Pianists from Russia and Uzbekistan on Sunday became the first in the history of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition to be named co-recipients of the gold medal.
Olga Kern, 26, of Russia and Stanislav Ioudenitch, 29, of Uzbekistan shared the honor. In another contest first, two pianists also shared the silver medal: Maxim Philippov, 29, of Russia and Antonio Pompa-Baldi, 26, of Italy. No bronze medal was awarded.
Wang Xiaohan, 20, of China and Oleksiy Koltakov, 22, of Ukraine were the remaining finalists.
Van Cliburn, who hugged all the finalists when they accepted their awards, said the panel of jurors used “utmost discretion” in awarding more than one gold and silver medal. He said all 30 competitors have promising futures.
“All of us try to give impetus to a career, and the winning of a competition is really only a door,” Cliburn said. “You use that room that you go into to the best of your ability.”
The gold and silver medalists will each get $20,000 and a commercial recording. The remaining finalists will each get $10,000. All six will get two years of concert management by the Van Cliburn Foundation.
The Cliburn contest, which started in 1962, was held in 1966 and 1969 and then every four years. A group of Fort Worth music teachers created the contest to honor longtime resident Van Cliburn, who won the first Tchaikovsky International Competition in Moscow in 1958.
Of this year’s 210 applicants, 137 were chosen to perform at screening recitals held all over the world.
Thirty performers were selected to perform in the 11th competition, which began May 25 in Fort Worth. Twelve pianists were chosen as semifinalists May 29, and six finalists were announced June 3.
The competition was judged by an international panel of pianists, teachers, music-company executives and administrators who listened to all performances, from the screening recitals through the contest finals.
Kern has earned top prizes in several international competitions. She competed under her maiden name, Olga Pushechnikova, in the 1997 Cliburn, where she failed to make it past the preliminaries.
Her performances of Rachmaninoff, Liszt, Scriabin and Schumann won her an enthusiastic following among Cliburn concert-goers. Some have called the enthusiasm Olgamania.
Audience members gave her standing ovations after every performance and called her back to the stage again and again.
Kern has toured Europe and Japan, South Africa, South Korea and the United States. She is a postgraduate student at the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory.
For the Cliburn’s final round, Kern played Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 27 in B-flat major, K. 595, and Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Opus 30.
Ioudenitch has won top prizes at several prestigious international competitions in the past decade, including first prize at the 2000 New Orleans International Piano Competition.
Just before the semifinals of the 1997 Van Cliburn competition, he severely scalded his left hand while brewing tea and had to withdraw from the round. He watched the semifinals from the audience.
For the final round of the Cliburn competition, he played Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major, K. 467, and Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor, Opus 23.