Concerto wrong-o: Music score mix-up forces competitor to pull rabbit out of hat

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A performance by a Chinese finalist at a major music contest in Moscow turned into every pianist’s nightmare when the contestant started playing one concerto, and the orchestra – something else entirely.

The finals of the XVI International Tchaikovsky Competition for Young Musicians was to start with Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1. And that’s exactly what aspiring 20-year-old Chinese pianist An Tienxiu expected to play.

What he did not anticipate, however, is that someone would mix the notes up, placing Tchaikovsky’s concerto in front of Tienxiu, and Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini in front of everyone else, including the conductor.

As footage from the competition shows, poor Tienxiu starts playing his part with tremendous vigor, which changes to confusion and then complete dismay in a matter of seconds, when he hears the orchestra playing a different piece.

Tienxiu deserved a hearty round of applause, as after the initial shock, he adjusted to the orchestra and finished the rhapsody nicely. The mishap, however, cost him a place at the podium and potentially the first prize of US$30,000.

Renowned pianist and chairman of the jury Denis Matsuev offered Tienxiu the chance to re-do his performance, but he declined.

“I’m thinking about giving him a special prize for courage,” Matsuev later said in an interview on Kultura TV.

The employee responsible for the mix-up was fired.

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