Saturday night at Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre, five finalists took the stage with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra in the final round of the 2012 Eastman Young Artists International Piano Competition. Two hours and considerable applause later, the first prize was awarded to Leonardo Colafelice of Italy (age 16), whose final round performance was the first movement of the Rachmaninoff Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 30. Colafelice has won more than 50 piano competitions since 2005.
The first, second, and third place winners each received a medal, a cash prize, and a full-tuition scholarship to the Eastman School of Music. The second prize was awarded to Junhui Chen (China, age 17), who performed the Tchaikovsky Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor, Op. 23, first movement. And the third prize was awarded to Kate Liu (Singapore/USA, age 16), who performed the Prokofiev Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 16, first movement.
The other two finalists were ChaeyoungPark (USA - Kansas, age 15), who performed the Prokofiev Concerto No. 3 in C Major, Op. 26, first movement, and Dong-Won Lee (USA - Washington, age 18), who performed the Brahms Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 15, first movement. These two finalists won a $750 cash prize.
Less than a week ago, the five finalists were part of a field of 20 contestants, ages 15-18, from countries around the world, vying to win more than $500,000 in cash prizes and scholarships. Each contestant had performed in two preliminary rounds plus one master class, all of which were open to the public.
Having attended several rounds in the Hatch Recital Hall, I had already made notes on different contestants on the various required elements. Each contestant performed works from each period (Baroque, Classical, Romantic), and each contestant had choices from among French, Russian, and Spanish, Latin, or North American composers.
Although not one of the judges, and recognizing that I did not hear all of the preliminary rounds, I do still want to offer high praise for several performances that delighted this lover of contemporary music. Sang-Won Kim (Korea, age 17) performed a work that suited him well, namely, "Masques, Op. 34," third movement, titled "Serenade de Don Juan" by Polish composer Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937). Another piece that caught my ear for her finger dexterity and sense of phrasing was performed by Katelan Tran Terrell (USA - Texas, age 18), who performed the Sonata No. 1, Op. 22 by Argentinian composer Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983).
And I would like to make special note of the performance of finalist Chaeyoung Park in the second preliminary round of a selection from "Makrokosmos, Volume I, Gemini - Dream Images (Love-Death Music)" by American composer George Crumb (b. 1929). Park performed the only composition by a living, American composer out of more than 160 works programmed, and she did so with grace and lyricism in a piece with those notorious contemporary markings like "silence for 3 seconds" (instead of traditional music notation of rests metered through time signatures).
Truly my only disappointment on the final evening was the thought of having two wait two years until the next competition. Congratulations to artistic director Douglas Humpherys, the panel of international judges, and the staff at ESM for another outstanding opportunity for young pianists to share their talents with the public and to prepare for their futures in classical music.
Click here for City's original feature on the ESM piano competition.