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Irish Pianist Takes Top Award In Moscow

July 05, 1986|ALISON SMALE | Associated Press

MOSCOW — Barry Douglas of Northern Ireland won first prize in the piano segment of the Tchaikovsky competition on Thursday, with the official jury announcement only echoing what hundreds of cheering, clapping Moscow fans already had decided.

A roar of "bravo" went up in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory when jury chairman Andrei Eshpai proclaimed the crowd favorite had taken top honors.

It was the first time since American pianist Van Cliburn triumphed in 1958 that a foreigner took the top prize alone and did not split it with a Soviet.

Leningrad pianist Natalya Trull, 29, won second place and Irina Plotnikova, 31, of Moscow, was third.

The top American finisher was David Buechner, 26, a Baltimore native who lives in New York City. He shared sixth prize with Cuban pianist Victor Rodriguez.

The other American finalist, William Wolfram, shared eighth prize with Soviet Sergei Yerokhin.

Douglas, 26, of Belfast, hugged and kissed his girlfriend, Ruth Wilkinson, a British flutist, after the result was announced.

"I wasn't even sure I'd get through the first round," he said. "Anything can happen."

The pianist, who trained at London's Royal College of Music, impressed Moscow's fans with the strength and brightness of his playing.

His performance Tuesday night of Tchaikovsky's Concerto No. 1 had the capacity audience of nearly 2,000 people applauding and cheering for 10 minutes.

There was another long ovation and shouts of "pervaya premiya" (first prize) after he played Brahms' Concerto No. 1.

By Thursday evening, when hundreds of music fans gathered outside the hall to await the results, a fan already had written, "Barry Douglas, first prize," in the place where Douglas' picture had been displayed on a stand along with those of other contestants.

Douglas is the fourth British pianist to take first place at the competition, following John Ogden in 1962, John Lill in 1970 and Peter Donohoe in 1982. All of them split the prize with Soviets.

Buechner, who won long and warm applause for his performance Wednesday night, reflected that his sixth place finish was not good enough to assure career success.

"On the one hand, I'm thrilled to be a prize-winner," he said. "On the other hand, it's not as high a prize as I wanted . . . and that basically means more contests."

American jury member Daniel Pollack said the panel spent three hours in grueling deliberation before reaching its decisions.

The fans stamped their feet loudly in disapproval at the announcement that Soviet pianist Alexander Tselyakov shared the fourth prize with Roger Muraro of France, another crowd favorite.

Fifth place was split between Bulgarian Yovcho Krushev and Czechoslovakia's Igor Ardasev. Chinese pianist Kong Xiangdong took seventh prize.

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