Chinese pianist tells range of stories in music

By Zhang Ruinan in New York | China Daily USA | Updated: 2017-11-21 12:08

Chinese pianist tells range of stories in music

Zhang Haochen makes his solo recital debut at Carnegie Hall on Saturday in New York. Hong Qunchao / for China Daily

The youngest-ever gold medal winner of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, 27-year-old Zhang Haochen, made his Carnegie Hall solo debut on Nov 18 in New York, treating the audience to a wide-ranging program of classics.

"From the intimate recollections of childhood in Schumann's Kinderszenen to the grotesque portrayal of war in Prokofiev's Piano Sonata No. 7, this program is indeed a far-reaching journey," said Zhang. "Beneath this wide-ranging musical narrative, however, are layers of some simple and concise dualities."

Zhang explained that the selection aims to present a series of dialogues simultaneously unfolding - Austro-German and Eastern European, miniature and large-scale, romantic and modern, programmatic and absolute music - to the audience.

"The Kinderszenen and the Symphony Etudes, as opposing as they are meant to be, are both filled with Schumann's most personal romantic spirit. Liszt, with his own wild romanticism, boldly explores the sea of imagery," Zhang writes describing his thoughts in the program. "Janacek goes further into the realm of abstract allusions, gradually stepping into the 'mist' of unknown psychological territories; and in the end, everything breaks apart in Prokofiev's fury and violence."

Originally from Shanghai, Zhang has already established an international career. As a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music where he studied under Gary Graffman, the 2009 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition winner was awarded the Avery Fisher Career Grant this year.

Zhang has also worked with China's National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) orchestra and performed the Yellow River Concerto with their orchestra at Carnegie Hall last month.

"It's my recital debut in New York City, I've performed recitals in more than 40 states in the US but never actually in New York," said Zhang. "It's the arts capital in the US, so I'm very excited and honored."

Asked about his performing style, Zhang said: "I've already formed who I am as an artist, and when I play pieces I know exactly what I'm looking for. I think I'm more drawn to introspective music that can trigger me to contemplate more. Obviously I love to absorb as many various styles as possible, but the introspective parts of music making are what make me feel most comfortable."

Zhang added that music is a lifetime pursuit.

"There is no end for musicians, it's not like athletes who win Olympics championships, there are no actual goals and scores for musicians - just to keep reaching beyond your limit and keep exploring," Zhang said.

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