Monday, 8 June 2009

Van Cliburn International Piano Competition 2009: Asia Dominates

This edition of the Van Cliburn saw four Asians (Nobuyuki Tsujii, Haochen Zhang, Yeol Eum Son & Di Wu) in the grand finals, one more than the number (Joyce Yang, Sa Chen & Chu-Fang Huang) that figured in the 2005 competition. This trend was also noticed at the 2006 Leeds International Piano Competition which saw four and a half pianists of Asian descent (Sunwook Kim, Sunghoon Kim, Siheng Song, Grace Fong and Andrew Brownell, from Korea, China and USA). This has to be a record.
Never in the history of the competition has three Asians been awarded Gold (Tsujii and Zhang) and Silver (Son) Medals. The closest was in 2005 when two Asians finished in the top three (Joyce Yang with silver, and Sa Chen with Bronze).

No Chinese pianist has ever won the Gold until Haochen Zhang. Nobuyuki Tsujii is not the first Japanese to strike Gold. Jon Nakamatsu (Japanese American) won the VC Gold in 1997.

No blind pianist has ever won Gold in a major piano competition until Nobuyuki Tsujii. This win will be the launch of an amazing concert career. The previous closest effort was by Bernard d'Ascoli who placed 3rd in Leeds in 1981.

Both Chinese finalists Haochen Zhang and Di Wu shared a common teacher in Gary Graffman at Philadelphia's Curtis Institute. Graffman also taught Lang Lang and Yuja Wang. See a common pattern emerging? With 20-30 million young pianists emerging from China, there comes a new dimension to the former Cold War dictum "We will bury you".

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