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20 Bachauer finalists awaiting the next overture

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The preliminary rounds of the Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition have brought to Salt Lake City a group of 47 fresh-faced young musicians from all corners of the globe.

The competition is now down to 20 finalists.The competitors have devoted a significant chunk of their young lives to the preparation of the required repertoire for the competition and have traveled to Salt Lake City (from the other side of the globe in many cases) at their own expense.

They know anything can happen. They knew that the majority of the musicians would have their hopes dashed and would go home empty-handed. Even veterans of the competition scene feared the insidious moment of lost concentration, the sudden memory slip, the errant note that would put an end to a lifetime of preparation.

For Kinwai Shum, the Bachauer is his first major competition. He is 23 years old but looks younger. A native of Hong Kong who has been studying in New York, he learned in January that he had been selected as a competitor. His preparation for the Bachauer coincided with the finals, juries and oral exams for the master's degree he received from Julliard less than a month ago. He had only a few weeks to give full concentration to the competition.

Playing against the odds, and electing to perform works of only two composers - Mennin in Round 1 and Liszt in Round 2 - Shum was still impressive. His performances were musically involving and showed off the sparkling precision of his playing. In the lobby after an excellent second-round appearance, his mother (who traveled from Hong Kong for the competition) beamed in proud amaze-ment as audience members gushed over her son and teenage girls requested his autograph.

Despite the attention, Shum remained modesty about his chances, he was among the 20 finalists announced Friday night. "It is already a great honor to be selected for this competition."

For Marina Lomazov, the road to the Bachauer began in the Ukraine where she was born and reared. Her family had always wanted to leave the Soviet Union but were forbidden to do so. Their emigration became possible in 1990, and they immediately came to the United States, "a one-of-a-kind experience which is still like a wonderful dream" according to Loma-zov.

The Russian pianistic tradition which has produced so many excellent concert artists and fine competitors is described by Lomazov as "very highly structured."

"The American approach is much more flexible and relaxed. For me the ideal is to take the best of both," she said.

A veteran competitor, she has already won prizes in other competitions, as have many of the other contestants. After an excellent but conservative appearance in Round 1, Lomazov came alive in Round 2 with no-holds-barred performances of Rachmanninof's "Polka de W. R." and Casadesus' "Toccata" Op. 40. She wondered if it would be enough. It was.



20 advance to the next round

The 20 competitors for the Gina Bachauer International Piano Competion's quarter-finals, which start next week, were announced Friday night. Those advancing are: Ning An, China/USA; Fedele Antonicelli, Italy; Andrew Russo, USA; Scott Holden, USA; Cheung-Yu Mo, Hong Kong; Kinwai Shum, Hong Kong; Lori Sims, USA; Dmitiri Shteinberg, Israel; Naruba Lomazov, Ukraine/USA; Olive Kern, Germany; Astuko Oba, Japan; Seiko Tsukamoto, Japan; Albert Tiu, Philippines; Ju-Ying Song, Taiwan; Eugene Mursky, Russia; Sean Botkin, USA; Roberto Poli, Italy; Emi Kagawa, Japan; Marko Martin, Estonia; Luiza Borac, Romania.