The long jour­ney of a pi­anist­who started late

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE - By CHEN JIE chen­jie@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Be­hind ev­ery suc­cess­ful Chi­nese pi­anist, there’s al­ways ade­voted par­ent. Such moth­ers and fa­thers are role mod­els to peo­ple who dream of their chil­dren be­com­ing star mu­si­cians some­day. But ob­vi­ously, only chil­dren with an in­ter­est in the pi­ano and am­ple tal­ent will make it to the top.

What’s common to Lang Lang, Wang Yuja, Zhang Haochen and Li Yundi? Yes, they all play the pi­ano. But more im­por­tantly, they’ve all loved the in­stru­ment since early child­hood with an in­ten­sity that they didn’t feel even for toys back then. As kids they might have taken a break from be­ing around the pi­ano if they got bored, but they would re­turn to it by them­selves.

On that list is Tian Ji­axin, another ris­ing pi­anist, who was born to a com­poser fa­ther and so­prano mother in Beijing in 1986. But her par­ents did not want her to start a ca­reer in mu­sic un­til she en­tered col­lege.

“At the very be­gin­ning, they did not al­low me to play the pi­ano. You know, I was born in a fam­ily where there was a lot of mu­sic. When I was 3, my hap­pi­est mo­ment would be to see my fa­ther play­ing the pi­ano while my mother sang,” Tian tells China Daily while sit­ting in a dress­ing room of the Na­tional Cen­ter for the Per­form­ing Arts last week. “I re­ally wanted to learn the in­stru­ment. But they al­ways said no.”

“Later they (her par­ents) told me that it would be a road with­out a U-turn. They said, I should think care­fully whether I re­ally wanted to do it. They kept say­ing that un­til I was 20. I was too young to un­der­stand it and just in­sisted on learn­ing. They fi­nally sent me to a pi­ano pro­fes­sor at the China Cen­tral Con­ser­va­tory.”

Last Fri­day evening, the 28-year-old played a pi­ano con­certo ti­tled the Chi­nese Dream with the China Na­tional Sym­phony Orches­tra un­der the ba­ton of Hu Yongyan.

Be­cause of her par­ents’ dif­fer­ent ap­proach, Tian’s early years were per­haps dif­fer­ent from other young pi­anists such as Lang Lang and Wang Yuja, both of whom went to pri­mary and mid­dle schools at­tached to the con­ser­va­tory and went to study mu­sic in theWest at a fairly young age.

In the mean­time, Tian took a road sim­i­lar to many other Beijing kids and topped her school.

She played the pi­ano for about two or three hours a day after school and then did her home­work after 9 pm.

“I grad­u­ally un­der­stood my par­ents’ words. While be­ing a pi­anist was a good dream with great risk, solid ba­sic knowl­edge on all sub­jects could give me more choices and lead me to more pos­si­bil­i­ties in the fu­ture,” she says.

The fi­nal decision came in 2006, when she had to choose an in­sti­tu­tion for her higher stud­ies. Fol­low­ing a long fam­ily dis­cus­sion, she picked Shenyang Con­ser­va­tory where she was taught by Wei Dan­wen, one of the last stu­dents of Rus­sian-born Amer­i­can pi­anist Vladimir Samoylovich Horowitz (1903-89).

In 2010, she won a fel­low­ship to Man­hat­tan School of Mu­sic un­der the guid­ance of pi­anist Jef­frey Co­hen.

In­NewYork, Tian first lived in the house of one of her par­ents’ friends.

“It’s lonely in a for­eign coun­try and I felt great pres­sure at theMan­hat­tan School of Mu­sic. But thanks to my open mind and straight­for­ward per­son­al­ity, I tried to be op­ti­mistic,” she says. “Mu­sic is magic. It is not a lan­guage but beyond any lan­guage bar­rier. I soon made many friends by play­ing the pi­ano.”

The host fam­ily loved the young pi­anist so much that they al­lowed her to stay for two years.

Her mu­si­cal break­through came in 2011, when she won the Man­hat­tan School of Mu­sic’s Dora Zaslavsky Koch Com­pe­ti­tion. Her per­for­mance ofMozart’s Pi­ano Con­certo in D mi­nor, K 466 im­pressed the French con­duc­tor and pi­anist Philippe En­tremont, who­later in­vited her to play a con­cert with the school’s sym­phony orches­tra at the John C. Bor­den Au­di­to­rium in­Man­hat­tan School ofMu­sic.

In Septem­ber, Tian

be­came

a Stein­way Artist, join­ing a list of some of the best pi­anists in the world in­clud­ing Lang Lang and Wang Yu­jia.

In the past three years, Tian has per­formed widely in the United States, Ger­many, France and the Czech Repub­lic.

“I en­joy play­ing con­certs. The big­ger the venue and the larger the au­di­ence, I feel bet­ter,” she says. “When­ever I play a piece of mu­sic, I would imag­ine a movie scene inmy head and try to con­vey the story to the au­di­ence.”

PHOTO PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Tian Ji­axin played with the China Na­tional Sym­phony Orches­tra in Beijing last week.

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