Pi­anist wows crowd at Lin­coln Cen­ter

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSSAMERICA - By HU HAIDAN in New York haidanhu12@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

As if play­ing for so­phis­ti­cated, crit­i­cal New York­ers weren’t tough enough, pi­anist Tian Ji­axin gave her­self an ex­tra chal­lenge when she per­formed at the Lin­coln Cen­ter for the Per­form­ing Arts.

A high­light of Tian’s per­for­mance — fol­low­ing up her tri­umphant Carnegie Hall solo de­but last year — was her ren­di­tion of Chopin’s Sonata No 2 in B-flat mi­nor, Op 35. Tian said per­form­ing this piece has al­ways been dif­fi­cult for her, be­cause it re­quires the artist to smoothly present four dif­fer­ent emo­tional per­son­al­i­ties – one from each move­ment.

By evening’s end, Tian had left her mark, prompt­ing a stand­ing ova­tion from the au­di­ence.

“I am so ex­cited. I played very well,” she said af­ter the con­cert. Com­par­ing her ef­fort with the Fe­bru­ary 2013 Carnegie Hall recital, she said, “I had more con­nec­tion with the au­di­ence this time.”

She cred­ited Philippe En­tremont, a French pi­anist, con­duc­tor and teacher with help­ing her to rise to the oc­ca­sion. “He in­spired me and taught me how to ex­press my emo­tion while he trav­eled to New York last Oc­to­ber,” Tian said.

Tian and her par­ents sat down with China Daily af­ter the Feb 8 con­cert to talk about the young pi­anist’s mu­si­cal jour­ney. “We (her mother and I) are so proud of her,” said Tian’s fa­ther, Tian Di, a com­poser and con­duc­tor from the Gen­eral Po­lit­i­cal Depart­ment of the People’s Lib­er­a­tion Army. “She worked so hard to reach the level she was at to­day.”

Born into a fam­ily of pro­fes­sional mu­si­cians in Bei­jing, Tian be­gan play­ing piano at age 3. But un­like other Chi­nese prodi­gies who might em­bark on a mu­si­cal path that in­cludes in­ten­sive con­ser­va­tory train­ing, Tian fol­lowed a more or­di­nary path — at­tend­ing el­e­men­tary school, mid­dle school and high school.

Tian’s fa­ther said he and Tian’s mother wanted their daugh­ter to re­ceive a com­pre­hen­sive ed­u­ca­tion at an early age, so she would be able to choose what she wanted to do when she grew up.

He said he didn’t want Tian’s be­ing from a mu­si­cal fam­ily to be the only rea­son she might choose to be­come a pro­fes­sional pi­anist.

“We found her a great piano teacher, and we were able to help her with her prac­tice,” he said.

“We be­lieved that aca­demic stud­ies would not stop her from be­com­ing a pro­fes­sional piano player if she en­joys play­ing. On the con­trary, the ex­pe­ri­ence and the knowl­edge helped her.”

Tian said she en­joyed her time in aca­demic schools. “I ex­pe­ri­enced a lot of things which I may not have been able to ex­pe­ri­ence if I went to mu­sic con­ser­va­to­ries,” she said. “My per­for­mance is based on those ex­pe­ri­ences.”

Tian’s mother, Wang Yuey­ing, a re­tired so­prano with the Opera Troupe of the Gen­eral Po­lit­i­cal Depart­ment of the People’s Lib­er­a­tion Army, said in her last year of high school, Tian had to choose whether to study at an aca­demic col­lege or to play piano pro­fes­sion­ally.

“She told us she en­joys play­ing piano so much,” Wang said. “Her fa­ther and I then gave her our full sup­port.”

Wang said Tian prac­ticed at least four hours a day af­ter school dur­ing the week, and even more on week­ends. She had to stop by 10 p.m., “be­cause the apart­ment build­ing we lived in did not al­low mu­sic af­ter that,” Wang said. Her fa­ther helped her to train her ear and to un­der­stand mu­si­cal the­ory.

At Shenyang Con­ser­va­tory of Mu­sic — gain­ing ad­mis­sion with rel­a­tively high scores — she dreamed of mak­ing it big as a pi­anist, Wang said.

In 2010, she left China to at­tend Man­hat­tan School of Mu­sic on a schol­ar­ship un­der fac­ulty mem­ber and crit­i­cally ac­claimed pi­anist Jef­frey Co­hen.

“I dreamed of per­form­ing on stage and ded­i­cat­ing my­self to con­nect­ing East­ern and Western mu­sic,” Tian said. “So af­ter I grad­u­ated from Man­hat­tan School of Mu­sic in May 2012, I worked hard to achieve my dream.”

On Tian’s per­for­mance cal­en­dar is play­ing a duet with En­tremont at China’s Na­tional Grand The­ater in April to cel­e­brate the 50th an­niver­sary of the es­tab­lish­ing of diplo­matic re­la­tions be­tween China and France.

In ad­di­tion to per­form­ing, Tian also has be­gun to ex­plore mu­sic ped­a­gogy. Since 2011, she has taught mas­ter classes in dif­fer­ent cities in China. She said she is drawn to the idea of help­ing Chi­nese piano stu­dents con­nect East­ern and Western mu­sic. “I can play fa­mous pieces for them and I would like to share my ex­pe­ri­ence,” she said. This sum­mer, she plans to teach mas­ter classes in Bei­jing, Shang­hai and Shen­zhen.

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HU HAIDAN / CHINA DAILY

Tian Ji­axin’s fam­ily posed for a photo on Feb 10. From left: Wang Yuey­ing, Tian’s mother; Tian Di, Tian’s fa­ther and Tian Ji­axin.

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