Pianist Zhang to make local debut
By Do Je-hae
Early 20th-century Hungarian composer Bela Bartok once said, “Competitions are for horses, not artists.” However, it is undeniable that contests have launched the careers of a number of aspiring artists, such as Zhang Haochen, the 2009 co-winner of the prestigious Van Cliburn Competition in Texas.
Immediately after his gold medal win, Zhang embarked on an extensive three-year international tour. He will make his Korean debut in Seoul next month, performing with the China National Symphony Orchestra on Aug. 23 at Seoul Arts Center.
Orgazined by the Kumho Asiana Cultural Foundation, the concert marks the 20th anniversary of Korea-China diplomatic relations.
For Korean piano fans, he has been known more as the pianist who beat Korean Son Yeol-eum, who took the silver medal in the same competition. Since the Van Cliburn Competition, Zhang has been working with the world’s foremost orchestras including the Philadelphia Orchestra and the London Philharmonic.
“Zhang combines extraordinary technique and sensitivity. He is one of the star pianists to emerge from China after Lang Lang,’” said Lee Ji-young, an official with the Kumho Asiana Cultural Foundation.
Besides being of the same nationality, the 21-year-old shares the same teacher as Lang Lang and Yuja Wang, another Chinese pianist increasingly seen at major concert halls and music festivals in Europe and the U.S.
They have all been trained by Gary Graffman, the legendary teacher at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia.
In 2006, Zhang made his debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra performing Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto. Two years later, at the age of 18, he made his Carnegie Hall debut with the New York Youth Symphony performing Mozart’s D minor Concerto (K.466).
Zhang has an extensive repertoire ranging from Baroque to contemporary works. For his Seoul debut, he will play the “Yellow River Concerto.”
This piano concerto and the “Butterfly Lovers’ Violin Concerto” are two internationally known Chinese works that combine Western music methodology with Chinese folk stories. The four-movement concerto consists of 1. Prelude: The Song of the Yellow River Boatmen; 2.Ode to the Yellow River; 3.The Yellow River In Anger; and 4.Defend the Yellow River. The piece is known for the difficult solo section that it contains.
In the second part of the concert, the China National Symphony Orchestra will play Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36, written between 1877 and 1878.
Despite critical early reviews, the symphony has become a staple of orchestral repertoire, and remains one of the most frequently performed symphonies of the late 19th century.
The orchestra was originally founded as the Central Philharmonic Orchestra of China in 1956. As China’s national orchestra, it has performed with renowned conductors and soloists from around the world, including conductors Seiji Ozawa, Kurt Masur, Charles Dutoit and pianist Martha Argerich and cellist Yo Yo Ma, among others.
The orchestra is currently led by Li Xincao, who has led the Orchestra to top music venues such as the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, The Lincoln Art Center in New York, Sydney Opera House, among others, since 1999. Born in North China’s Hebei Province in 1971, he has also been serving as the principal conductor of the Busan Philharmonic Orchestra based in Korea’s second largest city.