Journal: Juries in Competition

When Skill Is the Deciding Factor

The world premiere of the Juries in Competition piano competition took place at the Mozarteum University in Salzburg. Between February 5 and 14, four juries delivered their verdicts—three expert juries composed of accomplished people in the piano world, complemented by an audience jury.

What made this competition a world premiere was the Bösendorfer piano company’s contribution in the form of two Bösendorfer model 280VC concert grands outfitted with the revolutionary Disklavier Enspire Pro System. This system makes it possible to connect two grand pianos with one another over wireless LAN and reproduce the playing of one participant on the first piano identically on the second piano in real time. While the participants performed in front of two juries in the Solitaire Hall of Mozarteum, the jury members in the Viennese Hall concentrated exclusively on what they heard—quite a unique challenge.


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Univ. Professor Klaus Kaufmann

The idea to launch such a unique competition originated with Prof. Klaus Kaufmann: “We wanted to find out how reliable the judgements in competitions are. The level of technical facility and the stylistic knowledge of young pianists have increased noticeably in recent decades, to the point that for the most part, merely subjective nuances are responsible for juries’ decisions in competitions. In this competition, we decided on the yes/no principle for evaluating participants. This means that jury members simply say whether a candidate has made it to the next round. Generally, a point system is used, with participants receiving between 1 and 25 points. However, this system has a clear weak point in rating players. Some jury members give someone who did not convince them at all 15 points, and someone who wowed them 24 points. Yet other jury members give at most 17 points and 1 point to their least favourite player. Jury members’ personal rating systems thus play a major role.”

The results of the rating are evaluated in detail and later published during a small symposium. This should reveal in detail how the juries’ decisions were made.

A completely new experience for all jury members was not seeing the participants but only hearing them—more or less like sitting in front of a player piano. Jury member Barbara Moser said about the experience, “It’s not that easy to concentrate solely on the music. You get tired more easily, something I really never would have thought of. It’s a fascinating idea in principle, though we need to keep in mind that two pianos never sound exactly the same. There are always differences due to the room’s temperature and acoustics, and for that reason you don’t experience exactly the same concert as when you’re sitting across from the candidate. It’s a good idea in any case, one that can certainly be an additional possibility for facilitating objectivity in the future.”

In the end, seven of around sixty participants made it to the finale. The bulk of the audience listened to the young pianists playing live in Solitaire Hall. The Viennese Hall, where the Bösendorfer grand stood all by itself onstage, was visited rather sparingly. Even more interesting was the atmosphere for visitors who decided to follow the competition in this manner. On the day of the finale, there were mostly no more than five listeners in the Viennese Hall, four of whom were members of the Bösendorfer jury.

One listener, who consciously decided to listen in the Viennese Hall, enthusiastically recounted, “It’s wonderful to experience music in this manner, so unadulterated and pure. It’s a great experience when you consider that we’re listening to a live concert here that’s taking place in another building. That’s the future.”

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The evaluation of the jury was in yes / no procedure.

In the Solitaire Hall (photo left), the participants personally played in front of the jury on the first 280VC Enspire, while the jury in the Wiener Saal (photo right) focused exclusively on the sound that was produced in real time on the second 280VC at Mozarteum.


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Of course, the procedure was also a novelty for the participants. To play in virtually two places at the same time is surely not an everyday experience. The Disklavier Enspire Pro is already an incomparable technological achievement by itself, though it was naturally also very interesting to find out how the individual participants perceived their playing.

“Today I played on a Bösendorfer grand with Disklavier Enspire Pro for the first time and there’s truly no difference playing it compared to a purely acoustic piano. I played on another brand's piano  with recoding system, but it hardly compares to the Bösendorfer. The Bösendorfer allows for pretty much infinite possibilities,” Sergey Belyavskiy, who won first prize from two of the juries, remarked.

Anastasia Vorotnaya had this to say about the competition and playing on the Enspire Pro: “For me, it was the first time playing on a Disklavier. It

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me, it was the first time playing on a Disklavier. Itwas a challenge constantly having in the back of my mind what my playing sounds like on the second piano. I consider this competition and this experiment an enrichment and can well imagine competitions being complemented by this sort of evaluation system in order to achieve a fairer result.”

The experts all agreed that there probably won’t be any competitions or exam situations in the future in which the participants are concealed from the jury, although it could end up complementing current prevalent practice.

At the end of the competition were a gala concert and awards ceremony, which were received enthusiastically by the outstanding participants, jury members and audience alike. A special highlight was an old piano roll recording of a Mozart sonata for four hands from the 1920s that was adapted for the Disklavier Enspire Pro system. Experiencing the playing of people after a hundred years whose names as well as playing have outlived them was deeply moving to all those present. Ultimately, that’s precisely what makes music a unique art form—the experience—no matter how it comes into being.

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Gala Concert and Awards Ceremony


Here are the juries and prizes awarded in detail:

Bösendorfer jury:
Michel Bèroff – Conservatoire national superieur de musique et danse de Paris
Eleonore Bünnig – music journalist and critic
Ayami Ikeba – University of Music and Performing Arts Graz
Rolf Plagge – Mozarteum University Salzburg
David Kuyken – Conservatorium van Amsterdam

1st prize: Yedam Kim
2nd prize: Oleksii Kanke
3rd prize: Anastasia Vorotnaya

Bankhaus Carl Spängler jury:
Ewa Kupiec – Hanover University of Music, Drama and Media
Anna Malikowa – concert pianist
Peter Hagmann – music journalist
Andreas Weber – Mozarteum University Salzburg
Emmanuel Mercier – Conservatoire national superieur de musique et danse de Paris

1st prize: Sergey Belyavskiy
2nd prize: Alexander Panfilov
3rd prize: Oleksii Kanke

Salzburg jury:
Andreas Groethuysen – Mozarteum University Salzburg
Yoko Tsunekawa – music journalist
Barbara Moser – University of Music and Performing Arts, Vienna
Jacques Rouvier – Mozarteum University Salzburg
Andrea Lucchesini – Scuola di Musica di Fiesole

1st prize: Sergey Belyavskiy
2nd prize: Anastasia Vorotnaya
3rd prize: Alexander Panfilov

Audience jury:
Dr. Michael Pallauf
Barbara Schmuck
Dr. Antonia Gobiet
Eveline Böhm-Bruynincx
Sylvia Madsack
Renate Perl
Dr. Renate Wonisch-Langenfelder
Dr. Michael Wonisch

Audience prize: Alexander Panfilov


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All winne: Anastasia Vorotnaya 3. Price Jury "Bösendorfer" / 2. Price Jury "Salzburg", Yedam Kim 1. Price Jury "Bösendorfer, Sergey Belyavskiy 1. Price Jury "Bankhaus Carl Spängler" / 1. Price Jury "Salzburg", Oleksii Kanke 2. Price Jury "Bösendorfer / 3. Price Jury "Bankhaus Carl Spängler", Alexander Panfilov 2. Price Jury "Bankhaus Carl Spängler" / 3. Price Jury "Salzburg" / Special Price  Audience Jury
© Universität Mozarteum/Christian Schneider

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Klaus Kaufmann (Artistic Director of the Competition), Eleonore Büning (Jury "Bösendorfer"), Anastasia Vorotnaya (3. Price Jury "Bösendorfer" / 2. Price Jury "Salzburg"), Mag. Sabine Grubmüller (Bösendorfer), Yedam Kim (1. Price Jury "Bösendorfer), Ayami Ikeba (Jury "Bösendorfer"), Oleksii Kanke (2. Price Jury "Bösendorfer / 3. Price Jury "Bankhaus Carl Spängler"), Rolf Plagge (Jury "Bösendorfer"), David Kuyken (Jury "Bösendorfer")
© Universität Mozarteum/Christian Schneider

University Mozarteum


Photos in Text: Roland Pohl