Okay, so my picks for the finals are Evgeni Bozhanov, Andrea Lam, Wu Di, Zhang Haochen, Son Yeol-eum, and Alessandro Deljavan. I'm listing them in the order that they performed on Thursday and Friday. This one's not like my semifinal picks. I'm not completely sold on Son yet, but I'm willing to admit the possibility that my experience of her first-round performance (which I saw in the viewing room) might have given me an unfavorable initial impression. I suspect that Vacatello and Lifits might be intrinsically better pianists than her, but like many other things, the Cliburn isn't about intrinsic worth. It's about who's better on the day, and as we've seen, even if you're a tennis champion who's never lost at the French Open, you'll get knocked out if you show up without your game. I couldn't in good conscience choose Vacatello or Lifits ahead of Son on the strength of their semifinal performances. Perhaps the judges will disagree, though.
In addition to naming the finalists, the jury will also be handing out some discretionary prizes. Since there's no set criteria for those, I won't pick those. However, I will be recommending these picks for their other prizes.
The best chamber music performance was by Evgeni Bozhanov with the Franck Quintet. This wasn't close.
The best performance of a new work was by Andrea Lam with White Lies for Lomax. This wasn't close, either.
We can expect word from the judges round about 11:30. I'll be back then with the names of the finalists. I'm pulling hardest for Lam, but Wu and Deljavan are the ones who look like possible gold medalists to me. I've got some fingers crossed.