An animated performance of Tchaikovsky’s “Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor, Op. 23” earned the judges’ praise and the crown for Tony Siqi Yun at the Thomas and Evon Cooper International Competition.
The 17-year-old pianist, hailing from Toronto, Canada, played the final concerto of the evening Friday at Cleveland’s Severance Hall.
Judges spent fewer than 10 minutes in deliberation before naming him champion. Yun earned a $20,000 grand prize.
Kai-Min Chang, 17, of Taiwan, opened the concert with Chopin’s “Piano Concerto No. 1 in E Minor, Op. 11” and earned second place and $10,000.
Yunchan Lim, 14, of South Korea, performed Chopin’s “Concerto No. 2 in F Minor, Op. 21” and took third place and $5,000.
All three finalists performed with the Cleveland Orchestra under the direction of Jahja Ling. As finalists, they will each be extended an invitation to attend the Oberlin Conservatory of Music.
“We heard three terrific talents and the Cleveland Orchestra in top form. It was truly a remarkable night,” said Robert Shannon, director and jury chair of the Cooper Competition for piano, speaking from the stage immediately following the awards ceremony.
“What I heard from Tony was the same thing I had heard throughout the week: He is a fantastic player and an especially outstanding character onstage,” Shannon said.
Now in its ninth year, the Cooper Competition is presented annually by the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and the Cleveland Orchestra. The format alternates each year between piano and violin.
The competition’s 2018 field consisted of 31 pianists ages 14 to 18 from six U.S. states and seven countries. They competed for five straight days on the campus of Oberlin College and Conservatory; finalists determined by Wednesday’s recital finals.
Also honored at the recital finals were Ryan Zhu, 14, of Vancouver, Canada; William Chen, 15, of New York; and William Yang, 17, of Natick, Mass., who earned fourth through sixth place, respectively. Each takes home a prize of $1,500.
For the first time in Cooper history, the 2018 Audience Prize was shared by Lim and Yun, both of whom earned the prize of $500.
The Cooper International Competition for violin returns in July 2019, the 10th anniversary of the event.