Dublin piano competition’s move to ban Russian competitors faces criticism

Nine Russian musicians excluded from event due to the country’s invasion of Ukraine

In an email sent to Russian applicants, the organisers stated that it would be unable to include them in this year’s competition because of the invasion. Photograph: iStock

The Dublin International Piano Competition's decision to ban Russian competitors has been criticised by many musicians.

The prestigious competition has excluded nine Russian pianists because of the war in Ukraine out of the 65 originally scheduled to take part.

In an email sent to Russian applicants, the organisers stated that it would be unable to include them in this year’s competition because of the invasion.

“We appreciate the efforts and commitment of every hopeful competitor. We hope that shared cultural values will help to once again bring the world together peacefully in the future,” they said.

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The nine competitors excluded, according to the website thepianoleague.com, are Sergey Belyavskiy, Arseniy Gusev, Maxim Kinasov, Roman Kosyakov, Arsenii Mun, Ilya Shmukler, Vitaly Starikov, Arseny Tarasevich-Nikolaev and Dmitry Yudin.

The 12th Dublin International Piano Competition will take place from May 17th-24th with the quarter finals and semi-finals scheduled for the TU Dublin Conservatoire, Grangegorman. The final will take place in the National Concert Hall at Earlsfort Terrace.

The first prize is €15,000 but the competition’s main purpose is to help pianists launch successful careers internationally as musicians.

In a statement the competition organisers said they understood that many musicians do not support the war, "but in light of Russia's actions, we will be unable to include competitors from Russia in the 2022 competition".

The decision has not gone down well with some of the excluded musicians. Roman Kosyakov wrote on his Instagram page: "I'm just curious, how will this help to stop the war."

Arsenii Mun, another Russian pianist excluded from the competition after having been selected, said he is committed as a musician to bring “peace and joy” through his music.

Writing on his Facebook page, he added: "And I hope that people will understand that I and most of my musical colleagues and friends from Russia are against war and aggression.

“It is so sad to see how concert organizations are canceling concerts and competitions are banning Russian musicians who actually never publicly supported government and moreover made statements against the war!!!

“People should know, being from Russia does NOT mean that we are taking part in such decisions!”

London-based cellist Julia Morneweg said the decision of festivals like Dublin to exclude Russian performers was a form of suffering visited on Russian people who do not support the war.

She wrote on her Instagram page: “The torment and pain – physical, visceral pain – I see not only Yuri, but all our close Russian friends go through, is heartbreaking.

“Unfortunately none of this is helped by a few arts organisations who have decided that the best way to show their solidarity with Ukraine would be to exclude Russian artists or Russian music.

“To be clear: I am not talking about the Gergievs, Netrebkos and Matsuevs of this world, but incredibly hard-working and decent musicians who abhor Putin with every fibre of their being and who, in many cases, left Russia precisely because of the political climate there.

“There is NO excuse for this. Music is not like sport – we don’t go on stage as representatives of the country we happened to be born in. We move across borders and continents to become the best artists we can be.”

Critics of the decision have also pointed to the example of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition which takes place in Fort Worth, Texas, in June.

It said it did not regard the Russian pianists taking part as “officials of their government, nor is their participation in the Cliburn state-sponsored.

“Therefore, in the vision of our namesake and inspiration, Van Cliburn, and our mandate to support young artists – which is the very core of our mission – the Russian-born pianists will be allowed to audition for the Cliburn Competition.”

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times