George Li, a 19-year-old pianist from Lexington who studies at Harvard and the New England Conservatory, has won a silver medal at the prestigious Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. The award, presented on Wednesday, was the only medal earned by an American this year across all four divisions of the competition.
Reached by phone in his Moscow hotel, Li said, "I'm just so thrilled to be able to reach this far. It's been such an exciting three weeks for me, very tiring, but very satisfying. I've just had so much fun making music here. Being able to play for the people in Moscow, and the people worldwide, has been a huge honor and privilege."
This year's high-profile piano jury included artists such as Vladimir Feltsman, Alexander Toradze, and Denis Matsuev. The competition was also webcast by medici.tv, earning a viewership of more than 10 million people in 179 countries, according to the festival. Li, for his part, said he dealt with the extreme pressure by focusing on simply making music for the live audiences gathered in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory. "I just tried to make music and convey my emotions I feel for each piece," he said. "That helped me just to focus on the music, rather than on trying to impress people."
The silver medal comes with a cash award of $20,000. This year's piano gold went to the 27-year-old Russian pianist Dmitry Masleev. The silver was shared by Li and the Lithuanian-Russian pianist Lukas Geniušas. Li, who studies piano with Wha Kyung Byun and Russell Sherman, and whose performance in the finals can still be viewed online, will perform again at Thursday's gala under the baton of Valery Gergiev, in a concert to be webcast live at noon on medici.tv.
No American pianist has won the competition since
’s storied victory in 1958.
Jeremy Eichler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org