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Soviets Dominate in Piano; U.S. Vocalists Strike Gold at Tchaikovsky

July 6, 1990

MOSCOW (AP) _ Soviets dominated the piano section of the ninth international Tchaikovsky music competition, while Americans swept the gold medals in the vocal division, officials announced Friday.

Akiko Suwanai of Japan took first place in the violin section of the contest, and West Germany’s Gustav Rivinius won the gold medal for cello.

In the piano division, Soviets Boris Berezovski took the gold medal and Vladimir Mishchuk won the silver. Three competitors shared the bronze medals: Anton Mordasov of the Soviet Union; Kevin Kenner, an American living in West Germany, and Johan Schmidt of Belgium.

Deborah Voigt of New York City won the gold in the female vocalist division and Hans Choi, of Flushing, N.Y. won the gold in the men’s division.

Alyssa Park, a 16-year-old violinist from Lexington, Ky., who charmed Soviet audiences and won a huge ovation in the finals, took the bronze medal, and also was honored with two more medals: most talented and most artistic.

The competition, which began June 14, drew 335 competitors from 51 countries. It took on special significance because this year is the 150th anniversary of Tchaikovsky’s birth.

The gold medalists will perform at a special concert Saturday night, and the runners-up will play on Sunday.

″I feel totally exhausted,″ Voigt, 29, said Friday. ″It was a grueling and grinding experience.″

The soprano and former apprentice with the San Francisco Opera Company celebrated with champagne, and plans a U.S. concert tour starting in Chicago.

Choi, a baritone and former student at the La Scala opera company of Milan, Italy, had said his biggest problem was language. ″I must sing in six languages, and I must sing perfectly in six languanges, because the judges come from so many countries.″

Suwanai, 18, of Tokyo, told the Tass news agency she was happy to win a first prize after coming in second at contests in Genoa, Brussels and Japan.

She said some credit for her victory had to go to Tchaikovsky. ″He is not just my most favorite composer. Possibly, there is no other composer who is so close to me spiritually.″

Park, a junior in high school who also studied at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, won the bronze for her renditions of works by Tchaikovsky, Paganini, Mozart and Bartok.

In an interview after the winners were announced, she said: ″I was very honored, but also very puzzled,″ because the international jury awarded her the medals for the most artistic and most talented, but only ranked her third overall.

Park, the youngest of the 65 violinists who entered the competition, admitted feeling some tension, ″but I just tried to treat it as a concert and play.″

Berezovsky, a 22-year-old student of the Moscow Conservatory, won for his performance of works by Tchaikovsky, Chopin and Liszt.

The international jury also awarded two fourth prizes to pianists Rolf Plagge of West Germany and Stephen Prutsman, of Los Angeles.

Ten Americans were among the 48 finalists who competed Thursday night.

For the first time since the competition began in 1958, foreign funding was used for organizing the contest. The hard-pressed Soviet hosts turned to Pioneer Electronics of Japan to contribute a $4,000 stereo set for each category winner as well as subsidizing hotels and transport for visiting musicians.

Each winner also wins 5,000 rubles, a non-convertible currency that cannot be taken from the Soviet Union.

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