If Playing the Piano is Important to You, Please Read On.


Last Sunday I enjoyed a piano concert presented by Dang Thai Son, the winner of the prestigious International Chopin Piano Competition (the Tenth). I was hesitant in going as I had been feeling quite sick for a few days, but I was tremendously glad that I went after all.

As I was sitting there waiting for the concert to commence, I felt somewhat fidgety and agitated, thinking perhaps it be a bad idea to attend a serious classical piano concert all so quietly when I might just pass out anytime due to extreme exhaustion and strange sickness, and it might be better for me to leave after the first half of the concert… Then the pianist came out onto the stage and started playing.

He commenced the concert with Schumann’s “Fantasiestücke”, Op.12 (which meant that I needed to stay for the second half, which was all Chopin, what the pianist was famous for obviously). The soothing tone of “Des Abends” floated in the thin air of the concert hall, which should have been occupied with much more audiences than now. The “Aufschwung” reminded me of some fine moments of me teaching an old student with brilliant technique some years ago… The “In der Nacht” spoke intensely again the relentless effort of Robert’s expression of great love for Clara…The rendition of Liszt’s “Two Legends” was marvelous. The first piece was played heavenly, the tone being out-of-the-world kind. In such fine hour of beautiful music and mesmerising performance, my pain and worry seemed to gradually fade away. I was feeling calmer and at peace with myself and the surrounding. Perhaps music healed…

Second half of the concert was even better. It was all Chopin and the program was wonderful, ranging from Mazurka to Scherzo and Polonaise. As I was sitting there listening, I occasionally gazed up to the ceiling of the hall, or I closed my eyes; I saw these beautiful images inspired by such wondrous playing of Chopin’s music poetry. The title of “piano poet” was crowned most appropriately upon Dang (the other pianist I could think of immediately would be Krystian Zimmermann). It was not only the playing that was poetic; the elegant movement of the pianist was quite enjoyable to watch.

The whole concert was concluded satisfactorily with a few rounds of applause and an encore of brilliant yet effortlessly-looking rendition of Debussy’s “Feux d’artifice” .

There are two thoughts that linger in my head after this concert. One, I need to practice. All those beautiful touches and gestures Dang did in his playing inspire me to try my hands on them as well. “Wow, this is a nice touch.” , “Oh, I never thought one could do this here!”, etc etc.

Another thought is, how many years, days and hours of hard work and practice has this pianist put in for such playing of artistry? (I mean, I know how much time and effort I had put during my student years, so, to get to this level of playing, for me is almost unimaginable.) And, how big of a population these days is it out there that truly appreciates pure classical music performance such as this one? If – no offense- but you compare a basketball player or a pop singer who doesn’t even put as much time and effort in his/her profession and can gain so much more financial reward and social recognition, then why do we as classical musicians, especially those who are not at the topmost level, still insist on learning and perfecting our Music and Artistry?

I know the answer.

We, including me, and you my readers and my students, who play any instruments (or sing) at any level for however long or short period of time, have a responsibility to keep this Art alive, no matter how small our contribution it might be. This Pure Art form has to be maintained and passed along through generations and generations as long as human shall live. Because, when you just sit there and truly listen, enjoy and appreciate this art form, you can sense that there is still True Pure Beauty in this world of chaos and distress. And then, you would understand why you have to live and keep on going even when there is ugliness at times in people and in the surrounding. And you also know that, no matter what level you are playing the piano right now, no matter how many obstacles you are encountering in your playing and your life, you must keep going. Because, you are responsible for keeping this Art and Beauty alive. Yes, you are and I am as well. So, for those who are in the middle of doubt and at the verge of giving up, I urge you, please, don’t. Persevere. Continue. Because if you stop now, the path to Truth is gone and you will never see the Beauty again. However, if you decide to continue and keep moving forward, one day, you will see the Light and Wonder of this Artistry, whether in yourself and in others. Frankly, if you don’t even get to a certain level of musicality, you would never understand why I feel so touched by Dang’s playing or so blessed every single day surrounded by students and musicians locally and globally.
When you know more, you appreciate more. So that’s how we should do it, my students. Again, you are all responsible to keep this Music alive and show others just how wonderful and beautiful it is.

Your smallest contribution does count.

Teresa Wong

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