Well, the winners have been announced and you could hear the cheers of the audience when their favorites' names were called. Most prognosticators had a list of the top four that were in agreement, with Fei-Fei Dong and Tomoki Sakata just missing out. The big mystery was who would come in fourth in this highly selective game of musical chairs, when there were only three seats remaining.
The third prize went to American Sean Chen, who was the darling of many. There had to be a large portion of the audience that was disappointed when his name was announced for this instead of the gold position. However, some were surprised to find him in the final three at all because of his dazzling but self-indulgent performances. There was also some surprise at his selection; speculation spread fast, about who might be left out with only two spots for three outstanding pianists. Pencils came out fast as lists were revised.
Second prize went to Beatrice Rana of Italy. Almost all lists, of which I was aware, had her in this position from the outset. It was accepted wisdom that she would win one of the prizes. Her blazing performance of Prokofiev’s second piano concerto was adored by some but disparaged by others. Go figure.
That left Nikita Mndoyants (Russia) and Vadym Kholodenko (Ukraine) staring at each other from their seats. (When the names were called, they were each sitting with their host family.)
Mndoyants won a lot of hearts with his modest program, eschewing the clanging cymbals of Liszt and his ilk and playing Debussy and Chopin instead. His performance of the Prokofiev second concerto opened a lot of eyes to his other abilities, raising him in the standings.
Kholodenko was marked for one of the top prizes from the preliminaries. He was the only one, of the many who played it, to realize the humor in Stravinsky’s Trois mouvements de Pétrouchka and to remember that it was ballet music with a plot. He also gave a mind-boggling (I know I have used that word before in this connection) trip through all but one of Liszt’s nearly impossible Transcendental Études. His Prokofiev third concerto was hair-raising and entrancing at the same time.
Most lists gave him the edge and they proved to be correct. Although the difference was infinitesimal, the jury decision was correct. He was the best technician, the most sensitive musician, gave the most authentic interpretations, showed flashes of humor and was modest and respectable in demeanor. There was never a whiff of the star about him. He exuded the quiet confidence of a man who arrived prepared, from a lifetime of tedious hours in a practice room and pondering beyond the notes, to set about the methodical business of winning one of the piano world’s top prizes.
Below is the complete list of winners, including the jury discretionary awards and other prizes. Look for more commentary about the competition from me later this week on TheaterJones.
Vadym Kholodenko will receive a cash award of $50,000; career management and international and U.S. concert tours for the three concert seasons following the Competition; studio and live recordings produced by harmonia mundi usa; and performance attire provided by Neiman Marcus.
Links to my reviews in every round for Vadym Kholodenko:
SILVER MEDAL AND CRYSTAL AWARD
Beatrice Rana, the silver medalist, and Sean Chen, the crystal award winner, will each receive a cash award of $20,000; career management and U.S. concert tours for the three concert seasons following the Competition; and a live recording produced by harmonia mundi usa of Competition performances.
Links to my reviews in every round for Beatrice Rana:
Links to my reviews in every round for Sean Chen:
The remaining three finalists will receive cash awards of $10,000 each, and concert tours and management for three concert seasons. They are Fei-Fei Dong, 22, China; Nikita Mndoyants, 24, Russia; and Tomoki Sakata, 19, Japan.
The Steven de Groote Memorial Award for the Best Performance of Chamber Music, with a cash prize of $6,000, was awarded to Vadym Kholodenko, 26, Ukraine.
The Beverley Taylor Smith Award for the Best Performance of a New Work, with a cash prize of $5,000, was awarded to Vadym Kholodenko, 26, Ukraine.
The winner of the John Giordano Jury Discretionary Award, with a cash prize of $4,000, is Steven Lin, 24, United States.
The winner of the Raymond E. Buck Jury Discretionary Award, with a cash prize of $4,000, is Alessandro Deljavan, 26, Italy.
The winner of the Jury Discretionary Award, with a cash prize of $4,000, is Claire Huangci, 23, United States.
The Audience Award was voted on by almost 24,000 visitors to www.cliburn.org. The Audience Award winner, Beatrice Rana, will receive a cash award of $2,500.
The semifinalists will receive cash awards of $5,000 each. Preliminary Round competitors will receive cash awards of $1,000 each.