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Van Cliburn International Competition: Blind pianist shares top honors

June 7, 2009 | 11:59 pm

060709 Finalist-400

The Van Cliburn Foundation has named pianists Nobuyuki Tsujii, 20, of Japan and Haochen Zhang, 19, of China as joint Gold Medal winners in the 13th annual Van Cliburn International Competition.

The prizes were announced Sunday by Van Cliburn in Forth Worth.

It is the first time two pianists tied for the gold medal since 2001, when the medal was shared by Stanislav Ioudenitch and Olga Kern.

As tied winners of the Nancy Lee and Perry R. Bass Gold Medal, each pianist will receive a cash award of $20,000, rather than sharing the $20,000 designated for the gold medal winner, a foundation spokeswoman said Sunday. The award also carries with it a silver trophy cup, international concert tours, career management for three concert seasons and a CD recording contract on the Harmonia Mundi USA label.

As Culture Monster reported earlier this week, Japan's Tsujii, blind from birth, has been garnering much  media attention since the competition began. The artist made his debut at Carnegie Hall at age 12 and has performed internationally with major symphony orchestras. Zhang is the youngest among the six finalists who competed for the awards.

Nobuyuki Tsujii Yeol Eum Son, 23, of South Korea won the silver medal, which also carries a $20,000 award, a U.S. concert tour and a CD recording.

The third prize, the Crystal Award, also with a $20,000 prize and recording, touring and management benefits, was not awarded this year.

 The awards represent the culmination of 17 days of competition among the world's top young pianists. The other finalists included Evgeni Bozhanov, 25, of Bulgaria; Mariangela Vacatello, 27, of Italy and Di Wu, 24, of China. The finalists receive $10,000 as well as other career benefits.

For more on the competition and a complete list of winners, visit the Van Cliburn Foundation website.

-- Diane Haithman

Photos:  Left to right: Yeol Eum Son, Nobuyuki Tsujii and Haochen Zhang; Tsujii at the piano. Courtesy of the Van Cliburn Foundation.