Young cel­list wows au­di­ences at home­land con­certs

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SUNDAY KALEIDOSCOPE - By CHEN NAN chennan@chi­

Feng Yao was a lit­tle bit anx­ious be­fore he stepped onto the stage of the Art Li­brary at the Na­tional Center for Per­form­ing Arts on Dec 15. In­deed, for a young cel­list who has spent most of his life liv­ing and per­form­ing in Ger­many, to give a solo show in his home­land was a chal­lenge.

He opened his show with a piece rarely per­formed in China — Beethoven’s seven vari­a­tions on theme from Mozart’s The Magic Flute. The theme comes from the duet Bei Man­nern, welche Liebe fuhlen (In Men Who Know the Feel­ing of Love).

“The piece is sung by so­pra­nos as praise of the love be­tween hus­band and wife, and I made some changes to adapt it to cello,” he said be­fore he played the mu­sic. “It is Beethoven’s long de­sire to find a soul mate and he scored the vari­a­tions for cello and pi­ano, which sounds like the di­a­logue be­tween hus­band and wife.”

Dur­ing the two-hour per­for­mance, Feng played his in­stru­ment while ex­plain­ing the mu­sic pieces, in­clud­ing Tchaikovsky’s An­dante Cantabile, Rach­mani­noff ’s Cello Sonata in G Mi­nor Op19 III An­dante and As­tor Pi­az­zolla’s Le Grand Tango. He also played Sain­tSaens’ The Swan and ded­i­cated it to his mother, who came to his show at the NCPA that day.

Af­ter Feng fin­ished his last note and lifted his bow, he saw a full-house au­di­ence clap­ping. Some peo­ple were stand­ing.

Later, he was told that not only had some pro­fes­sion­als come to his show but also lu­mi­nar­ies who do not work in his field, such as rock mu­si­cians and film­mak­ers, as well as or­di­nary peo­ple who have an in­ter­est in cello and clas­si­cal mu­sic.

“I didn’t ex­pect that au­di­ences in China would grow so fast. Their warm feed­back made me ex­cited on­stage,” says Feng, 32.

Study­ing at The Univers ity of Mu­sic Det­mold, one of Ger­many’s lead­ing mu­sic schools, from 18, Feng has been the prin­ci­pal cel­list of the Sch­leswig-Hol­stein Sym­phony Orches­tra since 2008.

He de­cided to re­turn to China af­ter per­form­ing with sev­eral sym­phony or­ches­tras at the NCPA a few years ago. The boom­ing clas­si­cal mu­sic scene in the coun­try prompts the cel­list to re­turn fre­quently.

The show at the NCPA two weeks ago was his first at­tempt at blend­ing his elab­o­ra­tion and play­ing. His sec­ond stop will be on Jan 4 at Ul­lens Center for Con­tem­po­rary Art.

“I like adapt­ing mu­sic pieces, Changchun, the cap­i­tal city of Jilin prov­ince. Liu per­suaded Feng’s par­ents be­cause he be­lieved in the kid’s tal­ent.

Four years later, Liu took the 9-year-old Feng to Bei­jing to ap­ply to the pri­mary school af­fil­i­ated to the Cen­tral Con­ser­va­tory of Mu­sic. Feng then be­gan learn­ing with renowned cel­lists, in­clud­ing Zhou You and Chen Yuan.

“Liu in­flu­enced me a lot and be­cause of his train­ing, I al­ways want to chal­lenge my­self and find out my po­ten­tial,” Feng re­calls.

That’s why he gave up en­roll­ment in the Cen­tral Con­ser­va­tory of Mu­sic and went to Ger­many in 2001, where he stud­ied with Wolf­gang Emanuel Sch­midt, one of the world’s lead­ing cel­lists.

The early days were not easy for Feng, since the lessons and ap­proach were dif­fer­ent in Ger­many than in China.

“Sch­midt gave me some sim­ple pieces to prac­tice again and again. I didn’t un­der­stand and asked him. Later I knew that he didn’t want to pol­ish my skills but to make me feel the emo­tion and to find my own style,” Feng says.

One of the hap­pi­est things for Feng was play­ing at var­i­ous mu­sic fes­ti­vals, where he could meet young mu­si­cians from all over the world. He re­al­ized that what makes a mu­si­cian suc­cess­ful is to dis­play his per­sonal charisma on­stage to iden­tify his style.

“As a cel­list from China, I have a dif­fer­ent per­son­al­ity and cul­tural back­ground from Western mu­si­cians. Those are my ad­van­tages and I am try­ing to merge those trea­sures into my play­ing,” he says.


Feng Yao is touched by the en­thu­si­asm of the do­mes­tic clas­si­cal mu­sic scene.

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