your eyes may barely register for me and vice versa. In fact in the book I mentioned previously there are plenty of interesting anecdotes about this issue. Artists with as impeccable credentials as Rostropovich, Richter, Fritz Reiner, von Karajan, Argerich have notoriously disagreed when evaluating competitors or other artists. I think that "quantifiable" parameters such as speed, playing difficult repertoire and "virtuosic" (usually transcriptions?) pieces probably end up being the common denominator about which most judges will have to agree. I may be wrong of course but that has been my impression for a few years now.


Yes, the judges can disagree on musicality. That's why there are a lot of them so the consensus will decide. As you said, in a high level competition most of the contestants have a terrific technique.Excellent technique is a prerequisite, so I think their musicality will be a very important factor.

I think technique is more something that can eliminate a competitor(if they lack it) as opposed to determining a winner.

There were very few transcriptions played in the Cliburn especially if one excludes Petrouchka and La Valse(which despite their difficulties have very little superfluous passagework). Same thing for the smaller IKIF competition I attended.



Edited by pianoloverus (08/11/09 10:21 PM)

Top
#1247589 - 08/11/09 10:30 PM Re: Piano Competitions' Dark Side [Re: pianoloverus]
Kreisler Offline



Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13773
Loc: Iowa City, IA
I actually think the repertoire and number of rounds is what makes the Cliburn so problematic. With all those recitals and all that repertoire, everyone is bound to have good moments and bad. Once you make it past the first round, it starts to seem a bit arbitrary to me.
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

www.pianoped.com
www.youtube.com/user/UIPianoPed

Top
#1247591 - 08/11/09 10:32 PM Re: Piano Competitions' Dark Side [Re: John Citron]
pianoloverus Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19267
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: John Citron
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Originally Posted By: John Citron
There's still a dynamic range to the music, which seems to be ignored or frowned upon by the competition performers.
John


After listeining to virtually all the competitors in the Cliburn Competition, I cannot think of a single one who fits that descirption.

Which one of the pianists in that competition do you think would fit your description?


I was thinking more of the local competitions and the young crop of students I've seen coming out of NEC. Perhaps the VCC is way above the local yokel stuff that most people see.

It's too bad if this is what the judges want and what the public likes to hear.

John


The VCC is undoubtedly way above a local competition.

I'm sure some of the public is impressed mostly by high virtusity, but clearly some of the public(who have been posting on this thread)are not mainly interested in that. I would assume that the judges in competitions even much less important that the VCC usually have a performance and teaching background much greater than most PW posters. I know this was the case for the IKIF Competition.


Edited by pianoloverus (08/11/09 10:33 PM)

Top
#1247748 - 08/12/09 07:03 AM Re: Piano Competitions' Dark Side [Re: Piano*Dad]
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7784
Originally Posted By: Piano*Dad
Is the drive toward technical pyrotechnics (fast and loud, which everyone seems to deplore) driven by the character of judging?



Well, since technical finesse does seem to win competitions, I don't know how it could be anything other than the character of judging that drives it.

Quote:


Are the tastes of these supposedly stupid conservatory professors the real problem?



They aren't stupid - they are earning money and/or prestige. And we have no idea whether they vote their actual tastes, or what their actual internal criteria might be. We can't track the voting of individual judges, especially over the course of multiple competitions. If we could, we might have a better idea of what they really used as measurements. But the competition organizers may know how they vote...hmmm.

Quote:


I doubt it. I suspect what we are seeing is the rational strategizing of the contestants. The ability to play soft and sensitive slow pieces or movements may simply be taken for granted.



Why would it be taken for granted, when most of us know it is much simpler to play fast and loud? The strategy of fast and loud is much more likely to be based on the path of least difficulty.

Quote:


You have to toss some of this stuff in between your tours de force, but it isn't the meat of your program. This is not the fault of judging. It is inherent in the high level of the all of the performers.



No, it is not inherent with high level, it is inherent with low levels of performance. "High level" isn't fast and loud (although it is capable of that), it is subtle and profound.

Quote:


There is a rather clear parallel with 'sports' like ice skating. To my untrained eye, ice skating competitions are not really won or lost on graceful and slow body movements but by whether or not you hit your triple or quadruple jumps. These truly high level athletic pyrotechnics are actually the most 'objective' thing in the judges arsenal. The skaters' emotional depth only counts when there is essentially a tie on these other technical aspects of the performance.



If anything, you've just demonstrated the point that piano competitions are nothing other than sport, and really have nothing to do with art. And maybe that's the way they are heading - but there are still those of us who think that playing classical music is far more than that and is a real art that is intrinsically more valuable than what can be determined in a competition.

Quote:


Now, I suspect that there may still be some room for panache and originality. But it has to come after you have demonstrated that your technique is first rate. But exhibiting panache is risky. You may put off people who have a particular sound in their mind that they associate with composer X. Well, that's the subjectivity that people seem to want.



The problem is that first-rate technique is rather common and isn't really very interesting except to others who are working on it, and their teachers. Real honest-to-goodness personal interpretation and music-making with deep insight into the music is what is rare. Competitions value the first, and not the latter. But that points up another problem of competitions - the pianists are typically not musically mature.

Quote:


There's a line in horse racing about people who always bet the chalk. They're called losers. We're all worried about competitions forcing everyone to play in the same boring style. I'm not convinced that this is true, and it probably isn't a rational strategy either. In a winner-take-all competition, playing it safe is almost guaranteed to get you .... a pat on the back. You have to stand out to win. If you are one millimeter worse than the person the judges choose or one kilometer worse it doesn't matter. You lose. In other words, if your choice of how to stand out offends a judge and you lose, that's tough, but you were likely to lose anyway if you played it safe. The prize only goes to the venturesome person (assuming they're all technical virtuosi) who stands out in a way that impresses a sufficient fraction of the judges. The winner is thus likely to be a risk taker.


The recent Van Cliburn totally disproves what you just said. One of the winners can't be considered objectively because of disability, but the other was possibly the single least venturesome pianist there. He was simply highly competent, basically quite musical but not offering any special insight, and really stood out mostly for not standing out. Probably the safest choice the judges could possibly make out of that field.

Top
#1247775 - 08/12/09 08:30 AM Re: Piano Competitions' Dark Side [Re: wr]
pianoloverus Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19267
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: wr
The recent Van Cliburn totally disproves what you just said. One of the winners can't be considered objectively because of disability, but the other was possibly the single least venturesome pianist there. He was simply highly competent, basically quite musical but not offering any special insight, and really stood out mostly for not standing out. Probably the safest choice the judges could possibly make out of that field.



How do know that the blind can't be considered pianist objectively? It's entirely possbile the jury bent over backwards to make sure that this pianist wasn't given any special consideration because of his blindness.

I don't think any of your criticsm of Zhang is valid either. Why do you think he was the "least venturesome" and why is being venturesome important? I don't think one has ever had to play unusual repertoire or have some highly unusual interpretation of a work to be a great pianist. I don't understand why you call his playing as merely "highly competent". I think he played some of the most difficult and important pieces in the piano literature masterfully.

Top
#1247782 - 08/12/09 08:41 AM Re: Piano Competitions' Dark Side [Re: Piano*Dad]
pianoloverus Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19267
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: Piano*Dad
I guess I just don't understand this open hunting season on judges. Judges are often prized professors at the best conservatories. Many of the barbs and zingers directed at judges and judging often come from other judges who are unhappy. We should take this with a healthy grain of salt.

Why do mere mortals like most of us (the people who couldn't perform at the level of the worst losers at the major competitions) seem entitled to assert that judges are stupid clods who think speed and loudness are the prime virtues. Why do we have the temerity to think that we understand beautiful, sublime, innovative playing while the professionals in the field are ignorant conformists.

Yes, there are some clear incentive problems in judging, but frankly people, have a little humility about how little YOU know and how much these maligned judges DO know.


I agree 100% with everything above.

Top
#1247789 - 08/12/09 08:49 AM Re: Piano Competitions' Dark Side [Re: Piano*Dad]
pianoloverus Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19267
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: Piano*Dad
Heck, I loved the chutzpah of the guy who actually played the Moonlight Sonata. That took guts. It didn't work out for him, but it was a great risk. Sure got some people talking.


Why do think this was a great risk? The first movement may be played by too many beginning amateurs, but I think it is quite rarely performed in competitions and professional recitals.

Top
#1247807 - 08/12/09 09:15 AM Re: Piano Competitions' Dark Side [Re: pianoloverus]
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10354
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
wr,

That fact that YOU think Zhang was a safe conformist choice does not necessarily make it so, though I respect your opinion on the matter. Even if it were true, the fact that one can find examples of competitions where the 'play-it-safe' musician won does not change the basic argument I'm making. You know, I'm sure there have also been cases in which somebody bet the favorite on every game in the NCAA pool and they actually won the prize. That doesn't make betting the chalk an optimum strategy in a winner-take-all situation. Whenever there is a statistical distribution determining outcomes and a single winner (or very small number of winners), the winners are unlikely to be the ones who play the odds right down the middle.

By the way, in a multistage competition like the Cliburn the best strategy to follow may vary from stage to stage. Conformism may be a better strategy in the opening round where you can be among the top 32, but NOT the optimal strategy for winning the final prize.


Edited by Piano*Dad (08/12/09 09:23 AM)
Edit Reason: dang typos! :-)
_________________________
Grotrian 192 #156455

https://www.youtube.com/user/dhfeld/videos

Top
#1247815 - 08/12/09 09:22 AM Re: Piano Competitions' Dark Side [Re: pianoloverus]
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10354
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Originally Posted By: Piano*Dad
Heck, I loved the chutzpah of the guy who actually played the Moonlight Sonata. That took guts. It didn't work out for him, but it was a great risk. Sure got some people talking.


Why do think this was a great risk? The first movement may be played by too many beginning amateurs, but I think it is quite rarely performed in competitions and professional recitals.


It's just my opinion, of course, but playing something every teenaged pianist attempts (and often mangles) displayed a certain adventuresomeness. There is a reason why it is so seldom heard on the circuit. Pieces like that have become an odd combination of icon and saccharine. Exalted and cloying at the same time. I suspect his choice raised some eyebrows. And I suspect that may have been part of his purpose in choosing it.
_________________________
Grotrian 192 #156455

https://www.youtube.com/user/dhfeld/videos

Top
#1247823 - 08/12/09 09:37 AM Re: Piano Competitions' Dark Side [Re: Piano*Dad]
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10354
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
Quote:
The problem is that first-rate technique is rather common and isn't really very interesting except to others who are working on it, and their teachers. Real honest-to-goodness personal interpretation and music-making with deep insight into the music is what is rare. Competitions value the first, and not the latter. But that points up another problem of competitions - the pianists are typically not musically mature.


So are triple jumps in ice-skating. Try putting together a performance today that relies primarily on beautiful, graceful, and slow footwork and body gestures as the primary elements. Peggy Fleming in 1968 may have been the last.

You have to demonstrate your chops, even if everyone else seemingly can do it. Actually, I wonder if that should be taken for granted. I freely admit that I couldn't judge these things. My technique isn't good enough to understand whether there are weaknesses in the playing.

I think what I'm arguing is that there IS room for style and interpretation, but that technical mastery is a common coin that must be played as well. Much of the criticism of 'fast and loud' may be off the mark. Everybody must play some fast and loud things to have their technique evaluated by the judges, but it may not be the only thing on the table, despite the assertions often made by disgruntled judges whose choices didn't win consensus.

.... and this is an entirely different issue from the incentive problems and conflicts of interest that are also a feature of modern competitions.

BTW, have you noticed that reasonable people here can stake out opposite positions on something as basic as whether or not judging should be blind. This should tell us how difficult some of these issues are. There are potential costs to most of the reforms as well as benefits. The same is true for whether or not judges should be able to sit down and talk about things. Plusses and minuses.
_________________________
Grotrian 192 #156455

https://www.youtube.com/user/dhfeld/videos

Top
#1247915 - 08/12/09 12:19 PM Re: Piano Competitions' Dark Side [Re: Horowitzian]
OrangeSchubert Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 06/30/09
Posts: 11
Loc: MA, USA
When I was at the piano museum on Saturday, Michael Frederick talked about this desire among piano students to compete. Winning is no guarantee of a future of fame or fortune, regardless of the recording or gigging benefits that come with the prize. Most winners fade into anonymity when the following year's winner is crowned.

He said that his teacher would ask his students what they wanted to play and if they said "I want to play zzzz because I want to win the 'whatever' prize" then the teacher's answer was "Do you even remember who won it 5 years ago?" Most often the answer was no.
K
_________________________
The artist is not a different kind of person, each person is a different kind of artist.

Top
Page 2 of 3 < 1 2 3 >

Moderator:  Brendan, Kreisler 
What's Hot!!
HOW TO POST PICTURES on the Piano Forums
-------------------
Sharing is Caring!
About the Buttons
-------------------
Forums Rules & Help
-------------------
ADVERTISE
on Piano World

The world's most popular piano web site.
(ad) HAILUN Pianos
Hailun Pianos - Click for More
Ad (Seiler/Knabe)
Seiler Pianos
Sheet Music
(PW is an affiliate)
Sheet Music Plus Featured Sale
(125ad) Dampp Chaser
Dampp Chaser Piano Life Saver
(ad) Lindeblad Piano
Lindeblad Piano Restoration
Who's Online
161 registered (accordeur, 36251, 88 Fingers Jeff, 39 invisible), 1553 Guests and 16 Spiders online.
Key: Admin, Global Mod, Mod
Forum Stats
75905 Members
42 Forums
156869 Topics
2305007 Posts

Max Online: 15252 @ 03/21/10 11:39 PM
New Topics - Multiple Forums
Midi file format on Roland Piano Partner App
by Banzai_Ed
08/22/14 05:58 PM
Imperial Concert 61 Phase Piano
by DanPianjo
08/22/14 05:34 PM
New on YouTube: Forte, Stage2, CP4, RD800
by ahrensjt
08/22/14 04:56 PM
Buzzing Speaker(s)
by chessman
08/22/14 04:53 PM
Imperial Concert 61 Phase Piano
by DanPianjo
08/22/14 04:51 PM
(ads by Google)

Visit our online store for gifts for music lovers

 
Help keep the forums up and running with a donation, any amount is appreciated!
Or by becoming a Subscribing member! Thank-you.
Donate   Subscribe
 
Our Piano Related Classified Ads
|
Dealers | Tuners | Lessons | Movers | Restorations | Pianos For Sale | Sell Your Piano |

Advertise on Piano World
| Subscribe | Piano World | PianoSupplies.com | Advertise on Piano World | Donate | Link to Us | Classifieds |
| |Contact | Privacy | Legal | About Us | Site Map | Free Newsletter | Press Room |


copyright 1997 - 2014 Piano World ® all rights reserved
No part of this site may be reproduced without prior written permission