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Anton Mordasov

By Nancy Bartosek

Anton Mordasov's fingers are tapping out a new tune these days, one that celebrates the beauty and joy in performance.

It hasn't always been this way for the gifted pianist. He used to take his playing very, very seriously.

Not to misunderstand, Mordasov is still very intense and committed to his music, he just looks at his Cliburn performance with a new eye.

"I don't relate to it as a competition anymore," he said. "Partly because competitions don't mean much for a real musician. I will just go on stage and perform as if it were a concert."

It's a lesson teacher Tamas Ungar has worked to instill. Speed, length and force are the hallmarks of a competitor. Communicating music is the goal of a performer.

And above all, Mordasov wants to perform. It's a desire that began when he was set apart as a gifted child. His talents were rewarded with concert performances beginning at age 7.

He toured the world performing, being duly trained in the Russian-style of exactness of technique. By 1997, when he competed in the last Cliburn, Mordasov had already performed at the Lincoln Center and the famed Carnegie Hall, as well as prestigious venues around the world.

And while he had earned plenty of accolades from competitions -- including winning the Rachmaninoff Competition and placing third in the International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition -- Mordasov had been under the tutelage of Tamas Ungar for less than a year when he stepped on the Cliburn stage.

Four years later, Mordasov is ready.

"It makes you feel good when you perform a successful concert," he said. "You put all your ideas and emotions into the sounds and you can feel the audience responding to you.

"That is what the performer is looking for -- what I am looking for. That connection between myself and the audience."