In the mood for a melody

By Hu Bei Source:Global Times Published: 2013-11-17 19:33:01

A poster for the music festival

A poster for the music festival

Shanghai is set to welcome a plethora of acclaimed pianists from around the world, including 86-year-old Austrian Paul Badura-Skoda, 75-year-old Russian Oxana Yablonskaya, Chinese-American Chen Hung-kuan, as well as renowned Chinese players Lang Lang and Liu Shikun.

From November 24 to December 3, these piano masters will all attend the 10th Shanghai Conservatory of Music (SCM) International Piano Festival.

Since it was launched a decade ago, the festival has become a grand occasion every fall for pianists and classical music lovers in Shanghai. The festival holds master classes, teacher training classes, concerts and forums.

Zhou Keng, artistic director of the festival

Zhou Keng, artistic director of the festival

"It provides a student of piano music enrichment of communication and elegant piano classes. The scale and variety of the festival is tremendous," Zhou Keng, artistic director of the festival and the director of the International Piano Academy at SCM, told the Global Times.

According to Zhou, the festival this year consists of 200 master classes and teacher training classes led by 23 pianists and educators both from China and abroad, as well as nearly 20 recitals and concerts.

The opening and closing concerts are always the highlights of every year's festival. This year, the opening concert on November 24 (7:30 pm, He Luting Concert Hall of SCM) will begin with Hungarian pianist Péter Nagy, who is the dean of the Piano Department at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest.

Winner of the International Franz Liszt Piano Competition in 2001, Nagy will play three works by the 19th century Hungarian composer Liszt: Sonetto 123 del Petrarca (Années de pèlerinage II, S.161), Totentanz and Bagatelle sans tonalité. "Another two works are also by Hungarian composers, Zoltán Kodály's Dances of Marosszék and Béla Bartók's Piano Sonata, Sz.80," Zhou said. "They are seldom performed in public in Shanghai and are worth seeing performed."

For the closing ceremony on December 3, Zhou has organized a concert lasting two and a half hours at the Duguan Theater in the Zendai Himalayas Center (No. 1, Lane 1188, Fangdian Road, Pudong New Area).

Chinese baritone Liao Changyong Photos: Courtesy of the organizers and CFP

Chinese baritone Liao Changyong Photos: Courtesy of the organizers and CFP

The concert will include a piano recital, piano duet, piano quartet, piano quintet, a piano and cello duet and a vocal performance accompanied by piano. The concert will feature not only veteran pianists Oxana Yablonskaya, Paul Badura-Skoda and Lang Lang, but will also introduce 14-year-old local piano prodigy Xu Yue, who will perform a piano duet with the 74-year-old Liu Shikun. Chinese baritone Liao Changyong will be on stage with Lang to sing Schumann's "Widmung."

"An arrangement for Liszt's Les Préludes for five pianos by a Chinese musician, Xie Xianming, is particularly noteworthy this time," Zhou said.

Les Préludes is the most popular of Liszt's 13 symphonic poems. The name comes from the title of a poem by French writer and politician Alphonse de Lamartine that inspired Liszt with its contrasting sentiments of love and war, and life and death.

In Zhou's opinion, Liszt expresses through this work that no one can avoid suffering during one's lifetime and even when faced with death, it is still necessary to struggle and fight against one's fate.

"This work also echoes the emotions of a Chinese piece, Defend the Yellow River, the 4th Movement of The Yellow River Piano Concerto, which will also be played during the closing concert," Zhou said.

"After another piano quintet performing Schubert's Serenade, Lang Lang will contribute a work to end the whole festival. The title of the work won't be announced until the night of the performance," Zhou added.

Zhou told the Global Times that Brahms' piano concertos Concerto for Piano No.2 in B-flat, Op.83 and Piano Concerto No.1 in D-minor, Op.15 are widely regarded as two insurmountable peaks with both pieces lasting around 50 minutes.

"The difficulty of playing these two works is comparable to climbing two Mount Qomolangmas," Zhou said. "During this year's festival, the Chinese American pianist Chen Hung-kuan will climb both these peaks."

Chen will play these two pieces on the night of November 28, at the Duguan Theater in the Zendai Himalayas Center, accompanied by the Shanghai Festival Orchestra.

A performance during the festival will feature guqin, the classical Chinese instrument.

A performance during the festival will feature guqin, the classical Chinese instrument.

"Many local music lovers have told me that they are really looking forward to this concert," Zhou added.

Chen won top prizes at a number of prestigious international music competitions, including the Queen Elisabeth, Montreal, Van Cliburn and Chopin competitions. He is now a piano professor at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston.

At the Duguan Theater on December 1 and 2, there will be two performances that feature the piano and the guqin, a traditional Chinese seven-stringed plucked instrument from the Tang Dynasty (618-907). These two classic instruments from the West and the East will be played alternatively, in order to create an exchange between Western classical music and traditional Chinese music.

Chen Musheng, a teacher and composer at SCM who co-organized the two concerts, told the Global Times, "We chose a series of separate compositions from Chinese music and Western classical music which all feature the subject of the nature."

The festival's schedule can be found at Tickets can be booked by calling 6431-4772.

Posted in: Metro Shanghai

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