Cliburn winner starts her own competition

Just as Van Cliburn did when he returned from winning the Tchaikovsky competition in Moscow and started his own in Texas, so one of his laureates has followed his lead.



Olga Kern, joint winner of the gold medal at the Cliburn in 2001, has just presided over the first Olga Kern International Piano Competition in Albuquerque, New Mexico, together with the New Mexico Philharmonic.

The winner of the inaugural contest was Chen Guang, 22, from China, now living in Italy. He takes home $11,000 and a chance to make a recording on the Steinway label.

Second was Anna Dmytrenko, 24, from Ukraine and now living in Germany.

Third was Anastasiya Naplekova, 32, from Ukraine, now living in Florida.

Fourth was Joshua Rupley, 23, from Albuquerque, N.M. and now living in Germany.

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  • Thank our lucky stars! At last someone is doing something to counter the acute shortage of piano competitions worldwide – only 180 of them so far this year, and only 600 prizewinners to service the insatiable demand for soloists.

  • It was a great competition, and everyone knew and felt the lineage that led to this event. Congratulations to Olga Kern, who obviously has a special bond with the people of Albuquerque, and special congratulations to conductor Vladimir Kern (her brother), who did a miraculous job with the New Mexico Philharmonic and the four finalists.

    It was interesting that from where I sat, both the general public and music specialists knew that Chen Guang and Anna Dmytrenko were the cream of the crop. Both played Prokofiev in the final. Chen played Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3 with near Trifonov-like digital facility and octave-work. To my ears the first movement was even a tick faster than I had heard before. Not sure I loved that, but Chen told me afterward that this is how he feels it goes, and Mr. Kern and the orchestra went right with it. He found a great balance in the second movement between the individual character of the variations and the sense of the whole. BTW Chen is a very personable young man with great stage presence (without any Lang Lang-type tics) and speaks excellent English.

    Anna played Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with its gargantuan cadenzas with aplomb, but I would especially call out her memorable semifinal performance. She played a beautifully structured Brahms F minor sonata (Opus 5) with its troublesome five movements, and paired it with Samuel Barber’s 1950 piano sonata, which was really quite brilliant and characterful. Anna won the audience award, and I know I will be equally following Chen and Anna’s careers as well as a few select others.

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