Classical music fans anxiously waited in TCU’s Van Cliburn Concert Hall for the names of 18 quarterfinalists to be announced – while more than a million viewers watched the live stream online.

Tamara Munk, who flew in from Washington D.C. to attend the performances with her mother and her niece, raved about the quality of performances.

“It was an incredible crop this year,” Munk said. “I’m pretty sure we had some performances of a lifetime tonight. You know, everybody remembers Olga Kern winning the gold. I’m going to remember “Three Movements from Petrushka” by Ilya (Shmukler). The passion was there – (it was) the performance of his lifetime.”

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Her niece, 17-year-old Elise Ross who traveled from San Diego, had three lists — yes, no and maybe — where she was trying to predict which pianists would advance.

“There were a lot more yeses than nos,” Ross said, noting that Clayton Stephenson is one of the pianists she’s rooting for.

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Her grandmother Jeanne Ross who made a trip from Baja, Mexico also tried to guess who would make it through.

“I selected almost all of them,” Ross said. “Except for a few, I did pretty well.”

Further back in the auditorium, Ebrain Mirambeau of Dallas also enjoyed Shmukler’s performance.

“I was just blown away by ‘Three Movements from Petrushka,’ ” Mirambeau said. “It was beautiful.”

The classical music lover was also a fan of American pianist Kate Liu.

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“I watched her when she played at the International Chopin Competition in 2015. She’s a great one,” Mirambeu said. “The ‘Prokofiev Sonata No. 8’ was great.”

Liu, Shmukler and Stephenson’s names were among the 18 called to advance. 

“I’m just really grateful to have been chosen, and (I’m) really happy that I’ll be playing in the upcoming round,” Liu said after the announcement. 

South Korea leads the pack with four competitors advancing. Japan and the United States both have three pianists moving forward while Russia and Belarus have two pianists each in the quarterfinals. The sole Ukrainian musician also advanced.

Eighteen pianists advanced to the quarterfinals of the 16th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. (Courtesy photo | Ralph Lauer, The Cliburn)

The full list of pianists still in the competition is as follows:

If you go…

Dates: June 2-18

Location:  Van Cliburn Concert Hall at TCU, Bass Performance Hall and streaming online.

Tickets:  Individual tickets $30-$225. Click here for more information on free events.

Albert Cano Smit, Spain/Netherlands, 25

Dmytro Choni, Ukraine, 28

Federico Gad Crema, Italy, 23

Anna Geniushene, Russia, 31

Masaya Kamei, Japan, 20

Uladzislau Khandohi, Belarus, 20

Honggi Kim, South Korea, 30

Andrew Li, United States, 22

Yunchan Lim, South Korea, 18

Denis Linnik, Belarus, 26

Kate Liu, United States, 28

Jinhyung Park, South Korea, 26

Changyong Shin, South Korea, 28

Ilya Shmukler, Russia, 27

Clayton Stephenson, United States, 23

Yutong Sun, China, 26

Marcel Tadokoro, France/Japan, 28

Yuki Yoshimi, Japan, 22

“You have made this most powerful and inspiring preliminary round any of us can remember,” Jeff King, chairman of the Cliburn board of directors, said to the 30 pianists who performed. 

The field will be narrowed down to 12 competitors after the final performance on June 6. In the semifinal round each of the pianists will perform a Mozart concerto with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra and an hourlong recital. Semifinal performances will begin at 7:30 p.m. June 8.

Marcheta Fornoff covers the arts for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at or on Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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For just over seven years Marcheta Fornoff performed the high wire act of producing a live morning news program on Minnesota Public Radio. She led a small, but nimble team to cover everything from politics...