The 13th Van Cliburn Competition Ends With Two Gold Medalists

Nobuyuki Tsujii During His Prize-Winning Performance(Photo: Altré Media - Van Cliburn Foundation)
Nobuyuki Tsujii During His Prize-Winning Performance(Photo: Altré Media - Van Cliburn Foundation)

The judges of the 2009 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition have selected the competition’s first blind pianist as a gold medalist.  I say as “a” gold medalist, because Japan’s Nobuyuki Tsujii shares the honor with China’s Haochen Zhang.  These players were the youngest contestants.

Yeol Eum Son, of Korea, took the silver medal.  No Crystal Award was not given out this year.  Read about the winners and their fellow competition finalists here.

In a post on the competition’s blog, Mike Winter wrote after the finals had concluded that “it’s clear to me the top three pianists in this particular circumstance, the finals of the 13th Van Cliburn Piano Competition are as follows, perhaps in this order: Di Wu, Yeol Eum Son and Haochen Zhang.  I have no idea if anyone agrees with me…we shall see. ”

I guess we did see, and I guess not enough members of the jury agreed.  There will likely be some chatter about whether Nobuyuki Tsujii tied for the gold based solely on artistic merit, or whether his disability (if we can use this word about someone so obviously capable) was a factor.  I would very much like to hear the judges’ comments.

The competition’s audience voted for a rather different set of laureates: Italy’s Mariangela Vacatello would have come in first with 23.9 percent of the vote, Nobuyuki trailed her for second place with 22.6 percent of the vote, and Yeol Eum Son would have come in a distant third with 15.9 percent of the vote.

Here is a list–taken from the competition’s blog–of the other awards bestowed at the competition:

  • Steven De Groote Memorial Award for the Best Performance(s) of Chamber Music: Evgeni Bozhanov, Yeol Eum Son
  • Beverley Taylor Smith Award for the Best Performance of a New Work: Nobuyuki Tsujii
  • Jury Discretionary Awards: Alessandro Deljavan, Lukas Vondracek, Eduard Kunz
  • Audience vote: Mariangela Vacatello
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