Scott Cantrell | Dallas Morning News | June 11, 2017
Before Yekwon Sunwoo was announced as gold medalist of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition on Saturday evening, several of us Cliburn veterans remarked that it was much harder than usual to guess the outcome this time.
In the past, the top three or four competitors were usually pretty clear by the end, but performances this time had seemed more inconsistent. Concerto performances in the final round on Friday and Saturday, at Bass Performance Hall, were mostly disappointing, either lackluster or desperate to make an impression with speed and volume.
If the jury was looking for pianists clearly ready for concert careers, some compromises would have to be made. Of course, I covered only the semifinal and final rounds, whereas the jury was obliged to consider performances in all four rounds.
The winners were:
Gold Medal ($50,000): Sunwoo, 28, South Korea.
Silver Medal ($25,000): Kenneth Broberg, 23, United States.
Bronze Medal ($15,000): Daniel Hsu, 19, United States.
The three top pianists also receive concert management and pre-arranged concert dates, promotional packages including press kits, videos, and websites, and recordings on the Universal Music Group's Decca Gold label.
Sunwoo, trained at the Curtis Institute of Music and the Juilliard School, tended to rush faster music, a common problem among other competitors — but he demonstrated a real, if not reliably mature, musical personality. Broberg, a Minneapolis native, is a University of Houston graduate now studying with 2001 Cliburn winner Stanislav Ioudenitch at Park University in Kansas City, Mo. He was previously the winner of the 2016 Dallas Chamber Symphony International Piano Competition. Hsu, a San Francisco native, has studied at the Curtis Institute.