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Alexei Sultanov Memorial Discovery Prize:
Competition Grand Prix - $20,000
A very special feature of the Nashville International Chopin Piano Competition is the Grand Prix of the entire competition - the Alexei Sultanov Memorial Discovery Prize. It is designed to be awarded in lieu of the First Prize in the competitor's age category and is open to all age categories as a special way to open avenues to the overall winner of the competition. It is inspired by the legacy of one of the greatest pianists of the modern age, Alexei Sultanov, whose life was tragically cut short by illness at age 35. By awarding the Alexei Sultanov Memorial Discovery Prize we celebrate his musical genius and awareness of his incredible talent amongst the youngest generation of aspiring pianists.
Sultanov was perhaps the most celebrated, and certainly, the most widely discussed young pianist in the world in 1989 as the then-teenaged Sultanov won the top prize in the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition with playing of such passion, virtuosity, power, artistry, and maturity as to draw a roar from the audience and leave several jury members in awe of what they had just heard.
Alexei Sultanov burst upon the international music scene at the age of 19 with his spectacular victory at the Eighth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in June 1989. In a repertoire ranging from Chopin to Rachmaninov, the classical pianist went on to perform in cities throughout the world including in Berlin, Paris, Warsaw, Moscow, Tokyo, New York, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Dallas.
Alexei was born on August 7, 1969 to Faizul Sultanov and Natalia Pogorelova in Tashkent, the capital city of Uzbekistan. At age three he began to study music with his cellist father and violinist mother, both instructors of music. When Alexei was only 6, he began piano lessons in Tashkent with Tamara Popovich, an amazing taskmaster who would, in the future, become one of Alexei's most trusted advisers.
Alexei made his formal debut at the age of seven. Shortly thereafter, Tamara Popovich arranged for him to have lessons at the prestigious Moscow State Tchaikovsky Conservatory several times a year. He left his home in Tashkent in his early teens to study at the Moscow Central Music School in 1986. Alexei was a student of Lev Naumov at the Central Music school and again at the Tchaikovsky Conservatory, where he completed his musical studies.
While at the Tchaikovsky Conservatory, Alexei was chosen to compete in the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth, Texas. With his volcanic selections of Liszt, Prokofiev and Chopin, he quickly became known for his huge sound. His fingers flashed over the keys; the music thundered and whispered and groaned. When he played, he shut his eyes as if enraptured by the music.
Immediately following his win at the Cliburn competition, Alexei was propelled into the international arena with an appearance on various American television programs including The Today Show, The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and the Late Night with David Letterman. Even the famous wanted to be close to him. The night after he appeared on David Letterman's show, Alexei was invited to play privately for the legendary Vladimir Horowitz. It was a memorable highlight of Alexei's life.
The Nashville International Chopin Piano Competition is awarding the Alexei Sultanov Memorial Discovery Prize with the blessing of Sultanov’s widow, Dace, who was with Alexei through the frenzied experiences of tours after his competition wins, his meteoric rise to fame, and steadfast determination to continue performing - with one hand - after he fell ill with the malady that would take his life. The competition would like to express its gratitude to Dace for the beautiful photographs and memories of Alexei that she shared with us.
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