Pascal Rogé issues grovelling apology after labelling piano competition jury as 'mafia'

13 October 2014, 10:08 | Updated: 13 October 2014, 12:11

Pascal Rogé is forced to apologise after quitting as a judge at the Monza international piano competition and accusing Italian members of the panel of corruption.

Rogé wrote on a blog after resigning: “It’s purely mathematic: you put three Italian jury members plus two more ‘very strongly Italian influenced’ [members] and then you have a ‘majority’ that can manipulate the results to their whims.” 

He said he was willing to wager “two magnums of Chianti” that of the three finalists, the top two would be Italian and the Japanese competitor would come third. He was correct: the first and second prize winners were Italian pianists Fiorenzo Pascalucci and Federica Bortoluzzi, with Japanese Atsuko Kinoshita coming third.

Rogé added “does the word ‘Mafia’ ring a bell?”, and called for more transparency in the voting system. His comments echoed those of Julian Lloyd-Webber, who recently said many music competition were fixed. "I'm talking about specialised competitions," he said. "The Tchaikovsky competition in Moscow – it's either highly political or it's a fix for somebody's pupil to win it. You have a situation where a juror is friendly with another juror and there's a kind of trade-off."

Rogé's comments prompted Italian judge Roberto Prosseda to write “we’re in the European Union, I don’t feel Italian, I am European. It’s stupid to equate Italians with Mafia”.

In an official statement, The Rina Sala Gallo Association said: “Maestro Rogé opted to turn the tables and promptly left, to discredit the work of his colleagues, who quite to the contrary, acted in accordance with the rules that they had accepted and signed… In light of the above, the Rina Sala Gallo Association requires that Maestro Rogé issue an immediate, and written, apology for failing to fulfil the duties that his position required, i.e. to respect the rules, and for having abandoned the jury ‒ unilaterally terminating the contract he had signed ‒ and divulging false and misleading information, and discrediting the competition, which will now make a legal claim for damages.”

Rogé has since apologised unreservedly for his comments. His statement read: "I got carried away by my emotions and by the deep impression some of the semifinalists made on me.

"Since I am not so frequently a jury member at international piano competitions, I gave my voting as an artist and I must confess that I did not realise sufficiently that my votes could be eliminated if they were higher or lower than the votes of the other jury members.

"Looking back on my comment, I must admit that it was written in a moment that my enjoyment and expectation of fine music had suddenly been disrupted. Some of the words and qualifications which I used in my comment were indeed inappropriate, for which I would like to apologise."