Okay, so after about 15 minutes’ worth of speeches in Bass Hall, the semifinalists were announced. I must admit, the first-round performances had me entertaining hopes of an American sweep of the medal podium, which would have been the first since 1981, but that is out the window now. A Russian sweep is still in the cards, though. Here are the names of the 12 Van Cliburn Competition semifinalists:


• Sean CHEN


• Alexey CHERNOV

• Alessandro DELJAVAN

• DONG Fei-Fei

• Jayson GILLHAM

• Claire HUANGCI




• Beatrice RANA

• Tomoki SAKATA

Rant and rave about the picks in the comments section below, Weekly readers.


  1. I’ve enjoyed reading your blog more than any about the competition. Some surprises, of course, with Steven Lin’s incredible Haydn (Chopin less so), Sunwoo’s beautiful performance (of a piece I’ve never really liked very much) “Wanderer” (Beeth Op 27 less so), but I can close my eyes and listen to Deljavan for HOURS and HOURS, and Fei-Fei Dong’s Liszt sonata was close to the most intriguing I’ve ever heard (and that include’s Cliburn’s in Constitute Hall DC years ago). Need to go find some of the prelims I missed (like Rana). Thanks for the blog.

  2. Semifinals at Cliburn are always full of surprises–good and bad. I also enjoy reading your blog about the competition. Sometimes, though, I have to wonder if the competitors were assigned numbers and screened/ veiled for anonymity, so that the judges were allowed only to listen without knowing ages, sex ,nationality appearance,etc–would the results be any different? I am of the opinion that the answer is yes.

    • I’ve been thinking about this, too. The results probably would be different, but then, choosing concert pianists isn’t the same thing as choosing section bassoonists. Either as a recitalist or as a soloist with an orchestra, a pianist is in a starring role. The way a pianist presents himself or herself on stage and relates to an audience is a part of their musical personality, and it’s something that marketers, music critics, and the judges of competitions like these need to take into account. It would be nice if we could keep this in account while eliminating gender and race bias, but I’m not sure how we do that.

      Also worth noting: On a CD recording, the pianist is stripped of his or her stage presence, so there is a forum for those (like Glenn Gould) who find the concertizing experience to prioritize the wrong things about musicians.