Outstanding Pianists Prevail at 8th Bösendorfer and Yamaha USASU International Piano Competition

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World-renowned piano competition culminates with award winners ranging from 13 to 32 years of age, as it welcomed the public to experience great performances by talented young artists

From left: Yuchong Wu, 3rd prize winner, Bösendorfer Competition; Xuesha Hu, 1st prize winner, Bösendorfer Competition; Yutong Sun, 2nd prize winner, Bösendorfer Competition.

“This top-tier competition offers our discriminating audience a thrilling opportunity to hear pianists who are performing at the highest levels while still early in their careers.” Baruch Meir, founder, president and artistic director of the competition.

Xuesha Hu, Andrew Zhao and William Chen captured first place in their respective categories in the 8th Biennial Bösendorfer and Yamaha USASU International Piano Competition held Jan. 2–8. They took the top prizes in the renowned competition at the Arizona State University School of Music in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts that featured a total of 183 pianists from 23 different countries.

Xuesha Hu earned top honors in the Bösendorfer competition, and received the $15,000 David Katzin Award and gold medal. Hu will have the opportunity to be a featured soloist with The Phoenix Symphony and to present a recital in Merkin Hall, Kaufman Music Center, in New York City. Hu, 23 years old, was born in Ganzhou City, China, and has won numerous high honors including her most recent, the 2016 Grand Prize in the 32nd Young Texas Artists Competition. She is pursuing her Master of Music degree at the Bienen School of Music at Northwestern University under the guidance of Professor Alan Chow. She performed Prokofiev’s Concerto No. 3, Op. 26 in the Bösendorfer finals with the Phoenix Symphony at the renowned Phoenix Symphony Hall on Sunday, Jan. 8, culminating a week of performances and festivities in the competition. The Bösendorfer competition features outstanding pianists from around the world ranging in age from 19 to 32.

Yutong Sun, 21, took second place in the Bösendorfer competition to capture a $10,000 prize and the Phyllis Chiat Award and silver medal. Sun studies with Alexander Korsantia at the New England Conservatory. Chiat, a longtime arts advocate who loved classical music and the piano, passed away in August 2014 following a short battle with cancer. The award is made possible through the generous support of art lovers in the community and ASU School of Music patrons who knew Phyllis and her husband, Harold Chiat M.D. The third prize in the Bösendorfer competition went to Yuchong Wu, 21, who received a prize of $5,000 and bronze medal; Wu studies with Robert McDonald at The Juilliard School.

Andrew Zhao, 16, from San Diego, Calif., performed Chopin’s Scherzo No. 4 in E Major, Op. 54 in the Winners’ Recital of the Yamaha Senior Piano Competition on Saturday, Jan. 7 in Katzin Concert Hall on the ASU Tempe campus. Zhao received the Addona-Burns Award and gold medal and a $5,000 prize in the Senior Competition, which features pianists aged 16 through 18. Second prize was awarded to Lingfei (Stephen) Xie, 16, from the People’s Republic of China, who received $2,000 and the silver medal. The bronze medal and a $1,000 prize went to Arthur Wang, 16, from Canada.

The top three winners in the Yamaha Junior Competition, for pianists 13 through 15, all hail from the United States. William Chen, 13, took home the $4,000 Addona-Burns Award and gold medal and the Menahem Zohar Memorial Award for the most outstanding performance of a classical work for his performance of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111; Edward Zhang, 13, earned the silver medal and a $2,000 prize; and Anne Liu, 15, received the bronze medal and the $1,000 Linda and Sherman Saperstein Award.

The distinguished panel of judges for the 2017 competition featured Stanislav Ioudenitch, Van Cliburn gold medalist; Oxana Yablonskaya, who served on the faculty at The Juilliard School for 30 years; Dr. Asaf Zohar, Israeli pianist and pedagogue; Zhe Tang, vice dean and piano professor at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music; Robert Hamilton, internationally respected pianist, recording artist and ASU professor; and Baruch Meir from the ASU School of Music.

“This year’s festival and competition featured exceptional young pianists who are studying with teachers at some of the world’s most prestigious music schools, including The Juilliard School, Peabody Conservatory, New England Conservatory, Moscow Conservatory, Seoul National University, Hanover University of Music, Drama and Media, Northwestern University, as well as Arizona State University,” said Baruch Meir, founder, president and artistic director of the competition, and Bösendorfer Concert Artist. “This top-tier competition offers our discriminating audience a thrilling opportunity to hear pianists who are performing at the highest levels while still early in their careers.”

Forty-three Yamaha and Bösendorfer competitors were selected to perform in the semifinal and final rounds for prizes including more than $50,000 in cash rewards.

Three students from Arizona – one from Arizona State University, one from University of Arizona and one who currently studies at The Juilliard School – were accepted to compete this year, evidence of the remarkable quality of pianists in the state. Michelle Nam, Nino Bakradze and Joey Chang vied for the National Society of Arts and Letters Arizona Chapter Special Award for most outstanding Arizona pianist. Joey Chang won that special honor and a $1,000 prize in the Bösendorfer competition and no prize was awarded in the Yamaha competition.

Yvgeny Yontov from Israel won a special award of $1,000 for the best performance of a work composed by a French composer in the Bösendorfer Competition.

Yuchong Wu won the Sangyoung Kim Award of $1,000, which recognizes the most outstanding performance of a virtuoso work in the Bösendorfer Competition.

The Gelfand-Messenger Award of $500 was captured by Peter Klimo from the United States in the Bösendorfer Competition for the best performance of a solo piano work composed by a Living Composer (as of Nov. 6, 2016).

The Sarra and Emmanuil Senderov Award of $500 was given to Yutong Sun for the most outstanding performances of a composition by a Russian composer in the Bösendorfer competition, and Anne Liu earned it in the Yamaha Competition.

Two Yehuda Meir memorial awards of $250 were given to the two most outstanding artistic performances of an etude by Chopin. Yutong Sun won the award in the Bösendorfer Competition and Jeong Min Kim from Korea won that honor in the Yamaha Competition.

The Biennial competition is hailed as one of the best in the world and welcomes the public to experience great performances by these talented young artists. The weeklong event is held at the ASU School of Music in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts in collaboration with the Phoenix Symphony, the Arizona Young Artist Committee and the Arizona Piano Gallery.

Heather Landes, director of the ASU School of Music, and Steven Tepper, dean of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, both congratulated all the winners and commended each participant in this year’s competition. “The Bösendorfer and Yamaha USASU International Piano Competition is an exceptional opportunity for young pianists to develop the skills and confidence required to excel in the highly demanding world of concert piano performance. These young artists are experiencing, firsthand, the power of music to change lives,” Landes said.

The competition’s live solo rounds began on Jan. 2 and were open to the public, providing exciting opportunities to see participants from all over the world competing for advancement to the final round. The Yamaha Competition reached its conclusion when, after the results were announced, the top medalists performed on a CFX, Yamaha’s flagship concert grand piano, in the Winners’ Recital on Saturday, Jan. 7.

The Bösendorfer Competition culminated in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the finalists. Each played a final concerto on Bösendorfer’s Vienna concert grand, the 280 VC, at Symphony Hall, accompanied by The Phoenix Symphony under the baton of conductor Matthew Kasper.

Piano Gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona’s premier piano showroom and the state’s largest Yamaha piano dealer, was instrumental in providing the practice pianos used throughout the competition as well as arranging for the concert grands used in the finals.

The winners were presented with medals individually handcrafted and designed by OT Jewelers of Mesa, Arizona, another generous sponsor.

For complete information about the ASU School of Music, this year’s competition or how you might get involved, visit pianocompetition.music.asu.edu or contact the competition office by email: pianocompetition(at)asu(dot)edu or phone: 480-965-8740.

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About ASU School of Music

The School of Music in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at Arizona State University is one of the top music schools in the nation. Internationally recognized faculty, varied and technologically driven curricula and five outstanding performance facilities all contribute to its stature. The quality and comprehensiveness of the program is demonstrated by the many graduates who are successful performers, composers, music therapists, conductors and teachers regionally, nationally and internationally. Combine these key attributes with the surrounding Southwestern scenery and the culturally stimulating lifestyle of one of the nation’s largest cities, and you’ll discover there truly is no better place to study music.

About Bösendorfer

Bösendorfer was founded in 1828 in Vienna, Austria and has been the instrument of choice for many of the world’s most famous artists and composers. This limited production, handcrafted instrument remains one of the most sought after instruments for musicians, institutions and piano enthusiasts worldwide.

About Yamaha

Yamaha Corporation of America (YCA) is one of the largest subsidiaries of Yamaha Corporation, Japan and offers a full line of award-winning musical instruments, sound reinforcement, commercial installation and home entertainment products to the U.S. market. Products include: Yamaha acoustic, digital and hybrid pianos, portable keyboards, guitars, acoustic and electronic drums, band and orchestral instruments, marching percussion products, synthesizers, professional digital and analog audio equipment, Steinberg recording products and NEXO commercial audio products, as well as AV receivers, amplifiers, MusicCast wireless multiroom audio systems, Blu-ray/CD players, earphones, headphones, home-theater-in-a-box systems, sound bars and its exclusive line of Digital Sound Projectors. YCA markets innovative, finely crafted technology and entertainment products and musical instruments targeted to the hobbyist, education, worship, music, professional audio installation and consumer markets.

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Peter Giles
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