Zhang returns to Strings | SteamboatToday.com

Zhang returns to Strings

Festival presents international piano competition gold medalist

Nicole Inglis

— In Haochen Zhang's first memory of playing piano, he was crying.

He was 4, and his mother physically placed him on the piano bench in his teacher's studio in Shanghai, China.

He cried through the first few pieces, but by the time he finished, he didn't want to back away from the instrument that would become his life and livelihood.

A year later he performed for 1,400 people as a kindergartner, and by age 15 he had moved to the United States to study at the Curtis Institute of Music.

"I didn't practice that much," Zhang said about his early days. "It was a natural thing for me. But when I got older and grew up, then I had to think about what to work on and I realized the depth of the music, rather than just the surface of the notes."

In 2009, Zhang was named co-gold medalist in the prestigious Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.

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Now 20, Zhang will play the Strings Music Pavilion for the second year in a row tonight. The show begins at 7 p.m., and tickets are $40 for adults and $5 for children.

The program features work by renowned composers Frederic Chopin, Johannes Brahms and Igor Stravinksy.

Zhang said the first half of the program, Chopin's "Ballades," is a poetic and emotional journey.

"Each poem has a different story," Zhang said of the four "Ballades." "But the story's not the most important part; the most important part is the poetic sense.

"(Chopin) is known for his sense of poetry in the piano. It's not very heavy, but each of them has a little melancholy side."

After Chopin and a brief intermission, Zhang will perform Brahms' "Klavierstücke, Op. 119," which Zhang said holds more emotional weight.

"It's a very deep piece," he said. "It's one of his later works and one of his most famous piano pieces. Chopin and Brahms are both very emotional, but their romanticism is exposed in very different ways.

"Brahms' beauty is in the core of music. He holds back those emotions. It's very deep and introverted."

Stravinsky, on the other hand, is a completely different story.

Technical, fast and virtuosic, Zhang said the "Three Movements from Petrushka" will be fun and enjoyable for the audience.

Jennifer Shea, Strings Music Festival director of marketing and development, said Zhang's performance will be a "night not to miss."

"Last year's was an absolutely phenomenal performance," Shea said. "This one will be a pure recital. He's the top of his field and he has tremendous artistry and emotion when playing. And, not to mention, he's flawless."

Zhang said he looks forward to his return to the Strings stage.

"Playing music here in the summer is very fun," he said. "The audience was incredibly enthusiastic last year and I'm looking forward to warmth of the audience and the beauty of the place."

— To reach Nicole Inglis, call 871-4204 or e-mail ninglis@steamboatpilot.com

If you go

What: Haochen Zhang, concert pianist, performing works by Brahms, Chopin and Stravinsky

When: 7 p.m. today

Where: Strings Music Pavilion at Pine Grove and Mount Werner roads

Cost: $40 for adults, $5 for children

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