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The ivory keys to success

By Chen Nan | China Daily Global | Updated: 2024-03-05 08:37

Pianist Yin Chengzong (front), 83, accompanied by the Xiamen Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of conductor Yin Jong-jie, performs his most famous piano concerto The Yellow River, at the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing on Thursday. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Pianist recounts famous performances as he continues to enthrall audiences, Chen Nan reports.

Pianist Yin Chengzong cannot remember how many times he has played The Yellow River, which is considered the first Chinese piano concerto, and which he co-arranged on the cantata of the same name by famous composer Xian Xinghai (1905-1945) in 1969, before premiering it in 1970.

But he is aware of the fact that the concerto, which made him a household name in China, has accompanied him for the last five decades and reflects the highs and lows of his life.

On Wednesday, a day before his concert at the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing, the 83-year-old appeared at the iconic venue. He was ready to talk about The Yellow River again since he was going to play the piece during the concert alongside the Xiamen Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of conductor Yin Jong-jie.

"I have played the concerto thousands of times but my story with it has not finished yet," says Yin Chengzong. "The young conductor (Yin Jong-jie) is 60 years younger than me, but we have a great time doing rehearsals and performing together. He inspired me to improve the concerto in a great way."

On Feb 26, Yin Chengzong, along with Yin Jong-jie and the Xiamen Philharmonic Orchestra, performed together in Xiamen, Fujian province, kicking off a national tour. For this ongoing tour, the pianist added the traditional Chinese musical instrument, the erhu (a traditional two-stringed bowed instrument), into the first movement, the Yellow River Boatman's Song, for the first time.

"The sound of the erhu goes straight to the hearts of Chinese audiences, a feeling that cannot be obtained with the sound of a violin, which we usually used in the first movement. We also have a pipa (a four-stringed Chinese lute) and a bamboo flute in the third and fourth movements, which portray the scenes of the sunrise at Yan'an (revolutionary base of the Communist Party of China) and the scene of the battlefield," says Yin Chengzong, adding that the pipa and bamboo flute appeared in early versions of the concerto, and were replaced by the trumpet and violin later.

"I have listened to the piano concerto many times by different pianists, but it feels right only when he (Yin Chengzong) plays it," says Yin Jong-jie.

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