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Santander, Spain - Pianists from Korea swept the coveted top spots in the Santander International Piano Competition, which celebrated its 25th anniversary this year. Gold and silver medals went to Koreans Yung Wook Yoo and Jong Hwa Park, respectively, prompting one juror to note, "I didn't know Mozart was Korean!" Competition XIII closed in Spain last Friday to an audience that included Her Royal Majesty Reina Sofia of Spain and Hikang Hyun, Korea's Ambassador to Spain, as well as 400,000 international television viewers.

Yung Wook Yoo, who has studied at Juilliard since his youth, won first prize and the gold medal by unanimous vote, an honour which has occurred only twice in the Competition's history. Yoo will receive six million pesetas (approximately US dollars 46,000 or 25,000 pounds sterling, one of the largest awards on the piano competition circuit) and a Kawai grand piano. He will also embark on a worldwide recital and concert tour with over 100 appearances, and will record a compact disc rendering of established piano classics. Praised throughout the Competition for his humbleness as well as his talent, Yoo plans to donate his First Prize gold Rolex watch to his grandfather, who has supported and encouraged Yoo since childhood.

Yoo's compatriot, Jong Hwa Park, landed second prize and a silver medal, along with two and one half million pesetas (approximately US dlrs 19,000, or 10,400 pounds) and a European concert tour. Park was also the recipient of the Sony People's Choice Award, a new prize consisting of 2 million pesetas' worth of audio visual equipment, which was voted on by the 1600 members of the attending audience.

The bronze medal went not to a Korean, but to Plamena A. Mangova of Bulgaria. Mangova will receive one million pesetas (US dlrs 7,000 or about 4,200 pounds) and an extensive concert tour throughout Spain. All semifinalists, this year from Spain, Russia and the Philippines, will receive one half million pesetas each.

The Santander International Piano Competition was founded in 1972 by Paloma O'Shea and was admitted to the Federation Mondiale des Concours Internationaux de Musique in 1976. Held triennally ever since, the Competition has established itself as one of the most acclaimed in the world, not only for the quality of its winners but for the prestige of its Jury Members and the approximately 150 concerts and recitals it offers to prize winners. Past winners include Barry Douglas in 1980, who went on to win top honours at the Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition in 1986, and Eldar Nebolsin, who won Santander gold in 1992. The Santander Competition has been recognised for its libertarian jury procedures and its active sponsorship of music education for aspiring artists across social, economic and political lines. Participating pianists hail the Competition for its non-adversarial spirit and focus on artistry.

SOURCE Banco Santander

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