George Li, a 14-year-old pianist from Lexington, Massachusetts, is the first-prize winner of the inaugural Thomas and Evon Cooper International Competition.
His stellar performance of Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor, Op. 11, with Jahja Ling conducting The Cleveland Orchestra in Severance Hall on Friday, July 30, brought the week-long piano competition, held at Oberlin, to an exciting climax. It also brought Li the top prize of $10,000, one of the largest awards offered by an international youth competition. The prize includes concert engagements with orchestras in Beijing and Shanghai, China, and a full, four-year scholarship to the conservatory.
The Cooper Competition is presented by the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and The Cleveland Orchestra.
Full Oberlin scholarships are also awarded to the second- and third-place winners. John Chen, 14, of Leesburg, Virginia, won second prize and $6,000 for his performance of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor, Op. 23. Kate Liu, 16, of Chicago, won third prize and $3,000 for her performance of Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Major, Op. 26. The enthusiastic audience in Severance Hall gave each pianist a standing ovation. Dean of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music David H. Stull and Thomas Cooper presented the awards. Mr. Cooper is the sponsor, with his wife Evon, of the competition. The concert was broadcast live on Cleveland's classical radio station, 104.9-FM WCLV, and simulcast on www.wclv.com.
Evon Cooper was also one of the evening's adjudicators, along with Gregory Allen '70 of the University of Texas at Austin; Malcolm Bilson of Cornell University; Alan Chow of Northwestern University; Christopher Elton of the Royal Academy of Music; Stanislav Ioudenitch of the International Center for Music in Kansas; Matti Raekallio of the Juilliard School in New York and the Hochschule für Musik in Hanover, Germany; and Oberlin faculty members Angela Cheng, Sanford Margolis, Robert Shannon, director of the competition, and Haewon Song.
Listeners of National Public Radio can look forward to a feature about the Cooper Competition in the days to come. Noah Adams, senior correspondent for NPR's national desk and veteran co-host of "All Things Considered," spent time on the Oberlin campus this past week documenting the experiences of the participants, their parents, and the judges.
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