Sigall’s Surprise: Classical Guitar Competition ends on unexpected note

One of the things about competitions is that they are prone to surprises and upsets. They don’t always turn out as expected and often not as desired. Proof enough was the very unexpected twist of events at Saturday night’s final round of the Dr. Luis Sigall Classical Guitar Competition in Viña del Mar. (See “Classical Guitar in Viña del Mar: 36th Dr. Luis Sigall Competition” for information leading up to the finals).

Eighteen young guitarists from 12 countries were invited to participate in this prestigious competition. Eight made the semi-finals, and the 3 finalists, Marco Sartor of Uruguay, Sebastian Montes of Chile, and Daniela Rossi of Argentina, performed with orchestra on Saturday night.

Marco Sartor of Uruguay

Marco Sartor, 30, of Uruguay

The finalists were assigned the piece they would play.

Luck of the draw.

Marco Sartor was the first to take the stage and performed Concierto para guitarra y pequeña orquesta, by Héitor Villa-Lobos of Brazil. His execution was flawless, but unfortunately his guitar was drowned out by the orchestra, and even during the solo passages it was hard to hear, a fact that the judges neither missed nor dismissed.

Sebastian Montes, Chile

Sebastian Montes, 30, of Chile

Sebastián Montes followed with Fantasía para un gentil hombre, by Spanish composer Joaquín Rodrigo. He played beautifully and moved the audience such that they applauded until he returned for a second bow.

I am not impartial. He is my favorite. We, his family, were there en patota.”


Daniela Rossi, 25, of Argentina

Daniela Rossi closed the show with the most famous of all pieces for guitar and orchestra: Joaquín Rodrigo’s Aranjuez. She played with confidence and personality, and those in the know commented on her creative interpretation.

Intermission. Nerves. Tension.

The audience voted for their favorite.
Smokers smoked.
Hair was combed; lipstick reapplied.
The evening’s 3 stars paced.
The public congratulated them.
Some asked for a photo or autograph.


The remaining 15 participants speculated.
The musicians in the audience opined.
Everyone commented.
What was taking so long?


More pacing.
More smoking.
More commenting.

Time drags on–3 0 minutes… 45… an hour–and this can only mean one thing: the jury is not in agreement.

The lights flash, we return to our seats. One look at the jury, now on stage, and we know. They have done serious battle. Our hearts begin to sink.

The usual round of speeches begins. Why is it that every speaker has to repeat interminable lists of Illustrious Toms, Esteemed Dicks and Honorable Harrys, along with their mothers and brothers and cousins and important neighbors? All the blustering blah-blah must have added at least another 20 minutes to the already torturous suspense.

Finally, the awards:

Best Chilean non-finalist Award: Renato Serrano (29) (trip for 2 to Laguna San Rafael)

Audience Favorite: Sebastián Montes (Yay, Seba!)

3rd Prize: Marco Sartor… surprised murmurs…

2nd Prize: Sebastián Montes… shocked audience response…

1st Prize: Daniela Rossi… stunned

Sartor and Montes were far and away the favorites going into–and coming out of–this event. Those who had been following the competition considered it a toss-up for first and second. The final outcome was completely unexpected and frankly, unexplainable.

And with that, I will refrain from further comment, lest I be accused of sour grapes. Not the case. There is much to be said about the outcome of this event, but I will wait for others more qualified and less involved to say it… while I bide my time, mulling this mystery and weighing my words.

El Mercurio: “Un duro round vivió la final de “Dr. Luis Sigall

El Mercurio de Valparaíso: “La compleja votación en la final del Dr. Sigall

El Mercurio de Valparaíso: “Final de “Dr. Luis Sigall” envuelto en la polémica”


15 responses to “Sigall’s Surprise: Classical Guitar Competition ends on unexpected note

  1. Darnit, I’m sorry that the judges were so out of synch with the audience. That must have been very disappointing! (and continue to be). But the coming events where he brings home the gold will make it all ok, right? Well, better than it is now. Poor you guys, and poor Sebastián!

  2. Thanks Eileen, but it’s not a case of poor anybody. It goes far beyond that… It’s not unusual that the judges see something different than the general public. That can and does happen in any competition. It’s also not a case of disappointment that Seba came in second… the problem is that the pros in the audience saw something very wrong here…

  3. So sorry to hear about the this. You are right, though. There is a pattern here where the first place winner is not the best interpreter. This is dejavu for me, because my nephew is a classical guitarist. He gives master classes and has been awarded the most prestigious prizes in many countries, yet this particular competition seems to be rigged somehow. Don’t let this discourage any of the truly deserving interpreters. Just pick other competitions (preferably outside Chile) and move on. ‘Nadie es profeta en su tierra’ as they say…

  4. Thanks for writing Anamaría. Can you say who your nephew is? (If you don’t want to publicly, you can contact me privately… my guess is that he knows Seba)
    the truly disappointing thing about this is that until now, this particular competition has been considered one of the “most serious,” and now there’s this dark shadow that’s come across it!

  5. Yes, the world of classical guitar is rather small. I would not be surprised if they know each other 🙂

    This is his webpage

  6. ¡Chis! ¡Pero por supuesto! He’s one of Chile’s top guitarrists! And if I’m not mistaken, Seba bought his first decent guitar from Jose Antonio!

  7. The three finalists did a great interpretation. My favourite one was Montes.

    Despite the 2nd place, Montes is a great guitarrist and deserves a lot of applause.

  8. I am sure all three artists were technically very good. So, what makes the difference between them, if not personality and creativity?
    It is normal to stand by those we love, but it is also important to accept playing the game…

  9. This is so very true… and what makes it difficult. I am not a professional and obviously my opinion is not objective. And playing the game is of utmost importance. No one can win every time. That is not the issue. So I repeat, this is not a case of crying injustice out of family loyalty. Every pro who was there was shocked at the outcome. I was hoping that some of them would respond here because clearly their opinions carry far more weight than mine.

  10. Yes, Margaret, you are right. It is not a matter of family loyalty. It goes way beyond that. You have to know about the inner workings of classical music competitions in order to understand the utmost stress and the high level of the interpreters. There is a really good documentary ‘The Cliburn: Playing on the Edge’ that gives a pretty good idea of that. This one is about pianists, not guitarists but the principle is the same.

  11. Thanks Anamaría- for understanding what I’m getting at and for the dato on the documentary. I’m definitely going to look for it.
    My experience with competitions has much more to do with food and wine… and what is utterly and absolutely certain is that the judges, their knowledge of the subject, and their sense of ethics, is fundamental.
    I have seen truly abysmal wines turn up with gold medals while truly stellar wines come up with a bronze. I have been on international juries where it is clear that certain members of the group clearly had no idea of what they were doing… but in the end, their vote counts the same as everyone else’s.
    I would truly love to have someone explain the process, step-by-step, of what the jurying process is in a music competition. There is always so much more that is not visible to the lay person’s eye.

  12. By the way- here’s a link to a clip from the documentary Ana María mentioned: ‘The Cliburn: Playing on the Edge’:

  13. Pingback: Sigalls-Surprise-Classical-Guitar-Competition-ends-on-unexpected-note : Sysmaya

  14. Pingback: Sigall's Surprise: Classical Guitar Competition ends on unexpected … | Chile Today

  15. Classical guitar competition has started. Big prizes

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