17-year-old wins Chopin Competition

By Lawrence Budmen

Eric Lu won First Prize Sunday in the Ninth Annual U.S. Chopin Competition in Miami.

Eric Lu won First Prize Sunday in the Ninth U.S. Chopin Piano Competition in Miami.

Eric Lu, a 17-year-old student of Jonathan Biss and Robert McDonald at Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute, was awarded First Prize at the finals concert of the Ninth National Chopin Piano Competition Sunday at Miami-Dade County Auditorium.

The top prize includes a cash award of $75,000, concert appearances and automatic acceptance as a competitor at Warsaw’s International Chopin Competition in October.  Rachel Naomi Kudo won the $35,000 Second Prize which also brings her to the Warsaw Competition.

The remaining prize winners will participate in auditions this spring in Warsaw which could lead to some also being admitted to the competition. They are George Li (Third Prize – $ 20,000), Eric Zuber (Fourth Prize – $10,000), Joshua Wright (Fifth Prize – $5,000) and Alexander Beyer (Sixth Prize – $ 4,000).

Special prizes were also given for performances during the nine-day competition  of a polonaise (Kudo), mazurka (Wright), sonata (Li) and concerto (Lu).

Lu, Wright and Zuber had performed at the first part of the finals on Saturday night. At the Sunday program, three very different performances of Chopin’s  Concerto No. 1 in E minor were presented. Clearly the audience favorite, Li took a big boned, quintessentially romantic approach to the score. He exhibited real  affinity for the pulse of Chopin’s melodies and rhythmic curves.  Li’s playing of the slow movement was dreamy and poetic and his incisive rhythm caught the dance-infused character of the finale.

Kudo exhibited a lighter touch and made interesting interpretive choices. She was most effective in the concerto’s quieter moments and her generally deft playing was not lacking in elegance. Nicely varied dynamics infused her  fleet reading of the concluding Rondo. Still Kudo’s performance seemed more salon-oriented, lacking heft in the big moments.

There were several digital slips in Beyer’s performance, which opened the afternoon, but he shaped the melodic lines of the concerto’s opening movement with sensitivity. Despite some finely sculpted phrasing, Beyer’s pianism in the Larghetto was too cool and restrained, the finale overly conservative and straight laced.

Grzegorz Nowak, orchestral director at Florida International University and permanent guest conductor of London’s Royal Philharmonic, led a specially assembled orchestra, performing the Herculean feat of shaping the same score to the often very different interpretations of the finalists. He drew fine ensemble playing with limited rehearsal time, the three horns particularly strong and accurate in  exposed passages. Indeed Nowak made a strong case for the beauty of Chopin’s oft-criticized orchestral writing, drawing out the romantic themes and lovely string lines while offering each of the contestants strong support.

The competition judges were former National Chopin Competition winners Dean Kramer, Ian Hobson, Kevin Kenner and Jon Nakamatsu, pianists Augustin Anievas, Krzysztof Jablonski, Sergei Babayan and Margarita Shevchenko and Katarzyna Popowa-Zydron, jury chair of 2015 Warsaw Competition.

Posted in News

6 Responses to “17-year-old wins Chopin Competition”

  1. Posted Mar 03, 2015 at 12:34 pm by Shulamit Maneev


    Why didn’t you write anything
    about the winner’s performance?

  2. Posted Mar 03, 2015 at 8:33 pm by Lawrence A. Johnson

    Unfortunately, we were only able to attend Sunday’s finale, where the winners were announced. This was the busiest weekend of the entire season in Miami, and there were a lot of events to cover.

  3. Posted Mar 08, 2015 at 5:38 pm by dagmar romano

    We were at the e-piano junior competition in Minneapolis two years ago when Eric Lu won first prize there. We were totally delighted that he won that competition – he was wonderful throughout! Now we are delighted to hear that he won the US Chopin competition. He will make this country proud. His playing is simply exquisite….

  4. Posted Mar 08, 2015 at 6:46 pm by Ron Moore

    I heard Eric Lu perform at the Faribault, MN e-piano international competition, where he won first prize. All of his performances there were amazing. I wish him well in Warsaw.

  5. Posted Mar 10, 2015 at 1:54 pm by Rosmarie Kössler

    Eric Lu made the first price of the Junior Accademy Eppan 2011 with Prof.Bonatta and we all of the Kulturkontakt Eppan are very proud that Eric Lu made so a wonderful career and we wish him all the best for his artistic life!
    With best greetings from Southtyrol
    Rosmarie Kössler

  6. Posted Mar 11, 2015 at 1:09 pm by Wendy Xie

    Eric Lu also won the 1st prize in the ninth Moscow International Chopin Competition for Young Pianists in August 2014.

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