Photo by Phillip Nangle
Pascal Rogé resigned abruptly from the jury at the Rina Sala Gallo International Piano Competition in Monza, Italy, in October. The French pianist walked out after the semi finals and went on to accuse the Italian jury members of rigging the results. Rogé did not mince his words. After calling for greater transparency in the voting system, he wrote that he was willing to bet ‘two magnums of Chianti’ that the top prizewinners would be the Italian participants, concluding: ‘Does the word “mafia” ring a bell?’
Rogé was correct (sort of): the first and second prizewinners were Italian pianists. However, as fellow jury member Roberto Prosseda explained to IP, the rules stated that jury members were not permitted to discuss participants among themselves and this rule was carefully observed. The final result was an average of the jurors’ marks – now available on the competition’s website – and Rogé did in fact vote highly for a Japanese participant who he later claimed to disapprove of. Crucially, Rogé also invalidated his votes by giving full marks to the pianists he favoured – under the voting system, which was clearly laid out in the agreement jurors signed before the competition, the highest and lowest marks were to be discounted from the average.
Sitting on a jury at a piano competition is a difficult task. There’s the endless repetition of repertoire; the long days; the silly squabbles. I have seen several jury members snoozing during early rounds. Rogé claimed that his departure from the competition was not to be equated with Martha Argerich leaving the Chopin Competition when Ivo Pogorelich was eliminated in 1980 and that it ‘won’t have any repercussions whatsoever’. As music events around the world examine their voting systems – and possibly their media clauses – the repercussions are already being felt.