Two Share Top Prize at the 2023 Cooper International Piano Competition

Performances of concerti by Franz Liszt and Camille Saint-Saëns with The Cleveland Orchestra receive top honors in the competition.

August 5, 2023

Shelly Rasmussen

Young man with glasses and dark hair and young woman with dark hair holding certificates
Pyotr Akulov and Sophia Shuya Liu are co-champions of the 2023 Cooper International Competition for piano.
Photo credit: Yevhen Gulenko

History was made this evening as Pyotr Akulov and Sophia Shuya Liu were both named champions for the Cooper International Competition for Piano.

For the first time in the history of the Cooper International Competition for piano, the top prize was awarded to two participants. Pyotr Akulov and Sophia Shuya Liu were named co-champions following the Concerto Concert with The Cleveland Orchestra Friday evening.

young man playing piano
Taige Wang

Akulov opened the concert performing Franz Liszt’s Concerto No. 1 in E-flat Major, S. 124. Liu followed, performing Camille Saint-Saëns' Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 22. Third place winner Taige Wang ended the concert with a performance of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43. All three finalists performed with The Cleveland Orchestra, under the direction of David Robertson.

Akulov (16 years old) of Moscow, Russia and Liu (14) of Montreal, Quebec, Canada each earned a $15,000 prize. Wang (13), of New York, New York, United States earned 3rd place and a $5,000 prize.

The jury deliberated for more than 35 minutes. Robert Shannon—director, jury chair, and founder of the Cooper Competition for piano—beamed with enthusiasm and shared that this "was the best Cooper Competition ever." 

The competition’s 2023 field consisted of 19 pianists, ages 13 to 18, hailing from seven countries. They competed for four days on the campus of Oberlin College and Conservatory, with the Concerto Finalists determined by Wednesday’s Concert Round.

At Wednesday’s Concerto Round, held at Warner Concert Hall, three of the finalists were awarded fourth through sixth place: in fourth was Yanyan Bao (16), of Zhuhai, Guangdong, China; earning fifth was Andrew Sijie Li (15), of Canada, Hong Kong, and Boston, Massachusetts; and sixth place was conferred on Seoeun Lee (14), of Suwon, Gyeonggi, South Korea. Each received a prize of $1,500.

In another Cooper Competition first, Filip Trifu (18), of Vienna, Austria, was awarded seventh place and he received a prize of $500. 

The 2023 Audience Prize was awarded to Akulov and came with a $500 prize.

Founded in 2010, the Thomas and Evon Cooper International Competition is dedicated to presenting an important international competitive opportunity to outstanding young musicians. The competition alternates annually between piano and violin. The program was first offered in summer 2010 for pianists, followed by a 2011 competition for violinists. Open to musicians between the ages of 13 and 18, the competition culminates in a final round where the top three competitors perform a full concerto with orchestra. Cash prizes total $40,000, including a $20,000 first prize.


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