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June 8, 2009
Van Cliburn winners are young and from Far East


One need not look further than the 2009 Van Cliburn International Competition to see where the future of classical music is happening.

This year's Van Cliburn is the first time since the competition's inception in1962 that all three top prizes were awarded to pianists from the Far East.

The top Gold Medal prize was awarded as a tie between Nobuyuki Tsujii, 20, of Japan and Haochen Zhang, 19 of China. Tsujii and Zhang were also the two youngest pianists in the 2009 Competition. Yeol Eum Son, 23, of South Korea won the Bronze medal award.

Tsujii has been blind since birth and was a clear crowd favorite at the competition. He learned the piano repertoire, including the Chopin E minor Piano Concerto, the piece he made a big impression with, entirely by ear.

So... how did pianists from the U.S. fare at the competition?

No competitor from the U.S. made it past the preliminary round.

The awards culminate a grueling 17 days of competition where hundreds of pianists vie for one of the most prestigious prizes in classical music.

The Gold Medal prize includes a cash award of $20,000, as well as international and national concert tours for the three seasons, and a CD recording on the Harmonia Mundi label.

Pianists Jeffrey Kahane, Olga Kern, and Radu Lupu are among past winners of the Van Cliburn.

The competition was started by a group of Fort Worth music teachers and private citizens who were inspired by Van Cliburn winning the first International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow on April 14, 1958.

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