After more than 60 hours of piano performances over the span of two weeks, a winner was announced for the Gina Bachauer International Artists Piano Competition on June 25.
Andrey Gugnin, 28, from Russia, came away with the gold medal and the audience favorite prize. He was awarded $41,000 in cash, a recording contract and multiple concert engagements around the world.
"Well, I'm just happy," Gugnin said. "Of course it's an honor, and it just, it really makes me happy that I'm doing something right. If I can really give some good emotions to the audience, that's most important because that's basically the main aim of the performance: to entertain and bring pleasure to the listeners."
Chi Ho Han, 22, from South Korea, took the silver medal, and Artem Yasynskyy, 25, from Ukraine, took bronze. Both were awarded cash prizes and possible concert engagements.
The three pianists each performed a 40-minute long concerto with the Utah Symphony at Abravanel Hall. They each finished with a standing ovation.
"I always enjoy playing with the orchestras," Gugnin said. "It's just a great pleasure. When you feel the support and you really make something together with such an amount of people on the stage, it's really something special."
Gugnin has been involved in music since age 7. He said the support of his close friends and family have helped him to get to this point.
"That's probably the most important, really, people you love who believe in you," he said. "That really makes you feel more confident and strong. And I'm so fortunate to stay with a really wonderful, amazing (host) family. They are really doing all their best to make me feel comfortable and like it here."
Each year families in Salt Lake City offer up their homes, time and pianos to host competitiors from around the world.
Douglas Humpherys, the artistic director of the Gina Bachauer International Piano Foundation, said the ability of this competition to offer valuable prizes for the competitors' careers draws in incredible talent.
"Someone who is going to win the gold medal tomorrow night will have all kinds of things that will help their career immediately," he said the night before the final. "It's also a very substantial prize for someone who's young and trying to develop their career. The results of winning are very attractive, and that brings a lot of big talent."
Humpherys won the first Gina Bachauer Piano Competition in 1976 and served as a member of the jury 14 times before his appointment as artistic director last year.
He said future competitions and concert series will be dedicated to Paul Pollei, the founder of the competition who passed away in July 2013.
“(Paul) was just a real ambassador to the world in terms of a musician,” Humpherys said. “(He had) a tremendous work ethic and energy, which over 38 years has produced tremendous results. One of his great loves or passions about doing this competition was that it was held in Salt Lake City and that it was a chance to bring great artistry and music here.”
The Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition is held in Salt Lake City every two years, alternating between younger and older age groups. Contestants are chosen through live auditions held throughout the world. This year's 39 contestants ranged in age from 19-32 and came from 14 countries in North America, Europe and Asia.
“One of the most important things to me in the history of the Bachauer is bringing great artists to Utah,” Humpherys said. “But I’m also anxious to continue taking the Bachauer out to the rest of the world.”
Erica Palmer is a writer for the Mormon Times and Features department. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org