Breaking: Canadian, 18, wins first China International Music Competition

Breaking: Canadian, 18, wins first China International Music Competition


norman lebrecht

May 20, 2019

The Canadian pianist Tony Siqi Yun has just been announced as winner of the China International Music Competition, with a first prize of US $150,000. He won over the jury with a virtuosic performance of Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

Second prize of US$75,000 went to the Russian Alexander Malofeev, 17, who performed Prokofiev Piano Concerto No 3. Third prize of US$30,000 was taken by the US pianist MacKenzie Melemed, 24, who played Rachmaninov Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini.

Tony Siqi Yun made his orchestral debut in 2014 with the China Philharmonic Orchestra in Beijing and Shanghai. Yun has toured Ireland, Spain, China, the US and Paris. He has performed the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto in B-flat minor with the Cleveland Orchestra inSeverance Hall. He was engaged by the China Philharmonic Orchestra in its 2018–2019 season and took part in filming the 2019 CCTV New Year’s Concert. Yun is currently enrolled in Juilliard’s Pre-College Division. Previously, he was enrolled in Dulwich College, Beijing.

Yoheved Kaplinsky, jury chair, commented: ‘Tony exhibited professionalism, musicianship, poise and an incredible ability to integrate himself with the orchestra. He was the most sensitive in his interaction with the orchestra and conductor. It was incredibly close between all three as all of them were consistent to the end. What made me particularly happy was that they were all as good as they were different.’

Tony Siqi Yun said: ‘Words cannot express how I feel to have been awarded the Gold Medal of the China International Music Competition. It has been an extraordinary time in Beijing, and I am so grateful to the jury and everyone here who have been such great colleagues.’


UPDATE: Not everyone’s happy



  • Creissant Laberge says:

    Incredible, so now we have the incredible revelation of someone else who can play Tchaikovsky’s piano concerto.

    When will these pointless unmusic competitions for horses finally be abolished. They serve no purpose apart form lining the pockets of the organizers, jury, professors and other cronies.

    • They do help launch careers, you know, a not trivial function.

    • fflambeau says:

      Yup, it sure didn’t work out for Van Cliburn, who played the same piece.

      Now he has one of those horrible competitions named after him!

    • anon says:

      When are the Chinese going to get from under the Russians’ shadows in classical music?

      For the jury to select a perfectly bland, undistinguished, forgettable Tchaikovsky as its inaugural winner of an inaugural music competition — while the real Tchaikovsky competition is taking place — just highlights how pale and pointless the Chinese competition is.

      Sure, it is a personal achievement for the winner, who while still a student in the pre-collegiate division of conservatory, has managed to play Tchaikovsky with the Cleveland and Philadelphia orchestras. That certainly brings some bragging rights at the lunch table at the cafeteria.

      But surely, it brings bragging rights to the co-chair of the jury who just happens to be the head of the same pre-collegiate division of said conservatory. I’m sure he’ll see applications and yield rate for his school to shoot up next year.

    • Glamour says:

      Tony is the best!! So glad the Russia sponsored guy didn’t win

    • Glamour says:

      Tony is the best!! So glad the Russia sponsored guy didn’t win

    • Glamour says:

      Tony is the best!! So glad the Russia sponsored guy didn’t win

  • Daniel Poulin says:

    Wrong! Yun placed third, the Russian (Malofeev) took silver medal and the American Melemed won first prize.

  • debuschubertussy says:

    “Yoheved Kaplinsky, jury chair”…not much else needs to be said, eh?

    • Marcellus says:

      What is this supposed to mean? It’s nothing but pure snark. I recognize that Kaplinsky bashing is a popular sport on slippedisc, but it should come to an end at once. If you have something substantive to offer other than ignorant and unfounded conspiracy theories, let’s hear it. Put up or shut up. And shame on those who express support for such nasty attacks against a woman who is an excellent musician, a superb and dedicated teacher, and a fair-minded person of sterling character and unimpeachable honesty and integrity. You don’t know her. I do.

  • George says:


  • anonymous says:

    Judge for yourself their performances:

    I thought Yun’s Tchaikovsky was soporific.

  • Anon says:

    Yun was very good but really not outstanding. Melemed was my favourite and I really loved his Rachmaninov, but I would have been happy enough for either him or Malofeev to have won. Yun was an uninspired choice from the jury I feel.

  • Olev says:

    “Yun has toured Ireland, Spain, China, the US and Paris.”

    I know it’s a tiny detail and I shouldn’t care, but wow…that annoys me so much.

  • JIJIJA says:

    yeah, i was there, to be very honest, his Tchaikovsky concerto was a joke. listen to his 3rd mov coda he doesn’t even know how to play in the correct rhythm. “sensitive
    professionalism musicianship”????? are u kidding me Dr Kap? according to some rumors
    Tony is directly related to one of the high government officials here in Beijing. i don’t know if that’s true or not but perhaps explains something.

  • ForMusic says:

    Obviously, Yun got the first price because he is Chinese. He should be placed as the 3rd. I doubt the credibility of the competition. The American Melemed should win the first.

    • Dimes says:

      Melemed,is an old school pianist. Great feeling and color. Should’ve been 1st

    • Anonymous says:

      Well, he’s a Canadian, and he himself does not even admit that he is Chinese, which seems ridiculous because the others might think the opposite. But he has an Asian face and was trained in the primary school affiliated to the Central Conservatory of China, that’s why the Chinese would think he’s Chinese, but not really according to his own opinion. Tony Yun may have a bright future with his good-looking performance style, but from my opinion, he did not even deserve to be one of the top three prize winners.

    • Paul says:

      No, Yun got first because of his sheer talent

  • fflambeau says:

    Fodder for conspiracy theorists who seem to abound here: Asian pianist who has played many times in Beijing wins Chinese piano contest AND he’s a Julliard student to boot (like one of the other 3 finalists). Plus, he played the very boring Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto (like the bell to Pavlov?) which was also played by Van Cliburn and launched his international career. Van Cliburn, conspiracy theorists should note, also attended Julliard–and like this pianist, played at Carnegie Hall.

    Something has to stink in all of this. Right!

    • Anon says:

      I think the main point people are making is that Yun was very clearly not in the same league as the other two.

      • Alex says:

        Well… Yun was making music from the bottom of his heart, but Alexander and Melemed were just playing the rightt notes… THAT is the difference between a true musician and a piano player.

        • Albert says:

          Opinion is one thing, but this comment is from a ridiculous place of prejudice against the other two.

  • Theresa says:

    Looking to the YouTube link.
    Mackenzie Melemed is definitely the best!

  • David McKellar says:

    This is nonsense. Alexander should have won, hands down.

  • Douglas Kurz says:

    Wow what ridiculous comments! While all three medalists are exceptionally talented and fine musicians, the attempted teardown of the winner Tony Yun is completely unwarranted. I encourage you to go back and study the semifinal round, for example. The winner’s playing is unfailingly elegant, refined, and highly musical. Alexander Malofeev crashed through the Prokofiev Toccata and ruined Ondine … neither piece was delivered artistically. You can never say that about Tony Yun. Of course we can all have different opinions. These things are often a bit subjective. I thought MacKenzie Melemed was terrific. But I cannot quibble with the choice of Mr. Yun as the winner. The jury is entitled to their opinion, and they are better suited to making that judgment than we are. Regardless, what we have here is an exceptionally fine young pianist, who only recently turned 18, and who should be admired and lauded and welcomed onto the world stage. He will have a career, and he will give us years of beautiful musicianship. I hope the same will be true of the other two medalists. Stop tearing him down.

  • Chris says:

    Yes I agree. Yun is clearly a rare talent

  • John says:

    So rigged. The Russian is so much better

  • Teresa LaceMoon Lorbeer says:

    ALEXANDER MALOFEEV was the VERY BEST . to the PUBLIC and ALL of us .