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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Teen Wins Piano Competition

Olga Pushechnikova, a pianist from Moscow, has won the prestigious International Rachmaninoff Competition and high praise from the judges for her ability to "convey Russian spirituality".


Pushechnikova, 17, was the youngest contestant to participate in the two-week competition. A jury of renowned international pianists named her the winner Saturday.


At the grand concert of finalists, Pushechnikova leaped from her piano stool after playing Rachmaninoff's Concerto No. 3 in D Minor with a full orchestra. She bowed as the audience broke out in thunderous applause.


"It is indescribable", said Pushechnikova, who was surrounded by admirers and well-wishers backstage after the concert. "This thing is bigger than me".


Viktor Merzhanov, the jury chairman, said that the judges had been stunned by the young woman's performance.


"Playing Rachmaninoff demands an enormous psychological input", Merzhanov said in a telephone interview Sunday. "Despite her young age, Pushechnikova was able to demonstrate perfect control over the music. Not only is she technically very gifted, but she can convey Russian spirituality, which is so quintessential about Rachmaninoff's work".


Pushechnikova entered Moscow's Central Music School, which is attached to the Conservatory, in 1981. In 1987, at age 11, she won third place in Prague at an international piano competition.


She is a recipient of a scholarship from the International "New Names" Program of the Russian Culture Foundation.


The winner of the first International Rachmaninoff Piano Competition was presented $10, 000 by Alexander Rachmaninoff, the Russian composer's grandson, who came from Switzerland as a guest of honor. She also won prizes from Russian businesses and the Prize for the Youngest Entrant.


The Rachmaninoff competition was particularly festive this year as 1993 marks the 120th anniversary of the birth and the 50th anniversary since the death of the great Russian pianist and composer, Sergei Rachmaninoff.


There were 66 international hopefuls ranging in age from 17 to 35 vying for first place. Most of the contestants were from Russia or former Soviet republics.


Harada expressed surprise about being one of the finalists.


"It is very difficult for a foreigner to compete because Russians all know Rachmaninoff so well", she said after the competition.