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Finalists for the top teenage piano competition join NPR

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Top pianists from around the world descended on Dallas, Texas, last week.

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KELLY: They've been competing in the Cliburn International Junior Piano Competition, with more than 20 teenagers performing classical sonatas and concertos from top composers.

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KELLY: We spoke with the final three participants of the Junior Cliburn competition as they were headed into the final round.

JAN SCHULMEISTER: So my name is Jan Schulmeister. I'm 16 years old, and I'm from Czech Republic.

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JAN: It was great enjoyment to make people happy for music and to connect to the audience. And Rachmaninoff, I think he meant this piece as song without word.

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JAN: I am so extremely happy and honored that I got the opportunity to play in such a wonderful hall for 2,000 people and extremely honored that I'm in the finals.

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YIFAN WU: Yes. My name is Yifan Wu. I come from Shanghai, China, and I'm 14 years old.

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YIFAN: I have prepared for the competition for half a year, and I practice seven hours per day because, you know, the Cliburn competition is really high level. It's really exciting. The piano is the king of the instrument. I just really love piano (laughter).

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SEOKYOUNG HONG: Hello. I am Seokyoung Hong, and I'm from South Korea. I'm 15 years old.

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SEOKYOUNG: And I really like the sound of piano and the fact that I can create the sound I want. In this Cliburn competition, I think the level of competitors were really, really - and they all play really good. So I was kind of scared, but maybe I also got inspired by them. Normally, junior competition does not have this many rounds and this much repertoire requirement, and this was the competition that I had to play the most pieces.

KELLY: Each teen piano prodigy was accompanied by an orchestra in the final round to further test their abilities.

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KELLY: And this year's winner, who you just heard there, was 15-year-old Seokyoung Hong of South Korea. Congratulations to all the junior Cliburn competitors.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Gabriel J. Sánchez
Gabriel J. Sánchez is a producer for NPR's All Things Considered. Sánchez identifies stories, books guests, and produces what you hear on air. Sánchez also directs All Things Considered on Saturdays and Sundays.
Ashley Brown is a senior editor for All Things Considered.