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Alexsei Sultanov, at 19 the youngest finalist at the Eighth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, said he took the contest's top honors by holding nothing back.

"In this competition I wanted to get first prize or nothing," Sultanov said Sunday through an interpreter after beating 37 other competitors in the prestigious two-week contest known for launching musical careers.Jose Carlos Cocarelli, a 30-year-old Brazilian making his second appearance in the quadrennial competition, won the silver medal. Benedetto Lupo, a 25-year-old Italian, was awarded the bronze medal.

The medalists were narrowed from six finalists who endured two weeks of grueling piano performances. The competition culminated with each finalist playing two concertos - one with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra and another with the Fort Worth Chamber Orchestra.

Besides the gold medal, the winner receives $15,000, a Carnegie Hall debut recital, concert tours and free air travel.

Sultanov became a crowd favorite with his aggressive performances.

He also became only the second 19-year-old to win the contest. The other was Christina Ortiz of Brazil, who won in 1969. She served as a juror this year.

The finalists gave encore performances after the awards were announced. Sultanov dazzled the audience of more than 3,000 with Chopin's Grande Waltz Brilliante in E-flat major.

In the finals, Sultanov played Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor and Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor.

Other finalists were Alexander Shtarkman, 22, and Elisso Bolkvadze, 22, both of the Soviet Union; and Ying Tian, 20, of China and now a Boston resident. Shtarkman placed fourth, Ying fifth and Bolkvadze sixth.


(Additional information)

2 pianists linked to Utah

Two winners in the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition have Utah connections. Bendetto Lupo, the third-place finisher, is a former Bachauer finalist, and Kevin Kenner of Coronado Calif., was one of four winners of the Steven DeGroote Memorial Chamber Music Awards, presented in honor of the 1977 Cliburn gold medalist from South Africa. Kenner, a former Salute to Youth soloist, received $6,000 in awards.