The 2015 Cincinnati World Piano Competition is history, etched into place as three pianists took to the keys in the final round of the week-long event Saturday night in Corbett Auditorium at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.
Performing with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra led by Robert Trevino were Mei Rui, 32, representing the United States, Artem Yasynskyy, 26, of Ukraine and Nino Bakradze, 30, of Georgia.
Yasynskyy came out on top, winning the gold medal, $20,000 in cash and a solo recital in New York City. Silver medalist was Bakradze with a cash prize of $15,000. Winner of the bronze medal and $10,000 was Mei Rui.
Each performed a concerto of their choice. Mei Rui and Bakradze elected the Concerto No. 3 in D Minor by Sergei Rachmaninoff. Yasynskyy, who was also voted audience favorite, was heard in Tchaikovsky’s Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor.
Now in its 59th year, the Competition itself proved to be a perennial favorite, the finals concert a sellout in the 730-seat hall.
Mei Rui addressed the Steinway first (CCM is an all-Steinway school). Her musical ideas were very distinct throughout the Rachmaninoff Concerto, where she displayed both a satiny touch and a brilliant one, giving the finale a celebratory quality. (There were moments early on when the CSO was heavier than it should have been, but overall they made beautiful music together.)
Yasynskyy produced a big sound in the Tchaikovsky Concerto, where he also showed an uncanny ability to match the colors of the orchestra. His rapid octaves in the first movement were thrilling, and he gave a big thrust to the ending. The finale had a wonderfully playful cast, Yasynskyy finding heart in its lyrical second theme and whizzing over the keys when the moment called for it.
Bakradze produced a big sound, too, in her “Rach 3.” She took more liberties with it than Mei Rui, giving a spry interpretation to the finale. As did all three artists, she brought the crowd in Corbett Auditorium to its feet.
Trevino led the CSO with great skill throughout the evening. Orchestral sound was rich and vibrant, always complementing the pianists. Of special note was principal cellist Ilya Finkelshteyn’s beautiful solo in the second movement of the Tchaikovsky Concerto.
Awadagin Pratt, artistic director of the Competition, announced the winners and also the audience favorites from each round:
Round one – Joseph Kingma (USA). Round two – Joseph Kingma (USA). Round three – Ekaterina Litvintseva (Russia). Semi-finals – Hanqing Chang (China). Finals – Artem Yasynskyy (Ukraine).
Judges for the competition were Akemi Alink-Yamamoto, Jura Margulis, Yoshikazu Nagai, Boris Slutsky and Frank Weinstock.