4 How did you start playing the piano?
My parents both love music, and my father is an artist as well. He told me that our neighbor who lived in the downstairs had an upright piano. So, I always went down to play around with their piano, which let my parents think I must have some interest in playing the piano. Then, they made arrangements to buy an upright piano for me in a year. Also, they found the mother of a famous pianist locally for me as my first piano teacher. In half a year, I started learning piano with a composition teacher who taught in the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, and when I was 5, I went to an arts kindergarten.
4 Was there any experience or meeting particulary important for your musical development?
Even though I do not want to admit it, the death of my mother changed the ways of my musical development during my teenage years, which has had a significant impact. This very difficult occurrence changed my naive character when I was young, and shaped the characteristics that I have now, which influenced my practicing, my study, my life and almost everything since then. Also, one of the reasons I went abroad to Vienna was also related to this trauma.
On the other hand, the foreign study I had in Austria and what I have experienced in the U.S. is critical to my musical development and playing. I am fortunate that each teacher I have had since I was admitted into the elementary school affiliated to Shanghai Conservatory of Music are all great piano pedagogues, musicians, and pianists. They have a variety of backgrounds themselves and also came from different Schools of piano training. Of the three outstanding teachers I studied with in China, two of them had training in Russia; one, Minduo Li, studied with Yakov Zak who was Sviatoslav Richter’s classmate. Monique Duphil, who is French, studied with Marguerite Long. Menahem Pressler is German, Arnaldo Cohen is Brazilian with European training, and my current teacher, William Heiles, is an American who is an expert in Bach’s music. So, the studies with these teachers gave me a fertile ground to absorb various traits from different Piano Schools.
4 How do you decide what repertoire to perform?
First of all, I think about where I will play and what the general level of the audience will be, if I can find out. Then, according to that, I will decide my repertoire. However, I always choose to perform a program with a variety of styles and periods, and I adjust or put emphasis on certain works according to the specific performance’s venue and audience.
4 Are there styles or composers that you find especially suitable to you? Why?
In general, I am good at presenting works having both virtuoso and lyric sections because it shows both my strengths. However, this can be in Classical style, Romantic style and any others.
4 Are there any new compositions on which you are presently working?
Recently, I just gave a “21st century Piano Composition Commission Award Recital” in early February. I performed Toru Takemitsu’s Rain Tree Sketch I & II, and also the premiere of commissioned works from a living young winning composer. I am currently working on Schubert Impromptu, Op.90, and Stravinsky, Fire Bird (transcribed by Guido Agosti), and Bach, Goldberg Variations, BWV988.
4 Do you play chamber music?
Of course, I have played chamber music for more than twelve years, and I also play duets with other instrumentalists. Anyone studying an instrument and music should experience and play chamber music. I tell my students including children during their beginning stage of learning piano that: listening to chamber music is more important than the solo piano recital because, I believe, it will teach them how to listen, what “balance” is about, and other fundamental skills.
4 How many hours a day/week do you play?
I practice/play every day if my schedule allows me. However, since I began working on my doctoral degree in 2016, it has become impossible because I have a lot of other obligations and
the responsibilities that come with adulthood. On the other hand, learning music or practicing doesn’t always need to be on the piano. Also, when I am practicing on the piano, knowing what I need to do/improve and what my intentions are on the piece I am working on are critical. I would not say I like practicing with a wandering mind and a lack of focus. If I am that way, I stop and go do something else, then, go back to practicing when I return to the proper frame of mind.
4 In your opinion, what is your strenght in your playing?
I remember very well that a famous pedagogue in Shanghai, Leyi Wu, once told my father there was tremendous musicianship and musicality in my playing, and she said my eyes could speak when she heard my playing when I was around six years old. So, I agree with her. Also, I always have a strong urge to perform and express to the audience the music I am connected to. Meanwhile, I have a natural gift that it seems that my playing can always attract audiences’ attention for a long time and have a strong impression on them.
4 Do you have any hobby? Do you like reading?
I love films and other forms of art. I also like Yoga, exercise and nature. I prefer to read about what interests me.
4 What plans do you have for the future? Concerts... recordings....
As an engagement from an award I got in 2018, I do have a recording project coming up. My first book, Learn to Jazz Improvisation, will be published soon by Shanghai Music Publishing House in late March. I have several concerts and lectures in China in the Fall. I enjoy both teaching and performing.