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After almost two weeks of intense competition and astonishing piano playing, the finalists for the Sydney International Piano Competition have been announced. Kenneth Broberg (USA), Moye Chen (China), Andrey Gugnin (Russia), Jianing Kong (China), Oxana Shevchenko (Kazakhstan) and Arseny Tarasevich-Nikolaev (Russia) have earned a place in the final round. The six finalists, whittled down from 32 initial competitors, will go on to perform two concertos each. One will be selected from the 18th century (every competitor this year has opted for a Mozart concerto) and one from the 19th or 20th centuries. They will each be accompanied by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra at the Opera House over the next week.
American Kenneth Broberg is up first in the final round, performing Mozart’s Concerto No 25 in C Major K.503 on Tuesday night. Aged just 23-years-old, Broberg studied at the Moores School of Music at the University of Houston in Texas with Professor Nancy Weems and will be going on to study for a Masters degree in piano performance at the International Center for Music at Park University in Missouri next year. In the second round of the finals on Friday night, he will be performing Saint-Saëns’ Concerto No 2 in G minor Op. 22.
On Tuesday night Broberg will be followed by Russian pianist Arseny Tarasevich-Nikolaev, performing Mozart’s Concerto No 23 in A Major K.488. 23-year-old Tarasevich-Nikolaev is continuing his studies at the Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Moscow State Conservatory, where he graduated with Honours in 2011. He recorded his first CD last year, of Debussy’s first book of Préludes and L'isle Joyeuse, and Ravel's Gaspard de la Nuit. In the 18th/19th Century Concerto round he will perform Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto, Op. 18.
The final performer on Tuesday night will be Andrey Gugnin. Also from Russia, Gugnin will close the concert with Mozart’s Ninth Piano Concerto, in E Flat Major, K.271. Born in Moscow, the 29-year-old pianist also graduated from the Moscow State Conservatory and then went on to study at the International Piano Academy Lake Como in Italy. With an already impressive touring career spanning the USA and Europe, he will be performing Prokofiev’s Concerto No 3 in C Major Op. 26 on Friday night.
Kazakh pianist Oxana Shevchenko – another Moscow State Conservatory graduate and the only woman to make it to this year's finals – will kick off the second night of performances, opening Wednesday night’s concert with Mozart’s Concerto No 26 in D Major K.537. The 29-year-old pianist has studied at the Royal College of Music in London, the Haute École de Musique de Lausanne and is currently studying at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome. She has performed with a number of significant orchestras and conductors, and will be bringing Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto the second round of the finals, on Saturday night.
32-year-old Chinese pianist Moye Chen will be performing Mozart’s Concerto No 27 in B Flat Major K.595 in the first round of the finals, before whipping out Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto on Saturday night. With degrees from the Shanghai Conservatory, he received an Artist Diploma from the Oberlin Conservatory in Ohio, USA, and is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Illinois and has performed widely in China and the USA.
Finishing off both rounds of the finals will be another Chinese pianist, Jianing Kong, who will cap off the Wednesday night concert with Mozart’s Concerto No 21 in C Major K.467. The 30-year-old graduate of the Canton Conservatory of Music in Guangzhou studied at the Purcell School in England, the Royal College of Music in London and the Hochschule für Musik in Detmold, Germany. He has the honour of performing the final work of the competition – Brahms’ Concerto No 2 in B Flat Major Op. 83.
Having braved solo recitals and chamber music rounds, these performers have nearly come to the end of their journey. While only one player can win the grand prize of $50,000, no finalist will go home empty handed – even sixth place receives $7,500. For the pianists who didn’t make it into the final round, there is still plenty to get excited about, with awards for Best Performance of an Australian Piece, Best Preliminaries Round 1 and 2 Recitals, Most Promising Pianist and a host of others to be announced on Saturday night.