July 20, 2018
Erich Burnett
student musician playing the piano
Tony Siqi Yun of Toronto, champion of the 2018 Cooper International Competition. Photo credit: Roger Mastroianni

Performance of Tchaikovsky with The Cleveland Orchestra secures top honors and $20K.

The second time is the charm for Tony Siqi Yun at the Thomas and Evon Cooper International Competition.

The 17-year-old pianist from Toronto, Canada, who made his Cooper debut in the 2016 competition, was named champion for 2018 at the Concerto Finals, held July 20 at Severance Hall in Cleveland. Yun’s animated performance of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor, Op. 23 was the final concerto of the evening. Jurors deliberated for fewer than 10 minutes before arriving at their decision.

All three finalists performed with The Cleveland Orchestra, under the direction of Jahja Ling.

Yun is the second Toronto pianist—and the second Tony—to win the Cooper Competition. Fellow Canadian Tony Yike Yang won the top prize in 2014 at age 15. Yun’s title includes a $20,000 grand prize.

Concerto finalists Tony Siqi Yun, Yunchan Lim, and Kai-Min Chang (from left), with Evon and Thomas Cooper. (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

Seventeen-year-old Kai-Min Chang of Taiwan, who opened the evening with Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in E Minor, Op. 11, earned second place and $10,000.

Fourteen-year-old Yunchan Lim of South Korea, who performed Chopin’s Concerto No. 2 in F Minor, Op. 21, took third place and $5,000.

By advancing to the Concerto Finals, all three performers earn full-tuition scholarships to attend Oberlin Conservatory.

“We heard three terrific talents and The Cleveland Orchestra in top form. It was truly a remarkable night,” said Robert Shannon, director and jury chair of the Cooper Competition for piano, speaking from the stage immediately following the awards ceremony.

“What I heard from Tony was the same thing I had heard throughout the week: He is a fantastic player and an especially outstanding character onstage,” Shannon said.

Now in its ninth year, the Cooper Competition is presented annually by the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and The Cleveland Orchestra. The format alternates each year between piano and violin. The Recital Finals and Concerto Finals were broadcast live by Cleveland’s classical music station, WCLV 104.9 FM Ideastream.

The competition’s 2018 field consisted of 31 pianists, ages 14 to 18, hailing from six U.S. states and seven countries. They competed for five straight days on the campus of Oberlin College and Conservatory, with the Concerto Finalists determined by Wednesday’s Recital Finals.

Also honored at the Recital Finals were Ryan Zhu (14) of Vancouver, Canada; William Chen (15) of New York, New York; and William Yang (17) of Natick, Massachusetts, who earned fourth through sixth place, respectively. Each takes home a prize of $1,500.

For the first time in Cooper history, the 2018 Audience Prize was shared by Lim and Yun, both of whom earned the prize of $500.

The Cooper International Competition for violin returns in July 2019, the 10th anniversary of the event.

About the Competition

Founded in 2010, the Thomas and Evon Cooper International Competition is dedicated to presenting an important international competitive opportunity to outstanding young musicians. It is made possible through the generosity of Thomas Cooper, a 1978 graduate of Oberlin College, and his wife, pianist Evon Cooper. The Cooper Competition alternates annually between piano and violin and is open to participants between the ages of 13 and 18. Past winners include George Li and Leonardo Colafelice, both of whom have cultivated outstanding young performance careers.

About The Cleveland Orchestra

Under the leadership of Music Director Franz Welser-Möst, The Cleveland Orchestra has become one of the most sought-after performing ensembles in the world, setting standards of extraordinary artistic excellence, creative programming, and community engagement. The New York Times has declared it “... the best in America” for its virtuosity, elegance of sound, variety of color, and chamber-like musical cohesion. The 2017-18 season marked the Orchestra’s 100th year of concerts and the beginning of a second century of extraordinary music making, dedicated service to its hometown, and worldwide acclaim.

The Cleveland Orchestra has partnered with Oberlin College’s Conservatory of Music for the annual Thomas & Evon Cooper International Competition since its inception in 2010, with each year’s competition culminating with finalists’ performances with The Cleveland Orchestra in Severance Hall. The Orchestra has a long and proud history of sharing the joys and benefits of music with citizens throughout northeast Ohio. The Orchestra’s partnership with Oberlin College is one of many ongoing relationships with institutions of higher learning, including Baldwin Wallace University, Case Western Reserve University, the Cleveland Institute of Music, Kent State University, the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami, and Indiana University.

For more information visit www.clevelandorchestra.com.

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