Winners of 14th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition were announced last night in Fort Worth. A 26-year-old Ukranian, a 20-year-old Italian and a 24-year-old American from California took the top prizes.
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Vadym Kholodenko was more than happy to win the top prize of $50,000. But he said the rankings don’t mean that much.
“It’s kind of fun for the audience, for the press. It’s interesting to put ‘first,’ ‘second,’ ‘10th.’ But in life, not so important.”
And he says, so much of life involves competing no matter what you’re doing.
Kholodenko and the other two winners said the competition was tough, but worth it. Famed composer Bela Bartok once said sarcastically, “competitions are for horses.” But 20-year-old silver medalist Beatrice Rana of Italy said she doesn’t feel like a horse.
“Competitions are one of the main ways for us to have a concert pianist career. Competitions can be accessible for everybody. I don’t compete often, but I’m glad we have a chance to play often,” said Rana.
She is referring to what winners consider the real prize of the Cliburn competition – three years of professional management and commission-free bookings here and overseas. Winning also usually means no more competitions. That’s what 3rd place finisher Sean Chen, from Oak Park, Calif., was happy about.
“This experience has been really awesome but kind of the most stressful thing I’ve ever done in my life. You know, it’s just the nature of the beast. I would be kind of happy to not have to go through it again.”
But now the pressure of life and career begins. One of the judges and famed chamber music pianist, Menachem Pressler, said the winners are up to it. He compared Kholodenko to legendary pianists who conquered Lizst’s Transcendental Etudes that the gold medalist also played.
“That was a feat that not many people can do, not on that level, which is remarkable because he’s a young man. The girl that won 2nd really was a wonderful pianist. And the 3rd prize was a very fine young man we have great hopes for him,” said Pressler.
The hope for all three is that they not only keep performing well, but that they win over new audiences. That way, when the Cliburn bookings end in three years, concert managers will still want to sign them for future engagements.