KU piano student takes home first prize at international Liszt competition

LAWRENCE — Yangmingtian Zhao, an undergraduate piano student studying with Professor Steven Spooner, recently won first prize from the American Fine Arts Festival/AFAF Golden Era of Romantic Music Liszt International Competition, a competition created to celebrate the bicentennial of Franz Liszt.

Yangmingtian Zhao

As part of Zhao’s prize, he will participate in a winners’ recital at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall on May 12 and in a special concert at the Liszt Museum in Weimar, Germany, during the AFAF Summer Music Courses in Europe in August. Zhao will also receive a $300 scholarship for the AFAF Summer Music Courses in Europe.  

Auditions for this competition were open to instrumentalists, vocalists and chamber ensembles, and performers were asked to perform one or several works by any of the Romantic era composers.  Zhao competed with Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2. in the Group C category.

Yangmingtian Zhao of Hainan, China, began studying piano at age 4 and at age 13 attended the Beijing Central Conservatory of Music, where he studied with renowned pianists Chen Bigang and Ling Yuan. Subsequently, as a recipient of the Lee Foundation Talent Scholarship, he spent two years at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, Singapore, studying piano performance under Benjamin Loh.

 Since winning second prize in the 2003 Hong Kong Mozart Competition, Zhao has received numerous international accolades. He won gold awards at the China Central Television’s Youth Piano Competition in 2004, as well as the "Kadenza" Youth Competition in China three years later, where he also claimed the first prize. In 2010, at the inaugural International Chopin Piano Competition held in Singapore, Zhao won both the audience prize and the second prize (Category E). A year later he again won the audience prize and placed second in The International Institute for Young Musicians International Piano Competition 2011 in Lawrence. He was recently chosen by Steinway Artist Adam Gyorgy to join the Adam Gyorgy Castle Academy in Hungary where he performed as a soloist in Pomaz and Kemence. Zhao’s first CD, "Memories of a Dream," was released in August 2011.