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Throughout this year's Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition, there appear to have been two clear winners. They acted like winners and they played excellently: Jie Chen of China and Alexander Gavrylyuk, originally of Ukraine but who now has Australian citizenship.

It was hard to believe that one of them would have to drop out before the finals - but it happened. Gavrylyuk went on to the finals, together with the Korean Yeol Eum Son and the Russian-born German resident Igor Levit. The judges apparently had no difficulty yesterday choosing Levit from among the three performers.

Chen has been dropped and the results of yesterday's semifinals can make even the most placid classical listener feel feverish. The huge crowd that almost completely filled the Mann Auditorium yesterday - there must have been more than 2,500 people - showed how popular the competition is and how its organizers know how to give the finals the right buildup.

The recitals, the intermezzo for chamber music in Eilat and now the concerti with the orchestra have prepared everyone for the great moment - tonight's finals.

The orchestra is also going to take part in the finals, but not because it deserves to do so. In fact, it really should make efforts to improve in order to justify its appearance tonight.