Yin, Cheng-Zong (殷承宗）
One of the world’s leading pianists, Yin, Cheng-Zong, was born on China’s “ Piano Island” of Gulangyu in Xiamen, Fujian Province. He gave his first recital at age nine. Three years later he entered the pre-college of the Shanghai Conservatory and then transferred to the Central Conservatory in Beijing. Mr. Yin later traveled to Russia to study with Tatiana Kravchenko, graduating from the Leningrad Conservatory and Central Conservatory in Beijing.
Throughout his career, Mr. Yin has touched millions of souls with his music. Bernard Holland of the New York Times wrote that he demonstrated an “absolutely beautiful command of piano colors”. He has won numerous awards, including the gold medal at the World Youth Peace and Friendship Festival held in Vienna in 1959, and second prize in the 1962 Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, at which time he was only 20 years old. He has since become a legend in the music world and is one of four Chinese musicians who are listed in the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, published in 1980.
Mr. Yin made his Carnegie Hall debut in New York City in 1983 and has returned four times as a soloist. The New York Times has called him “China’s best pianist”. Through the years Mr. Yin has traveled worldwide, performing under the baton of Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra, Claudio Abbado and the Vienna Phiharmonic Orchestra, Kirill Kondrashin and the Moscow Phiharmonic Orchestra, and Sir Malcolm Sargent and the St. Petersburg Philhamonic Orchestra. He has also appeared at Lincoln Center. Formerly a professor and artist-in-residence at the Cleveland Institute of Music, Mr. Yin now lives in New York City.
Mr. Yin is not only a virtuoso interpreter of Western masters; he is also a composer of highly renowned piano pieces. His piano interpretations of traditional Beijing opera and other classic Chinese music, combined with his contribution to the Yellow River Concerto, have made him a household name in China. His recording of the latter piece received a Gold Record award.
Mr. Yin has released more than 20 albums, including an all-Chopin CD and a recording of .Debussy’s Pre’ludes.
Yundi Li : A great hope of the latest generation of pianists
“Light years ahead in patrician elegance; exquisite artistry from one of the greatest talents to surface in years - nay decades.” -- Harris Goldsmith, 2004 Musical America Directory
Is it possible to speak of an authentic artistic personality in the case of a pianist who is only recently turned 22? Not really, one would think. The years a young musician needs to establish an unmistakable profile have at that stage only begun. With Yundi Li, however, this notion seems not to apply. At 22 he is already a pianist capable of deciphering the message of a work and conveying it to his audience in a completely original and convincing interpretation.
Yundi Li made his US debut at Carnegie Hall in June 2003 as part of Steinway’s 150th anniversary gala concert. In July 2003, he made his American concerto debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra performing Chopin Piano Concerto No. 1 in a performance remarkable for its subtlety, sensitivity and mature artistry. That summer he was honored at a special reception at the home of the Ambassador of China in Washington, DC, where he performed Liszt for US State Department officials and guests, including former Secretary of State Alexander Hague. During this period he also gave recitals at Paris, Verbier, Salzburg, and Hong Kong, and appeared with NHK Symphony in Tokyo and Osaka.
Mr. Li’s Spring 2005 North American engagements will include four appearances with Wolfgang Sawallisch and the Philadelphia Orchestra, appearances in Los Angeles and at Carnegie Hall with the [Meli Mehta] American Youth Symphony celebrating its 50th anniversary, and recitals in New York’s Alice Tully Hall, Seattle, Portland, San Diego, Cincinnati, Columbus, Kansas City and Baltimore. Highlights of Yundi Li’s Summer 2005 schedule include concerts with Vladimir Ashkenazy and the London Philharmonia, Seiji Ozawa and the Japan Philharmonic, and James Levine and the Verbier Youth Orchestra.
Highlights of the 2003-04 season included appearances at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC in September, concerts with Cincinnati Symphony and Paavo Jarvi in the United States; a tour of Germany with Moscow Philharmonic led by Yuri Simonov; concerts in Budapest with Ivan Fischer and Budapest Festival Orchestra, a tour of Japan with Cincinnati Symphony and Paavo Jarvi, and concerts with the Israel Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony and Malaysian Philharmonic, along with recitals in Berlin, Tokyo, Amsterdam, Shanghai, Pamplona, Bilbao, Hamburg, Munich, Boston, Vancouver, San Francisco, New York and Warsaw. Yundi Li was given the special honor of being the only piano soloist to be invited to perform in a gala concert celebrating the 10th anniversary of Ozawa Hall at Tanglewood in August 2004.
Yundi Li first gained worldwide attention after his victory in 2000 at the renowned Warsaw Chopin Competition. A biographical overview of Yundi’s fairly brief but intense musical development that preceded 2000 looks quite typical of someone his age, indeed much like those of many colleagues of the same generation. He was born in 1982 in the People’s Republic of China – or more precisely, in Chongqing. After some first musical baby steps at kindergarten age (accordion lessons at four), he began playing the piano at seven. At the age of nine he had decided on his professional goal – he wanted to become a pianist. Prizes followed at competitions in his own country and at a number of youth competitions in the USA. Given his plans for the future, participating in a great international contest such as the Polish capital’s was therefore only a logical consequence.
For the musical world, however, Li’s win in Warsaw was a real sensation. Here, at this richly traditional trial of keyboard artistry held every five years in the name of Chopin, we had the victory of an entrant from China, bringing him into the company of such famous past winners as Martha Argerich and Maurizio Pollini, whose careers were also launched by a triumph in Warsaw. Moreover, Li was not only one of the youngest winners in the history of the competition, but also the first person in 15 years to be awarded a first prize; and that prize also pointed up a remarkable development in recent years: whereas not long ago young artists from China in particular were reproached for a lack of interpretative abilities – in other words, for a lack of depth – one was now forced to recognize that the grounds for such prejudice had long since been eradicated by the internationalization of piano training.
What is it, then, that singles out the artist Yundi Li – or, indeed, his playing? In pursuit of his goal, he made a highly self-confident impression just after his win in Warsaw by letting journalists know that he wished to become “the next Zimerman”. This statement, however, reflects not arrogance on his part but admiration for a predecessor in the competition: Li is in fact appealingly reserved and thoughtful. What is more, Zimerman apparently turned down Li’s request to study with him, claiming that there was virtually nothing more he could teach the young Chinese pianist.
As anyone who has heard him in the concert hall will easily imagine, his audiences could (and can) gather a direct and vivid impression of what held the Warsaw jury in thrall: A tall young pianist steps on to the podium, whose aura of calm and self-confidence immediately spreads from his solitary place at the keyboard to the members of the audience. How, one wonders, will this still youthful player present works that are so well-known and for which the interpretations of famous pianists have long since planted definite ideas and expectations in the minds of listeners? An exclusive Desutsch Gramophone recording artist, his debut recording of Chopin recital works achieves an exciting textural transparency which only a few have managed. That he possesses a superb, fearless technique was already apparent from the reports coming from Warsaw. How else could he have got through the enormous demands that led to his victory?
Technique, then, is not so much the point. What is far more captivating and compelling in Li’s playing is its Romantic impulse, its communication of essences: its musical vibrancy. His greatest strength lies in the representation of Chopin’s diverse utterances, ranging from melancholy to a longing for death, from heart-rending lyrical moments to heart-shattering outbursts. He understands the composer's world of emotion and is not stingy with the use of extreme rubati, which serve only to reinforce his wholly personal insights into this music. Yundi Li adds a new shading to something long familiar, uncovers new facets that reflect the work in a different light. He joins the long list of interpreters in the truest sense of that word: as a medium between the work and the audience.
Not only did Yundi Li take the first prize at Warsaw, he also received the prize for interpreting a Chopin polonaise, which in itself shows how deeply immersed he is in the Polish composer’s musical cosmos, in his world of ideas. No wonder, then, Li is also able to perform the master’s other piano works so magnificently. With astonishment the listener witnesses the stamina and vitality in the playing of this young man, who obviously takes great delight in presenting his quite personal ways of looking at the works. Inevitably one asks: how does a pianist educated outside of the European cultural circle penetrate Chopin’s world of conflict and sense of longing for his homeland? That question must remain unanswered and only furnishes further proof of Yundi Li’s extraordinary gifts.
Yundi Li’s recent programs have consisted exclusively of works by Chopin and Liszt. His second recording for DG of Liszt recital works was released in Europe and Asia in 2002 to great acclaim, and released in the United States in August 2003. The NY Times named the Liszt CD “Best of the Year” for 2003. A third recording of Chopin Scherzi and Impromptus was released in January 2005. DG plans to release a new recording featuring Yundi each year until 2009.
Yundi Li currently resides in Hannover, Germany where he studies with his teacher Arie Vardie at the Hannover Conservatory of Music.
Frederic Chiu 裘元樸
Born and raised in America by Chinese immigrant parents and longtime resident of France, Frederic Chiu now lives in Connecticut, US. Mr. Chiu’s cosmopolitan background brings a unique, humanist approach to his music-making. “He has reinvented virtuosity…a phenomenon that must be heard,” observes Le Monde.
Mr. Chiu began his formal training at Indiana University in piano with Karen Shaw and also in Computer Science at the Juilliard School. He began his career in Paris and became one of the most well-known American pianists playing in France. He has performed in most of the major European cities, and regularly travels to Asia (Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and China) and Africa. Mr. Chiu’s accomplishments have earned him many prestigious awards, including: the Avery Fisher Career Grant, the Petscheck Award, and the American Pianists Association Fellowship. Ironically, it was the lack of an award that first brought him international notoriety: in a rare foray into the competition circuit, his elimination before the final round of the 1993 Van Cliburn Competition roused enormous protest.
Mr. Chiu has released 21 CD’s—most recent being Liszt’s Années de Pélérinage, transcriptions of Schubert’s Schwanengesang, Chopin’s Mazurkas, and Etudes and Rondeaux. The complete piano works of Prokofiew —10 CD’s altogether— are now available, and this recording project has generated a great deal of enthusiasm and critical acclaim from Fanfare to the Wall Street Journal, to Frances’s Elle magazine. His release of three rarely-played Sonatas of Mendelssohn was chosen as “Record of the Year” by Stereo Review, and his recordings are all on the Harmonia Mundi label (hormoniamundi.com). His first CD, a recital of piano transcriptions, marked him as a champion of this under-explored repertoire, following the example of his former teacher, Abbey Simon. He recently opened the National Symphony Orchestra’s season with Liszt’s transcription of Beethoven’s “Fifth Symphony” to a standing ovation. His own arrangement of Prokofiev’s Lieutenant Kije Suite has met with success in concert and on record.
In North America, Mr. Chiu’s concert activities have led him to travel across the US on extended tours, playing a large amount of chamber and orchestral music. He has played in the Mostly Mozart Festival in New York, at the Ambassador Theatre in Pasadena, Place des Arts in Montreal, and Lincoln Center. He toured the US most recently with the Orchestra de Bretagne of France, with Stefan Sanderling conducting Mr. Chiu’s activities as a teacher are highly sought after both in private lessons and in master classes. His unique series of workshops, with its philosophic and holistic approach to piano playing, is coveted by participants. And eager to bring serious music to a larger audience, he makes special presentations for school children, and collaborates with individuals outside the traditional realm of his field, including actors Brian Bedford and Sami Frey, and psychologist/writer/clown Howard Buten.
Pianist Lei Weng has been hailed as "the exceptionally brilliant Chinese pianist.” Mr. Weng has won major national and international competitions, including the top prizes in the Isabel Scionti International Piano Competition and the Camerata Piano Competition, Silver Medal in the Wideman International Piano Competition. He is also a prize winner in the Grace Welsh International Piano Competition, the Kingsville International Competition and the TCU/Cliburn Piano Competition.
Mr. Weng has performed throughout North America and Asia, at such venues as Carnegie Hall, Steinways Hall, and the Austrian Culture Center in New York, Phillips Collection in Washington D.C., Meany Hall in Seattle, Ozawa Hall in Tanglewood, Washington Library Center in Chicago, Banff Center in Canada, and Beijing Music Hall. He has performed as a soloist with orchestras such as the Fort Worth Symphony, Shreveport Symphony, Camerata Symphony, NW Mahler Festival Symphony, China National Symphony and Chorus, Beijing Symphony and Tianjin Symphony.
Lei Weng’s performances have been critically acclaimed as “spirited and full of nuances” by The Cincinnati Post. The Herald Times calls him “colorful and flamboyant” and claims “there can be no doubt of his proficiency.” China’s Tianjin Daily remarks on Lei Weng’s “profound and immense artistry” and Scott Cantrell, music critic from the Dallas Morning News exclaims: “Fabulous playing – really fresh, personal! I love the unpredictability, the willingness to take chances, not just to sound like someone else.”
Twenty- year-old Alvin Zhu is a student of Dr. Yoheved Kaplinsky at the Juilliard School in New York. He comes from a musical family. His grandfather Gongyi Zhu was a judge at the International Chopin Piano Competition. His mother was his piano teacher when he was four and his father soon became his violin instructor.
Alvin Zhu was selected for "From the Top" as a Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist. He was awarded with a scholarship and the honor to perform Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 on September 29, 2007 for a nationally broadcasted radio program. In 2009, he became the first American pianist officially inducted into The Young Steinway Artists Roster.
Alvin has won First Place in numerous piano competitions, including the Aikens-Cadman Competition in the Pittsburgh and The Tuesday Musical Club Scholarship Competition for a scholarship for 2010-2012.