Everyone knows that state competitions are, from first to last, a farce. But, as Horace said: est modus in rebus, sunt certi denique fines, | quos ultra citraque nequit consistere rectum. Well, the right measure (modus), the right balance (rectum) invoked by Horace—Chopin would have said 'good taste'—have been distorted beyond and on this side of the permitted limits (certi fines). Which allows us to state that—as we predicted—the Chopin Competition is dead. Do you mean it? Yes, because Chopin, after having been virtually suffocated for the second time by a muzzle attached to his image, was kicked out by the contest that exploits his name, just as Adam was expelled from the Garden of Eden, the only difference being that the Chopin Competition is not an earthly paradise but a den of intrigues aimed at accumulating money.
The head juror is Katarzyna Popowa-Zydroń, who already in the 16th Competition had clearly shown herself to be an impudently biased juror.
Who appointed Katarzyna Popowa-Zydroń as chairwoman? And for what merits? In her first CD, entirely dedicated to Chopin, you can read that for her (unspecified) “volunteer work (she) was awarded the Duke Mestwin II Order of the City Council of Gdańsk in 1999. In 2004 she received the Medal of the Commission of National Education, and in 2005 - the 'Gloria Artis' Medal for Merit to Cultural and the Officer's Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta." And what does all this have to do with Chopin? Nothing. So, since she was determined on becoming chair of the jury of the Chopin Competition, her political protectors, who probably had not completely paid off their old debts to her—this is our hypothesis—, advised her for obvious reasons to do something that had a direct bearing on Chopin, if she wanted that chair. Hence, at the age of 64, she recorded her first CD entirely dedicated to Chopin (ACCORD ACD 189-2), and in 2015, at the age of 67, the NIFC released her Preludia with the Polonezy Op. 26. Listening to these CDs one can deduce that Katarzyna Popowa-Zydroń, despite her successful participation in the 1975 Chopin Competition (won by Krystian Zimerman), has not yet understood anything about the "new piano school" envisaged by Chopin; she knows nothing about 'belcanto,' let alone 'Chopin's belcanto,' and she does not respect either the agogics or the dynamics or the notes written by Chopin. As an interpreter, she is not worth a tenth of Georgijs Osokins (eliminated at the second stage), and as a virtuoso, she loses control in difficult passages; a few examples are enough:-her Prelude Op. 45, rather than creating a soft wind lifting the listener's soul up to the celestial spheres, seems a badly recited funeral oration;—her Mazurka Op. 56 No. 2, rather than a joyful 'oberek,' seems the hammering of a blacksmith while forging his horseshoes;—her Prelude Op. 28 No. 16 shows a technique that is about to collapse, and the scales of Prelude Op. 28 No. 24 are those of a diligent pupil, nothing more. All this without being able to sing a single note; moreover, she draws a mediocre sound from the Steinway used for the recordings. She, completely ignoring Chopin's 'legato,' to cover up this ignorance, is forced to extend the use of the pedal everywhere. (Despite this, in the Second Polonaise she has some good ideas.) But Katarzyna Popowa-Zydroń is a strong-willed, domineering, imperious woman: "I am the boss!", is what she very likely made her subordinates understand, who by their acquiescence indirectly confessed to being either arse-lickers or spineless. After all, from a piano-playing standpoint, none of the jurors has ever even remotely reached, as far as Chopin is concerned, the interpretative levels of Rachmaninoff, Lhévinne, Horowitz, Rubinstein, Cortot, Lipatti and many others.
In fact, all the them were muzzled: but a true artist, with a minimum of artistic dignity, would have stayed home, just as Martha Argerich and Nelson Freire did.
The preliminaries immediately showed scandalous admissions and equally scandalous eliminations. Let us limit ourselves to Italian participants: the most scandalous admission of all was that of Federico Gad Crema and the no less scandalous elimination was that of Martina Consonni. Not only that, Federico Gad Crema, technically inadequate, despite the mess made in the Fantasy Op. 49 after the measure 294, passed to the second stage! Why?
A remarkable number of participants had already taken part in one of the two previous editions of the competition: Leonora Armellini, Michelle Candotti, Yasuko Furumi, Joo Yeon Ka, Su Yeon Kim, Aimi Kobayashi, Nikolay Khozyainov, Szymon Nehring, the aforementioned Osokins, Jinhyung Park, Piotr Ryszard Pawlak, Zuzanna Pietrzak, Aristo Sham, Rikono Takeda, Chao Wang, Yuchong Wu, Zi Xu. If we have mentioned them all, that makes 17: a number that perplexes us... It had never happened before ...
Leonora Armellini is more a jukebox than a pianist: if you put a coin in the right hole, she plays exactly what you expect, and always in the same way, just like a jukebox; she plays well, there is no doubt, but she is predictable in every single detail; moreover, she has chosen an inadequate instrument: why? Is she deaf? (Insensitivity to the different qualities of certain sounds is not uncommon, actually, in those who claim to have what is improperly called an 'absolute ear'.)
Aimi Kobayashi, after the scene about the seat, had to be eliminated, not because she plays badly (on the contrary, she is very good, apart from the use of the left hand for the scale of descending thirds in measures 47÷48 of the Etude Op. 25 No. 6: not admissible in an Etude), but because her behaviour immediately preceding her performance deserved elimination (she swallowed a pill, certainly not a candy, she drank some water and, her name having already been announced, she put the half-empty water bottle in a clerk's hand, after which she gave a show with the seat: but in the preliminary rounds, the seat was not the same!?) And then, why come back? Yes, it is true, in her previous participation in the competition she would have deserved something more. But she has already recorded some CDs, she is an established pianist and well-known in Japan: is that not enough for her? In any case, the only well-played Prelude was No. 21.
Among the competitors standing again, the one who has shown that he has matured and acquired a well-defined personality is Nikolay Khozyainov (eliminated!), whose value is infinitely superior to that of Hyuk Lee and Eva Gevorgyan, who, instead of singing, bark. Eva Gevorgyan is a beautiful girl, to be sure, but her set of teeth betrays an aggressive and rough attitude, just like her playing, and gives a glimpse of what she will look like when she is about 30: a second Lady Tremine. And the same will happen to her piano-playing.
Of the younger generation, Mateusz Krzyżowski was to be eliminated at the first stage, while Piotr Alexewicz (eliminated!), who performed the Mazurkas Op. 24 rather well (bear in mind that the Mazurkas were battered by all the competitors, except Jakub Kuszlik, admitted to the finals) and who at the second stage gave a very appreciable rendition of the Polonaise Op. 44, deserved to enter the finals as much as J. J. Jun Li Bui (admitted).
The piano-playing of Alexander Gadjiev's (admitted) cannot be said to be wrong, but it is certainly dirty: the left hand is almost always displaced by a fraction of a second with the right, and the chords suffer from the same defect, which Chopin could not stand. And that is enough: he was to be eliminated.
Going back to Hyuk Lee (admitted), apart from the bad and confused rendition of the Finale of the Sonata Op. 35, he should be eliminated: the only comparison of the Variations Op. 2 with the beautiful performance of Bruce Liu (admitted) should be enough to make understand the enormous gap that separates the two pianists. An incredible peculiarity of Bruce Liu is that sometime he applies the 'Bebung' to the keys, as if the piano were a clavichord, thus demonstrating an embarrassing ignorance of the piano action! In any case, he did well.
Martín García García was supposed to be queued in case the nominated finalists were not enough: his humming while playing is reprehensible.
But the most scandalous eliminations were those of Khozyainov and Hayato Sumino. It is true that the Russian has no idea of the rhythm of the Mazurkas, but no finalist does (with the exception of Kuszlik), as well as none of the jurors, whose mazurkas bring milk to the knees (it is an Italian saying); and, although Sumino was so tense and trembling, as to lower the level, in any case superior, of his performances, his splendid rendition of the Scherzo Op. 20 was enough to show the superior quality of his playing. His compatriot Sorita (admitted!) played well, because he managed to control his emotions, but his Polonaise Op. 22, technically appreciable, was anything but a Polonaise! Both had to be admitted.

Chopin's piano school is based on two pillars: the 'legato' touch, which produces the quality of sounds, and 'belcanto.' The juror in chief, Katarzyna Popowa-Zydroń, along with her international and distinguished flock, ignores both; indeed, she does not even know what they are.
And let us forget the constant manipulations of the audio effects by the technicians in charge.
In June 2021 we wrote that ticket buyers were deluded if they thought they could attend the contest live in October 2021, that is, as living human beings. Well, even this prediction came true: in fact, we did not see living human beings in the audience, but an audience of zombies with muzzles. If they had been human beings with a minimum of dignity, they would have stayed at home and would have followed the competition from home.
At last, the candidate who, according to the economic analysts of the Polish state, will be able to bring in the most money will win the competition.

[Dorno, October 18, 2021]


During the so-called "Chopin Talk" on October 20, 2021, Andrzej Jasiński, who was chairman of the 16th Chopin Competition, when asked why he was not among the jurors, replied with a smile that the participants are all so good that it is difficult to make a judgement. This statement, in its elegant yet sibylline conciseness, confirms the above and anyone who does not understand it is a blockhead. Jasiński then made a brief comment on the gestures of the competitors who sometimes wave their hands like bullfighters...
To compare Sorita with Gadjiev is like comparing a shoe with a slipper. In comparison with the first movement of the Concerto Op. 11, the first one of the Concerto Op. 21 lasts half the time: it is the concerto chosen by the crafty ones. In any case, Martín García García's performance was the best. It was also right to award Jakub Kuszlik the prize for the best performance of the Mazurkas. But, alas, to award the prize for the best performance of a Sonata to Gadjiev is a real insult to Chopin and, at the same time, is proof of total ignorance of his own music language. In her weekly report of 20th September 1840 Friederike Müller writes: "(Chopin)... let me play the Finale of the Sonata, which is very difficult, but he found it good: it must be fast, deep and piano, only in some passages crescendo, and the pedal must be used with caution: "C'est cela, c'est justement ce que je veux, c'est bien la couleur (It's like this, it's just the way I want it, that's the colour)", (he said)... [Marie de Rosières arrives]... Then he made me play the Finale twice more: the effect was so shuddering that I felt really prostrate. Thank God, Chopin was pleased: "Cela me fait du plaisir", he said, and meanwhile he kept gesturing to the 'Klaviermeisterin' [scil. Marie de Rosières], and this is the best proof of his satisfaction. My aunt could see it, because she was standing behind me leaning against the fireplace. Then I had to play the first movement: it went well, but he did not find the bass balanced enough. The mistress with signs made the aunt realise that Chopin would still find something to remark, but he is right, and I want to win. 'L'étudiez [sic !] froidement avec le métronome (Study it coldly with the metronome)'."
So, illustrious jurors, distinguished and international professors, why do you not go home and comb hens? (Lombardy saying)

© Franco Luigi Viero