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The XV International Tchaikovsky Competition began this past week in Moscow and St. Petersburg.  One of the premiere competitions in the world, the Tchaikovsky invites young musicians in four categories, piano, violin, cello, and voice, to perform to win up to $100,000US and to become one of the most sought after performers on the concert stage.

The first part of the competition was the audition round for pianists. Thirty-six competitors performed, and 30 were selected to proceed to Round 1. For the next two weeks, these pianists will demonstrate for the judges and the public, their desire to create music at the highest level.

Since we’ve been talking about technique for the past two weeks, it seemed appropriate to spend this week thinking about the ultimate assessment of one’s technique – an international competition.

What gives one the courage to submit him or herself to the scrutiny of a panel of renowned fellow musicians in a public forum? What confidence is needed to offer oneself, heart and soul, through music, to the rigour and discipline of this level of competition? What “prize” inspires artists to test their skills on the world stage?

While there are many answers to those questions, and each person’s answer would be slightly different, I believe that the longing for inclusion is a significant part of both the allure of the competition and the assuredness of one’s competitiveness.

In the musical world, joining the long lineage of winners of the Tchaikovsky Competition is a pinnacle of belonging.

In particular, this competition promotes the idea of belonging and becoming: joining the story of pre-eminent Russian musicians and composers is an explicit outcome of participation. Named after the most famous Russian composer of the 19th and 20th centuries, the Tchaikovsky International Competition seeks to “hold out with pride the Russian-Soviet school of performance as ‘the best in the world’” and to promote the music of Russian composers to as wide an audience as possible.

The reward of testing your technique in this challenging forum is to join some of the most well-known musicians of the past 50 years (such as Van Cliburn and Vladimir Ashkenazy) and to become part of the new generation of those carrying on the story of music-making at its finest.

What gets you out of your comfort zone, sharing your gifts and longing to participate in “the Story?” Whatever you’ve got, wherever you are . . . be the music this week!


Daniil Trifonov, Tchaikovsky Winner (Piano) 2011

Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto #1


Narek Hakhnazaryan, Tchaikovsky Winner (Cello) 2011

Tchaikovsky: Variations on a Rococco Theme


Mayuko Kamio, Tchaikovsky Winner (Violin) 2011

Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto