• Jiji, Kyodo

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Japan’s Kyohei Sorita and Aimi Kobayashi jointly won the second and fourth prize, respectively, in the 18th Chopin Competition, the organizer of the contest announced Thursday.

It was the first time in 16 years for a Japanese pianist to win a prize in the prestigious piano competition, which is held in Warsaw every five years and named after famed Polish pianist Fryderyk Chopin.

It is known as one of the three biggest piano competitions in the world and regarded as a gateway to success for young pianists. The latest event was originally scheduled for 2020 but was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Sorita, 27, captured the highest prize for a Japanese-born pianist in the Chopin competition, tying Mitsuko Uchida, who won the second prize in 1970. Uchida now has British citizenship.

Canada’s Bruce Liu, 24, won a €40,000 ($46,000) prize for topping the final of the competition. The three-day finals until Wednesday had 12 participants from 10 countries. Alexander Gadjiev, who represents both Italy and Slovenia, also ranked second.

Martin Garcia Garcia of Spain took third prize, while Polish Jakub Kuszlik also took fourth along with Kobayashi.

Sorita, who grew up in Tokyo, received a standing ovation from the audience after playing Piano Concerto No. 1 in the finals Monday.

“I’m very happy and I don’t have any words,” said Sorita, who studies at the Fryderyk Chopin University of Music in Warsaw after spending a period at the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory.

While thanking his professors and family, Sorita said he is looking forward to getting some sleep after the high-pressure competition. He said he was aware of the competition’s popularity in Japan and of how many people from home were watching online.

After becoming an independent pianist, he established an orchestra in the city of Nara, for which he serves as a conductor.

Kobayashi, 26, who was born in Ube, Yamaguchi Prefecture, played the same Chopin piece Wednesday. Kobayashi failed to win a prize when she advanced to the finals in the previous competition in 2015.

Kobayashi started playing the piano at the age of 3 and made her debut at an international contest at 9.

In line with COVID-19 guidelines, the government is strongly requesting that residents and visitors exercise caution if they choose to visit bars, restaurants, music venues and other public spaces.

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