From the current issue of Choir & Organ
COULD DO BETTER
Julian Lloyd Webber ruffled more than a few feathers in July when he told the Times that most music competitions are ‘corrupt’.While excluding industry awards and the BBC Young Musician of the Year from this accusation, he claimed that the deciding factor in single instrument competitions was not how well you played but who your teacher was, and that the competition was simply a vehicle for teachers to promote their best students.Certain revelations about past Tchaikovsky Competitions would seem to support Lloyd Webber’s claim in this case at least, although the event has now introduced reforms. I don’t know enough about other instrumental competitions to comment; but I have seen no evidence of corruption in organ competitions. For sure, members of an international jury may hold differing views on how a piece ought to be played, and if they have a pupil in the competition they may well prefer that particular interpretation above the others. But so many other factors also come into play – state of health on the day, accuracy (which may be affected by nerves), technical facility, choice of registration, choice of tempo in a different acoustical environment, and sheer conviction of performance – that choosing a winner is in no way a foregone conclusion. In Alkmaar – whose 2015 Orgelfestival Holland Schnitger Competition is announced – jury members remain in ignorance of the player’s identity, and vote on a strict points system. In St Albans, where anonymity was abolished in 2011, the greater degree of transparency seems in no way to have compromised the voting, gauging not least by the frequency with which the Audience Prize is awarded to the 1st Prize winner.