Six pianists have moved on to the final round of the Sixteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, setting the stage for an epic showdown to the end.
These six finalists are now vying for a gold medal, $100,000 cash, and an international career are:
- Dmytro Choni, Ukraine, 28
- Anna Geniushene, Russia, 31
- Uladzislau Khandohi, Belarus, 20
- Yunchan Lim, South Korea, 18
- Ilya Shmukler, Russia, 27
- Clayton Stephenson, United States, 23
Cliburn Competition jury chair Marin Alsop made the announcement June 12 on stage at Bass Performance Hall in downtown Fort Worth. It came after the conclusion of the semifinal round, in which 12 of the original 30 competitors played both a 60-minute recital and a Mozart concerto with maestro Nicholas McGegan and the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra.
A closer look at the field
Notably, the field has two of the initial six Russians remaining, and one from Belarus. A crowd favorite, Ilya Shmukler competed in the 2017 Cliburn International Competition.
The one remaining American candidate, Clayton Stephenson, easily won over the Fort Worth audience early in the competition, as many remember him as a prize-winner in the inaugural Cliburn Junior Competition in 2015. His playing has been described as joyful and full of charisma.
Ukrainian pianist Dmytro Choni has received warm and generous response from the crowds each time he's taken the stage, and he's naturally attracted worldwide media attention.
Of four South Korean semifinalists, only Yunchan Lim — described as a "powerhouse" virtuoso — made it through.
Russian Anna Geniushene is the only remaining woman in the competition. She was the final contestant to play in the semifinal round before the nine-member jury of internationally famous pianists voted, using a simple "yes-no-maybe" ballot.
Lim and Geniushene represent both the youngest (18) and the oldest (31) pianists in the competition.
In his powerful and timely opening remarks onstage, Cliburn board chairman Jeff King underscored the power of music to transcend geopolitics.
"You have affirmed that we all have more in common than not, that we are all brothers and sisters together, and that we all share the same dreams," he told the competitors. "Van Cliburn said, 'If you hold on to the beauty and inspiration and the clarity that is music, you will have an anchor and you will not be swayed ... Thank you for being who you are all that you do as you bring the healing energy that is music to our world."
On to the finals
The final round will run June 14-18 at Bass Hall. All six finalists perform two concertos, to be selected from two separate lists, with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra and Alsop, conductor. Click on the contestants' names in the bulleted list, above, to find out what each is playing in the next round.
The final round performance schedule will be announced on Monday, June 13. (Note that there are no competition performances on that day.)
Winners will be announced at the conclusion of play, about 7 pm Saturday, June 18.
Besides receiving cash prizes, the gold, silver, and bronze medalists all will receive "a comprehensive and personalized career management package, to include three years of concert bookings, artistic planning mentorship, traditional and social media training, logistics support, and tax and financial planning guidance, as well as commercial recording releases and a complete promotional package," the Cliburn says. The winner will get a global career launch, including management around the world.
Also during finals week, a number of free Cliburn "festival" events will take place around Bass Hall. They include a jury symposium, a screening of the Alsop biopic documentary Conductor, and "Piano Lunches" featuring contestants who were eliminated in previous rounds.
If you're planning to head to the competition, here are nine pro tips to make the most of the experience.