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China Daily Global / 2023-05 / 10 / Page014

Keying into success

By Chen Nan | China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-05-10 00:00

Piano festival, to be launched by Tianjin Juilliard, will give young performers an exciting platform, Chen Nan reports.

Wang Xiaohan, a veteran pianist and teacher at Tianjin Juilliard, says it takes courage to find one's own voice when playing the piano.

Pianists should be able to bring creative ideas and approaches to the music they perform while staying loyal to the intentions of composers.

"Why does an audience pay for a ticket to watch a pianist's performance? When you are seated in a concert hall to witness a piano performance, the fulfilling and heartwarming experience is a great feeling. The pianist is skilled and the actual tune of the piece needs to be maintained and must reach the listeners ears. The pianist intrigues the audience with a playing style and creates a unique artistic presence and ambience," says Wang, a prizewinner of international music competitions such as the ARD International Music Competition and the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.

He now chairs pre-college piano studies at Tianjin Juilliard.

Wang looked for such qualities in pianists before he co-initiated the inaugural Tianjin Juilliard Piano Festival, which will be held in Binhai, a coastal area in Tianjin, where the school is located, from July 30 to Aug 13. The festival, organized by the school, will have master classes, workshops, lectures, concerts and public events.

Applicants — young artists and junior participants — will have the opportunity to perform concertos with orchestras and prominent conductors.

Wang, along with Yoheved Kaplinsky, the well-known pianist who is currently the chair of the piano department at the Juilliard School in New York, will serve as co-artistic director of the piano festival in Tianjin.

"We have been discussing the idea of holding the piano festival for several years," says He Wei, CEO and artistic director of Tianjin Juilliard.

"Since we are music educators, our intention is to provide participants with invaluable experience, working alongside internationally renowned pianists and teachers.

"It's our mission to develop talented young musicians as artist citizens and to bridge cultures through music," He adds.

"Our school opened amid the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been a longtime wish for us to welcome people living in Binhai and outside the area to visit our campus and enjoy music. This piano festival will be a great celebration of music this summer."

As the first overseas branch of the renowned New York-headquartered Juilliard School, the Tianjin campus broke ground in 2017 and offers a US-accredited master's degree from the Juilliard School. The Tianjin school's graduate program opened in the fall of 2020 with the first batch of students.

Twelve international artists are scheduled to join the piano festival, including pianist Robert Levin, who is a professor emeritus of music at Harvard University, and Polish pianist Katarzyna Popowa-Zydro, who served as the chair of the jury for the 17th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw.

"We have assembled the highest level of pedagogues and performers from around the world to provide festival participants with an exciting and inspiring educational experience this summer. The variety of musical activities and the unique opportunities will make this an enriching and unforgettable festival for all," says Kaplinsky.

It will be the first time that Levin will visit the Chinese mainland, which is great news for Chinese piano students, teachers and music lovers, Wang says. He met Levin at the 17th Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition, which was held in Tel Aviv from March 14 to April 1, when Wang served as a jury member for the contest.

"He is a legendary pianist who is widely considered a leading Mozart authority, a scholar-performer with a particular focus on researching and performing works of the composer," says Wang, adding that Levin will give lectures about Mozart's concertos during the Tianjin festival.

Performing guest artists at the festival are Chinese pianist Chen Sa and Russian pianist Sofya Gulyak, the first woman to win the Leeds International Piano Competition in 2009. Wang will also perform.

The Suzhou Symphony Orchestra will perform in the final gala that will be conducted by Chen Lin, the chair of the conducting department at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing.

All 24 selected from the category of young artists, aged 7 to 28, will compete in the festival's concerto competition, and six winners will be selected to perform a full concerto with the Suzhou orchestra, conducted by Lai Jiajing.

All 48 participants in the junior category, aged 7 to 18, will have one rehearsal with the Qing Xin Ensemble, also conducted by Lai, playing one movement of a concerto.


Top: Tianjin Juilliard Orchestra performs under the baton of conductor Chen Lin at the school's concert hall. Left: Yoheved Kaplinsky gives a master class at the Tianjin school. Right: A student of Tianjin Juilliard takes class on campus. CHINA DAILY





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