Top Three Finalists Named in the 2012 Thomas and Evon Cooper International Piano Competition

July 26, 2012

Communications Staff

3 young men stand together on stage
From the left: Xiaoyu Liu, Leonardo Colafelice, and Micah McLaurin.
Photo credit: Roger Mastroianni

The top three finalists of the 2012 Cooper International Piano Competition have been selected to advance to the concerto finals round with The Cleveland Orchestra on Friday, July 27. Leonardo Colafelice, 16, from Altamura, Bari, Italy; Xiaoyu Liu, 15, from Montreal, Quebec, Canada; and Micah McLaurin, 17, from Charleston, South Carolina, were chosen Wednesday, July 25, at the conclusion of the competition’s recital finals round at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. After nearly a week of intense competition among an original pool of 33 young pianists, the three finalists will perform their full concerti Friday night with The Cleveland Orchestra, Jahja Ling conducting. The concert will be held in Severance Hall at 8 p.m. and broadcast live on 104.9-FM WCLV, with a simulcast at For tickets call 800-686-1141 or visit

The first-prize winner will take home $10,000, one of the largest awards offered by an international youth competition, and will also receive concert engagements with orchestras in Beijing and Shanghai, China. In addition, the top three finalists will be awarded full, four-year scholarships to the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, pending admission, that are valued at more than $150,000 each. The second-prize winner will receive $6,000; the cash award for the third-prize winner is $3,000.

Friday’s audience will hear Xiaoyu Liu perform Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18; followed by Micah McLaurin, who will play Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Minor, Op. 21. Following intermission, Leonardo Colafelice (also the winner of Wednesday night’s Audience Favorite Award, a $500 cash prize), will present Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 30. The concert will conclude with the announcement of the winners and prize ceremony.

At the Wednesday night recital finals round, Xiaoyu Liu performed the Allegro con brio movement from Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 21 in C Major, Op. 53, "Waldstein"; Chopin’s Nocturne No. 20 in C-sharp Minor, Op. posth.; Prelude and Fugue No. 9 in E Major, BWV 854, Book I by J.S. Bach; Liszt’s Rhapsodie espagnole, S254/R90 "Rolies d’Espagne et jota aragonesa’; Rachmaninov’s Étude-Tableau No. 9 in D Major, Op. 39; Scriabin’s Piano Sonata No. 4 in F-sharp Major, Op. 30; and "Piano-Soleil," extrait de Six thèmes solaires by Gougeon. Micah McLaurin’s performance on Wednesday featured Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 9 in D Major, K. 311; Chopin’s Nocturne No. 8 in D-flat Major, Op. 27, No.2 and Ballade No. 4 in F Minor, Op. 52; Wagner’s Isoldens Liebestod aus Tristan und Isolde, S447/R280; La Valse by Ravel; and Rachmaninov’s Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-flat Minor, Op. 36. Leonardo Colafelice performed Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 26 in E-flat Major, Op. 81a, "Les adieux"; Visions Fugitives, Op. 22 by Prokofiev; Shumann’s Romance No. 2 in F-sharp Major, Op. 28, No. 2; Iberia, No. 6, Triana by Albéniz; Bach’s Prelude and Fugue No. 6 in D Minor, BWV 851, Book I; Chopin’s Scherzo No. 4 in E Major, Op. 54; and 3 Movements from Pétrouchka by Stravinsky.

The remaining finalists from Wednesday night’s performance each received $1,000. They are Sahun Hong, 18, from Fort Worth, Texas; Annie Zhou, 14, from Toronto, Ontario, Canada; and Sarina Zhang, 16, from San Diego, California. Hong and Zhou tied for fourth place, and Zhang received sixth place.

The six young musicians were adjudicated by a world-renowned panel of pianists, including Robert Shannon, from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and director of the 2012 Cooper International Piano Competition; Angela Cheng, Gold Medal winner of the Arthur Rubinstein Competition and associate professor of piano at Oberlin; Seung Hae Choi, from Kyungwon University in Seoul, South Korea; Alvin Chow, associate professor of piano at Oberlin; Monique Duphil, professor of piano at Oberlin; Christopher Elton, from the Royal Academy of Music, London; Rachel Goodwin, artistic director, founder, and pianist of Ashmont Hill Chamber Music; Stanislav Ioudenitch, Gold Medal winner of the Van Cliburn Competition; Sanford Margolis, professor of piano at Oberlin; Cheung-Yu Mo ’95, professor of piano at the Shanghai Conservatory and the Hong Kong Academy of the Performing Arts; Haewon Song, associate professor of piano at Oberlin; and Dan Wen Wei, artist in residence at the Shenyang Conservatory of Music.

The Cooper Competition is also pleased to announce an additional concert-going opportunity that will be of special interest to piano lovers. A recital featuring outstanding performances from the semifinal rounds will take place on Friday, July 27, at 4:00 p.m. in Severance’s Reinberger Chamber Hall. The concert is free and open to the public.

The Thomas and Evon Cooper International Competition is sponsored by Thomas Cooper, a 1978 Oberlin College graduate and a member of Oberlin’s Board of Trustees, and his wife, Evon, an accomplished pianist and private piano teacher. The two reside in a suburb of Boston. The Cooper Competition is a co-presentation of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and The Cleveland Orchestra.

Born in Paris, Xiaoyu Liu moved to Montreal at age 6 and began his piano studies the following year. Liu currently studies with Richard Raymond at the Montreal Conservatory of Music.

An international performer, Liu was a guest soloist at the 27th Maison Trestler Summer Festival and 9th Festival Internazionale di Musica CIMA in Rome. He is a three-time first-prize winner in the Canadian Music Competition, and in 2010, he won first prize in the Grande Finale Desjardins at the Festival de Musique Classique de Bas-Richelieu. That same year, Liu performed Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy Op. 80 with Orchestre Symphonique de Longueuil under the baton of Marc David. In 2012, he performed Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Sinfonia de Lanaudieres, led by Stephane Laforest.

Micah McLaurin, 17, began studying the piano at age 8 with Marsha Gerber. He currently studies with Enrique Graf on scholarship from the Charleston Academy of Music and the Charleston Symphony Orchestra League.

McLaurin has been a soloist with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra, the South Carolina Philharmonic (as the winner of the Arthur Fraser International Concerto Competition), and the National Youth Orchestra of El Salvador. He was the youngest pianist to ever give a recital at the International Piano Series in Charleston, and has appeared on South Carolina Educational Television and Kansas Public Radio. On numerous occasions, he has been a guest performer in the Piccolo Spoleto Festival, USA. This season, he will perform Rachmaninov’s Concerto No. 2 with the Charleston Symphony and Chopin’s Concerto No. 2 with the Montevideo Philharmonic.

In addition to performing in concerts, McLaurin has won prizes and awards in several international competitions, including second prizes in the Ettlingen International Competition for Young Pianists (Germany) and International Institute for Young Musicians Competition (Kansas), and fifth prize at the Hilton Head International Piano Competition. In 2011, McLaurin was the youngest of eight pianists in the world selected to participate in the Verbier Festival Academy in Switzerland, where he performed in master classes with Stephen Kovacevich, Ference Rados, Ganbor Takacs Nagy, Lera Auerbach, and others. He also attended Music Fest Perugia in Italy, where he performed with the Perugia Festival Orchestra and received instruction from Gary Graffman.

A native of Altamura (Bari), Italy, Leonardo Colafelice began studying piano at age 8. Currently he is a student of Pasquale Iannone at N. Piccinni Conservatory of Music in Bari. He has attended master classes and courses with Aquiles Delle Vigne, Ilja Scheps, Ovidiu Balan, Aldo Ciccolini, Tiziano Poli, and Riccardo Risaliti. Between 2005 and 2011, he won nearly 50 national and international first prizes and awards.

In 2010, Colafelice was the first-prize winner for piano performance at the Torneo Internazionale di Musica in Verona. Numerous other first prize wins include the 2011 Premio Città di Padova (Padova, Italy), Young Pianist of the North (Newcastle, U.K.), and Chopin Piano Competition (Szafarnia, Poland). He was the second-prize winner at the Bang & Olufsen Piano RAMA Competition for Young Pianists, Rachmaninov International Piano Competition, and Luciano Luciani International Piano Competition. He also won fourth prize at the Val Tidone International Piano Competition.

He has collaborated as a soloist with many orchestras and conductors both in Italy and abroad, among them the N. Piccinni Conservatory Orchestra of Bari with Daniele Lonero, Saverio Mercadante Orchestra with Michele Marvulli, Collegium Musicum Orchestra with Rino Marrone, Balkan Festival Orchestra with Rino Campanale, Orchestra della Provincia di Bari with Silvia Casarin Rizzolo, Orchestra di Padova e del Veneto with Massimo Mazza, and Balkan Festival Orchestra with Ovidiu Balan.

Friday, July 27

Cooper Reinberger Recital–Outstanding performances from the Semifinal Rounds
Severance’s Reinberger Chamber Hall
4:00 p.m.
Free admission

Concerto Finals–Three finalists perform with The Cleveland Orchestra
Severance Hall
8:00 p.m. broadcast live on WCLV-FM 104.9
For tickets call 800-686-1141, or online at

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