Soloist horrified as orchestra starts playing wrong concerto in piano competition nightmare

19 January 2024, 20:46

Tianxu An during the Tchaikovsky Competition mixup
Tianxu An during the Tchaikovsky Competition mixup. Picture: YouTube / Tchaikovsky competition

By Kyle Macdonald

A terrible concerto mix-up for a young soloist, following an administrative error backstage at the Tchaikovsky Competition.

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Pianist Tianxu An, a competitor in the final round of the prestigious Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in 2019, was victim to an excruciating mix-up which saw the orchestra start the wrong piece.

The 20-year-old Chinese virtuoso had taken to the stage with the understanding that he was to play Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No.1, followed by Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.

However, an administrative error backstage meant the orchestra and conductor were prepared for the opposite order of pieces. Watch what happened below.

An Tianxu incident with Rachmaninoff on Tchaikovsky competition final

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Mentally prepared for the concerto, Tianxu An was making his final bid for the USD $30,000 prize. He nodded to conductor Vasily Petrenko to begin, expected the epic orchestral chords of the Tchaikovsky.

To his horror, orchestra and conductor instead launched into the rapid opening of the Rachmaninov. The soloist tried desperately to catch the eye of the conductor, but the piano entry was almost immediate.

It’s impossible to imagine the fright and stress felt by the soloist in such a situation. We think Tianxu was very classy in his desire to keep the show going, and his ability to switch between these mammoth works in seconds shows the depth of his musical ability.

However, it undoubtedly impacted his musical readiness and state of mind, in the already pressured situation of a concerto final.

Yunchan Lim performs Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No.3 for the Cliburn Competition

After the performance, the incident was investigated. The Tchaikovsky Competition released a statement blaming the ‘gross error’ in the ordering of the works on an employee of the orchestra. The jury officially invited Tianxu to re-play his program, but he declined.

The competition’s winner in 2019 was 22-year-old French pianist Alexandre Kantorow.