Biggest-Ever Tchaikovsky Competition Will Be Streamed Free

Janos Gereben on March 18, 2019
Vladimir Putin at the closing gala of the last International Tchaikovsky Competition four years ago

Since its birth in 1958, the Tchaikovsky Competition has been the most political of all such events. At the acme of the Cold War, as the Soviet Union used the competition as a propaganda weapon, both Moscow and the world were surprised and amazed by the victory of an American pianist, by the name of Van Cliburn

This summer, 61 years later, the USSR-successor Russian Federation is putting on a big show with the 16th International Tchaikovsky Competition, requiring a huge investment, probably spurred in part by political and national pride considerations.

President Putin’s Government of the Russian Federation and the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation are pulling out all the stops with 12 days of the international musical competition in Moscow and St. Petersburg, June 17–29, 2019. As always, it will be a veritable Olympics for music.

Van Cliburn with Nikita Khrushchev and his wife

There will be hundreds of artists vying for big prizes in piano, violin, cello, voice, and in the newly added categories of winds and brass instruments.

Preliminary auditions are via video link in application form. All the participants can submit their documents and video links online through the competition’s official website. The deadline was extended through April 5, 2019, so there is still a chance to get in.

The Tchaikovsky comes once every four years, and is prize rich: The Grand Prix is $100,000. There are additional first-place cash prizes of $30,000 for each category, and lesser prizes ranging from $20,000 to $2,000.

There is a special vocal prize in memory of Dmitri Hvorostovsky with a cash award of $15,000 plus a performance in Krasnoyarsk, the hometown of the late singer. The prize is made possible by the patronage of vocal jury Chair Sarah Billinghurst Solomon and Metropolitan Opera Chairman of the Board Ann Ziff.

As in 2015, the full Tchaikovsky Competition will be available live and on demand via a dedicated digital platform produced by Over 200 hours of live streaming, plus extensive editorial coverage with exclusive interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, and archives will also be presented for free. Check the website for this year’s events closer to competition time, or watch last year’s competition here.

The new Marinsky II in St. Petersburg is one of the venues for the 2019 Tchaikovsky

The main venues of the competition in the capital will be the Great and Chamber Halls of the Moscow State Tchaikovsky Conservatory and Tchaikovsky Concert Hall in Moscow. The award ceremony and the gala concert of the laureates are to be held at Zaryadye Concert Hall.

In St. Petersburg, the competition will be held at the Concert Hall of the Mariinsky Theater, the Mussorgsky Hall at the New Stage of the Mariinsky Theater (Mariinsky II), the Concert Hall of Valery Gergiev in Repino, the Grand and Chamber Halls of the St. Petersburg Philharmonia, and in the Academic Glinka Capella. The final gala concert of the laureates will be held at the New Stage of the Mariinsky Theater (Mariinsky II).

Here are this year’s jury chairs:

Piano – Denis Matsuev, world-famous Russian pianist and gold medalist of the XI Tchaikovsky Competition
Violin – Martin Engstroem, founder and executive director of the Verbier Festival
Cello – Sir Clive Gillinson, executive and artistic director of Carnegie Hall
Voice – Sarah Billinghurst Solomon, retired assistant general, manager for artistic affairs at the Metropolitan Opera
Woodwind instruments – Denis Bouriakov, principal flute of the Los Angeles Philharmonic
Brass instruments – Ian Bousfield, former principal trombone of London Symphony and Vienna Philharmonic, Professor at the Royal Academy of Music in London

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets and Valery Gergiev, general director and artistic director of the Mariinsky Theater, will serve as co-chairs of the organizing committee of the competition.

Winner of the XIV International Tchaikovsky Competition Daniil Trifonov has become one of the most popular pianists of the world | Credit: Dario Acosta

The competition has created career-making fame for such renowned musicians as pianists Van Cliburn, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Eliso Virsaladze, Mikhail Pletnev, Grigory Sokolov, Boris Berezovsky, Denis Matsuev, and Daniil Trifonov.

Also, violinists Gidon Kremer, Victoria Mullova, Vladimir Spivakov, Viktor Tretiakov, Pavel Milyukov; cellists Mario Brunello, David Geringas, Nathaniel Rosen, Natalia Gutman, Antonio Meneses, and singers Vladimir Atlantov, Elena Obraztsova, Yulia Matochkina, Evgeny Nesterenko, Paata Burchuladze, and Deborah Voigt.