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Press Conference to Announce the Winners

Date and Time: November 2, 2009 (Mon.) 2:00 to 3:00 PM
Venue: The Park Hyatt Tokyo, 39th floor, the Venetian Room

The press conference to announce the competition winners was held in the Venetian Room on the 39th floor of the Park Hyatt Tokyo.
Opening remarks from organizer
Organizing Committee Chairman Hiroyasu Kobayashi
(Executive Representative, Min-On Concert Association)

Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedules to join us here today. I'd like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude for your deep understanding and warm support for Min-On's activities.
The Tokyo International Music Competition for Conducting is held once every three years. The competition acts as a gateway to success for young conductors, and is held in high esteem as an international competition that represents Asia. To date, there have been 38 winners and more than 34 individuals who have gained honorable mentions. As I'm sure you're all aware, many of these have gone out into the world and proved themselves more than capable. Most importantly, let me use this chance to express my deep gratitude to Mr. Yuzo Toyama and the others on the review committee for their fair and impartial judging, and to all the members of the orchestra who performed with our participants.
In particular, the Panel of Judges for this competition was made up of great conductors, some who represented Japan and others who represented the music world from abroad. They made this a globally prominent conducting competition both in name and in fact, and I could not be happier.
For this competition, there were 152 applicants from 33 countries and regions. The video and document reviews were conducted in June, and seven conductors from five countries qualified for the next round.
Of these seven, one withdrew. Five conductors from four countries (two from Japan, one from Korea, one from Russia and one from France) passed the first preliminary round. Three conductors from three countries (one from Japan, one from Russia and one from France) passed the second preliminary round to enter the finals.
Yesterday, on November 1, the final round was decided. First and second places were not awarded. Third place went to Mr. Mikhail Leontyev, with honorable mentions going to Mr. Keita Matsui and Mr. Julian Leroy. Let me also announce that, in March of next year [2010], Mr. Leontyev will be appearing in his winner's debut concerts, which will be held at Tokyo Opera City's concert hall and the Hyogo Performing Arts Center in Hyogo Prefecture.
I sincerely hope that everyone who won or gained an honorable mention in this competition will be as active as they desire in the future world of music. I would also like to express my sincere thanks to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Agency for Cultural Affairs, Tokyo Metropolis, NHK, and the Association of Japanese Symphony Orchestras for their cooperation, and Asahi Breweries, Ltd. for its support, and to express my deepest gratitude to the organizing committee, executive committee, review committee, and everyone who had a hand in this competition. Let me again express my gratitude to you, and my hope that you will all continue to lend your understanding and support to the Tokyo International Music Competition for Conducting.

Message from the Chairman of the Panel of Judges
Yuzo Toyama (Review Committee Chairman)

First, I expect that there will be questions about awarding a third place in the absence of first and second places, so let me make some clarifications. Don't take this as an indication that the performance of any of the participants in this competition was inferior to that of anyone in previous competitions, nor that, conversely, these participants were outstanding but the Panel of Judges was particularly harsh and began with third place. Rather, I personally hope you'll accept it at face value: third place, with no first or second places awarded. I have attended every competition since it first began, and there was no discrimination with regard to nationality.

From the Judges
  • Claire Gibault (France)

    Good afternoon, everyone. This is my first time in Japan, and my first time to be on a Panel of Judges for a conducting competition. The administration was excellent: it could not have been more professional. I was deeply impressed with this, and I also received support from those around me. It was a wonderful competition, and I'm sincerely grateful to everyone at Min-On.
    Since all this was new to me, I felt (if I may use a religious expression) as though I'd been baptized. It was a tremendous pleasure for me to be able to judge alongside these marvelous, prominent conductors who are active on the frontlines. Participating in this competition has also made me take another look at my own career plan: I've decided that, in the future, I would like to teach conducting as well as conduct. Also, as a woman conductor myself, I was very proud to see that a third of the participants in this competition were women ... That said, I can't give anyone preferential treatment just because she's a woman.
    Our winner, Mikhail Leontyev, was extraordinarily modest in all respects: toward the score, toward his own performance, toward the orchestra. In a world where conductors are prone to become narcissistic and self-centered, this seemed to me a wonderful thing.

  • Peter Gülke (Germany)

    I would like to thank Min-On for inviting me to be on the Panel of Judges, and for making this a splendid competition from start to finish. In a conducting competition, the orchestra plays a very important role, and I'm grateful to the members for being so cooperative and giving wonderful performances. Let me also say that, under these strict conditions, all the participants put in the effort necessary to produce results. I extend my warmest congratulations to Mr. Leontyev.
    Conductors are expected to have a variety of abilities. A good ear, the ability to read and understand the score, technique for conveying it to the orchestra, a personal image of the score, a good rapport with the orchestra ... It isn't possible for any one person to have all these things, and evaluating people who have them in varying combinations is difficult. On top of that, the improvement of an orchestra's technique influences the situation, changing what the conductor should be. It's only natural that people begin to expect even greater ability from them, to help govern all these varied strengths.
    In competitions, placing isn't everything. I think competitions are important as spaces where you can get to know all sorts of people and exchange knowledge and experience. In that sense, I am very pleased that this competition produced such marvelous results.

  • Rainer Küchl (Austria)

    I am the only person on this Panel of Judges who is not a conductor. I'm one of the people that performs beneath a conductor. I have been a concertmaster for 39 years, but I work with a new conductor more than twice a month, so it seems as though I'm always participating in a competition. As a concertmaster, I'm very happy to have been allowed to participate in this conducting competition as a member of the review committee, and to have been able to look at many things from different perspectives.
    Having someone from the orchestra side on the committee must have made things incredibly difficult for the contestants. An orchestra is a collection of many different types of instruments, and each has its own unique set of circumstances, so it's hard for the conductor to convey his intent to every single performer.
    There was only one winner this time, but I would like to see all the participants continue to work hard toward their goal. The conductor's most important job isn't waving a baton; it's turning music into something people can experience.

  • Jorma Panula (Finland)

    Hello everyone. This was my fourth time on the Panel of Judges for this competition. Min-On administered it beautifully, and I'm very glad to have been able to meet so many up-and-coming young conductors. I have trained conductors for 40 years. I've met all sorts of conductors through every competition since the ‘60s, but no matter the type, the important thing is that the orchestra understands your intent and just how you want them to execute it. Unfortunately, I don't think such instructions were communicated accurately this time around.

  • Hubert Soudant (Netherlands)

    Good afternoon. This was my first time as a judge too. Getting to meet so many young conductors (colleagues) and being able to spend a whole week talking with the members of the Panel of Judges made it a wonderful experience.
    Competitions are gateways to success: they help young conductors succeed. Before I became a conductor, I was a horn player. Some conductors are lucky enough to be chosen, given that chance, but I was advised to go out for as many competitions as I could. I won prizes, and gradually the road to being a conductor opened up for me. I think it's terrific that Min-On hosts this conducting competition. I'm very grateful to Japan for letting me be involved in a competition like this one, and for giving me the chance to direct a splendid Japanese orchestra (the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra).

Winner's remarks
Mikhail Leontyev (3rd Place)

I'm incredibly honored to have been awarded third place. This award will give a huge boost to my activities as a musician and as a conductor.
In Russia, Asian musicians are considered to be the best musicians there are. Last year, when I participated in the Prokofiev Conducting Competition, all the finalists except myself were from Asia. So you see, it's a tremendous honor for me to have achieved third place in an Asian competition.
This may not be the right place, but please let me say a bit about my teacher. My teacher, Vladislav Tchernushenko, spent over 30 years as a distinguished musician in the Soviet Union; he was then employed by the Saint Petersburg Conservatory, and for another 35 years he has led the Glinka Capella, which has a 500-year history.
95% of my ability comes from him. Whenever I go up on stage, I do my best not to betray my teacher's trust. I was incredibly nervous this time knowing that I was being judged by these amazing conductors, but the orchestra gave me a wonderful performance, for which I'm truly grateful.

Question and Answer Session
  • Mikhail Leontyev
    About his repertoire:

    At present, I'm working with the Academic Symphony Orchestra in the Caucasus, and we perform Mozart, Shostakovich, Prokofiev - a wide range of works.

    About the repertoire he'd like to perform in the future:

    I'm still studying, so I'm interested in every piece. I haven't prioritized any.

  • Jorma Panula
    About not having first and second place winners

    I think the problem lay in not being able to establish a good rapport with the orchestra. Conductors have to convey their own way of thinking, vision and intent to the orchestra, and I don't think there was enough gesturing or attempted communication with the orchestra.

  • Yuzo Toyama

    At the Judging Committee, we voted for the winners of the first and second places but it turned out that no votes were cast for those positions as the judges did not feel any of the finalists fit the category. That’s what happened. It wasn’t about comparing it with the previous contest. The policy of this contest is that there should be no comparison of the outcome with the previous contest. The winners were decided by the total number of votes cast and after through deliberation by the judges.