Every four years, piano fans gather in Fort Worth, Texas, for one of the piano world's biggest parties: the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.
At this year's Cliburn—the fifteenth—Yekwon Sunwoo, 28, earned the Gold Medal. Although a native of South Korea, Sunwoo has degrees from Curtis and Juilliard (and, yes, he played the Rach 3).
The Silver Medal went to American Kenneth Broberg, 23; Daniel Hsu, 19, another American, took home the Bronze. Hsu also won the Steven De Groote Memorial Award for the Best Performance of Chamber Music and the Beverley Taylor Smith Award for the Best Performance of a New Work. Hong Kong's Rachel Cheung, 25, received the Audience Award.
The John Giordano Jury Chairman Discretionary Award went to South Korea's Dasol Kim, 28, and the Raymond E. Buck Jury Discretionary Award to Italy's Leonardo Pierdomenico, 24. An additional Jury Discretionary Award went to Canada's Tony Yike Yang, 18.
The top prize includes a cash award of $50,000; Silver and Bronze winners' cash awards are $25,000 and $15,000, respectively. All three medalists receive career management, performance dates, and recording partnerships with Universal Music Group.
The competition spans nearly three weeks, and, between the May 25 preliminary rounds and the June 10 awards ceremony, the field of thirty initial competitors dwindled to six finalists. In addition to Sunwoo, Broberg, and Hsu, the other finalists were Cheung, Yury Favorin, 30, and Georgy Tchaidze, 29. Both Favorin and Tchaidze are from Russia.
The Cliburn instituted several procedural changes this year. Past semifinal rounds consisted of a solo recital and a chamber performance. In 2017, chamber music moved to the finals, replaced by semifinal performances of Mozart concerti. Each finalist performed an additional concerto. Sunwoo played the Rachmaninoff Third and Broberg the Rachmaninoff Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. Hsu played the first Tchaikovsky concerto.
Leonard Slatkin led the The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra during the finals, and the Mozart round was conducted by Nicholas McGegan. The Brentano String Quartet joined the finalists for the chamber performances. Cliburn.org features all the competition performances, along with a webcast hosted by duo-pianists Anderson and Roe.
Clavier Companion Managing Editor Susan Geffen provided on-site coverage of the competition finals. Her posts can be found in the Digital-Only content section of this website.