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Chinese pianist wins at Bachauer

Gina Bachauer Young Artists Piano Competition Final Round, Saturday, June 19; Temple Square Assembly Hall.

Six pianists from Europe and Asia vied for top honors in Saturday's final round of the Bachauer Young Artists Piano Competition.The performances were all excellent, no doubt making the judges' job that much more difficult. The 10 judges did a decent job rating these young performers, who range in age from 14 to 18 years.

First place went to Yundi Li of China. Colleen Ka Ling Lee of Hong Kong received second place. Yurino Izumi from Japan captured third, and Marko Pavlovic garnered fourth. Fifth place went to Yuliang Tu of China, and Akari Okada from Japan was sixth.

For the final round, each competitor had to play the first movement of a concerto. They were accompanied by pianist Michael Sushel, who played the orchestral part. Sushel did an incredible job accompanying these young pianists.

Tu, Pavlovic and Lee all performed the first movement of Chopin's E minor concerto. Tu's performance was the weakest of the three. His interpretation was lifeless, and at times it sounded as if it was too much for him to handle. He was obviously nervous, and there were a lot of mistakes, but his performance got better toward the end.

Lee's interpretation was expressive, nuanced and well-phrased, and she exhibited excellent technique in the virtuosic passages.

The best interpretation of the three was Pavlovic's, who quite honestly should have finished higher in the judges' scoring. He gave an energetic, enthusiastic and expressive performance. He was in command of the music right from the start, and he steered his way masterfully through the dramatic sections.

Pavlovic played this movement with passion and power, yet he gave the slower passages a subtle tenderness that verged on poignancy.

First-place winner Li was the obvious audience favorite, judging by the applause he received at the end of his performance. And he didn't disappoint anyone, either. He dazzled everyone with his fiery interpretation of the one-movement E flat concerto by Liszt. His performance was vigorous, carefully structured and quite expressive in the slow section.

Li gave a masterful performance of this demanding work, handling the concerto's virtuosity with ease. That he went for the big gestures rather than subtlety can be attributed to his youth. But, in spite of, or because of that, his performance was vivacious and enthusiastic.

Okada gave an articulate performance of Beethoven's C minor concerto. It was a solid effort, and she was actually at her best in the cadenza.

Izumi offered a dramatic and finely shaded interpretation of Saint-Saens' G minor concerto, a work that is seldom, if ever, heard in a piano competition, mainly because it lacks the virtuosity that competitors like. However, there are a lot of emotional contrasts in the first movement, and Izumi handled those very well. She gave a strong performance.