Fanny Waterman

The chairwoman of the Leeds International Pianoforte Competition responds to an article by Philip Hensher, who argued that the event did not produce great pianists
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The Independent Online

The nub of Philip Hensher's criticism of me and the Leeds International Pianoforte Competition ("Tinkle, tinkle, little star, while we wonder who you are", 8 September) is that our jury system is ineffective.

The nub of Philip Hensher's criticism of me and the Leeds International Pianoforte Competition ("Tinkle, tinkle, little star, while we wonder who you are", 8 September) is that our jury system is ineffective.

If he had asked us to explain our voting method, his article would not have been written, because the kind of discussion he referred to does not take place. There is no possibility of "compromise" or "safe" prizewinners. We do not have jury deliberations in the form they take in book competitions, with which Mr Hensher is familiar.

In accusing established and successful former Leeds prizewinners of "failing to make much of a mark on the outside world", he conveniently chose to ignore Murray Perahia and Radu Lupu, both Leeds winners, who have since become two of the greatest pianists in the world.

Many other Leeds winners and finalists have gone on to achieve great critical acclaim. Michael Dalberto may not "set the Thames on fire" but he was recently described on French radio as one of the greatest pianists France has produced.

I do share people's concerns about the necessity for young musicians to enter competitions to become established internationally. But, with the breakdown over 50 years ago of the patronage system, which fostered great soloists, and the disappearance of great impresarios willing to nurture outstanding young talent,the competition ladder remains, for most, the only fair alternative.

That is why we make it a priority at Leeds to offer winners a long and prestigious list of engagements that will help them to launch their career. Our engagement list is one of the reasons why the Leeds is regarded as one of the world's most important piano competitions - and why it will remain so.

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