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Cliburn Competition Declares Two Ties

By Bill Zeeble

Dallas, TX – Bill Zeeble, KERA 90.1 Reporter: The competition had only been over for about an hour when conductor James Conlon emerged from behind the curtains to announce the winners. The crowd of 2,000 quieted as he prepared to name the Bronze medal winner.

James Conlon, Conductor, Fort Worth Symphony: Not awarded.

Zeeble: The audience was stunned. Conlon then announced two silver medal recipients, Russian Maxim Philippov and Italian Antonio Pompa-Baldi. Then he said Olga Kern from Russia had earned the gold, the first female gold medalist since 1969. And after a dramatic pause, he announced the other gold medalist, Stanislav Ioudenitch, of Uzbekistan. In awarding two gold and two silver medals, the judges took advantage of new rules for the competition, which allowed for ties. Van Cliburn, for whom this competition is named, said he'd lobbied for the change for 32 years, but his was always one lonely voice on the board. Finally, for this competition, the board approved the move. Cliburn said it worked

Van Cliburn: Everyone was so excited for each one that was named. That just thrilled me to death. You know why? It bespeaks that each one will have a career. If they can generate that kind of excitement and thrill, that's what a career's all about.

Zeeble: This competition's been criticized over the years for picking safe, competent, but uninspired musicians. Menahem Pressler, one of the dozen contest judges and pianist with the renowned Beaux Arts Trio, says that criticism does not apply this time

Menahem Pressler, Van Cliburn Competition judge: We went with the personalities, even though they have some weak points. We actually didn't have a safe bet. Yes, there's one who's a fine, solid musician, with solid preparation; so fine, that it was impossible not to have him share a prize, 'cause he's a wonderful musician. Why should we penalize a wonderful musician?

Zeeble: The gold medalists both say they're more than pleased with the top prize. Olga Kern, calling this the greatest moment of her life, and Stanislav Ioudenitch, who was working on an advanced music degree, saying his plans have changed.

Stanislav Ioudenitch, Van Cliburn Competition Gold Medalist: I'm really glad it happened, the medal. I will have great opportunity to play music. Later, probably, I will finish the PhD.

Zeeble: Antonio Pompa-Baldi, one of the two silver medalists, says now the hard work begins, because winning, quote, does not mean we have arrived, or don't need to improve ourselves. But then said, after this long competition, he's ready for a small break.

Antonio Pompa-Baldi, Van Cliburn Competition Silver Medalist: When I enter a competition, I don't want to drink alcohol. But now I think I'm going to have some (laughter).

Zeeble: Silver medal winners Antonio Pompa-Baldi and Maxim Philippov receive $20,000, U.S. concert tours and management, and a compact disc. The two gold medalists receive those prizes, plus overseas engagements, a wardrobe, air travel and a silver trophy cup. All four medalists play their first concert this weekend in Fort Worth, with the Fort Worth Symphony. For KERA 90.1, I'm Bill Zeeble.