15-Year-Old Becomes 1st Asian Winner of Hamamatsu Contest


Cho Seung-jin, a 15-Year-old Korean student,
became the first Asian and youngest winner of the 2009 Hamamatsu International Piano Competition in Japan.
/ Courtesy of Kumho Asian Cultural Foundation

Four South Koreans swept top prizes at the 2009 Hamamatsu International Piano Competition, Japan, with a 15-year-old student becoming the first Asian ― and the youngest ever ― winner of the prominent Japanese music event.

In addition to the first prize Cho Seung-jin also won the award for Best Performance of the Japanese Work, for his interpretation of a commissioned work by Akira Nishimura, and took home 3.3 million yen (about 43 million won), the competition announced

``Cho's 'Daydream for piano' was softly interpreted withholding sense of strain. He exerted high technique in following Chopin's Etude 10-1 and Liszt's Etude d'execution transcendante No. 10," said an official report on the competition's Web site, about Cho's performances on the second round of the event. "In Schumann's `Fantasiestrueke,' he distinguished each piece with each different color, and beautifully showed cadence that appeared and then disappeared.''

Meanwhile Korea's Huh Jae-won, 23, won third place while Kim Hyun-jung, 18, ranked fifth and Ann Soo-jung, 22, finished sixth among the six finalists.

Top prizewinner Cho made his concert debut at age 11 through Kumho Asiana Cultural Foundation's child prodigy program and won several domestic music competitions.

Last year he swept the 6th Moscow Internationla Frederick Chopin Competition for Young Pianists, where he won the top prize and additional prizes for the concerto section and outstanding performance. He was the youngest ever winner in the event's history. For this he was honored with a Budding Youth prize by the Corea Image Communication Institute (CICI) in January for promoting Korea's image overseas.

A noted rising young talent here, he received acclaim for his performance in the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra's charity concert in May. He will play Ravel's Piano Concerto in G major with the orchestra, conducted by Maestro Chung Myung-whun, on Dec. 22 at Seoul Arts Center.

Launched in 1991, the Hamamatsu competition takes place every three years. Kim Tae-hyung, who is known here for taking part of a four-piano performance opposite Maestro Paik Kun-woo in May, won the third prize at the previous edition of the competition in 2006. In 2000, popular pianist Im Dong-hyek won the second prize.

This year the jury members included esteemed Israeli pianist/teacher Arie Vardi, whose students include Yundi Li, and Korean pianist/teacher Kim Dae-jin, who is known for teaching Kim Sun-wook and Son Yeol-eum.