Pianist conductor in one

By Michelle Qiao (Shanghai Daily)
Updated: 2007-04-24 10:19
Pianist conductor in oneChinese pianist Xu Zhong will play the piano and conduct the Orchestre de Cannes simultaneously on Friday night.

He will sit at the piano facing the orchestra, playing and conducting Beethoven's "Piano Concerto No. 2 in B Flat Major Op. 19" and "Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major Op. 15" .

The repertoire will be the same he played in Cannes on April 12. "Compared with Mozart and Haydn concerts, the Beethoven concerts are more challenging to conduct and play the piano at the same time because the scale of orchestra is as big as that for a symphony," says Xu, 39. "I have to use my right hand to conduct while my left hand playing has to be as natural and expressive as usual."

Xu learned conducting with French conductor Philippe Entremont after his piano study with French maestro Dominique Merlot at Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique de Paris in 1993.

Working as Entremont's assistant, Xu conducted the Vienna Chamber Orchestra for his teacher during rehearsals. But his official conducting career started only recently. He conducted the China Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra during the Beijing International Music Festival last October. It received positive reviews. After that he conducted the Taipei Symphony Orchestra, the Shanghai Philharmonic in cooperation with Finland cello maestro Arto Noras, and the Orchestre de Cannes. He received many conducting offers.

"Piano is the king of the instruments and can imitate many others," says Xu. "But it's such a great joy to conduct an orchestra and actually control so many instruments, hearing their sounds coming out." He said some maestros have playing and conducting simultaneously, such as Leonard Bernstein and Andre Previn. Conductor Herbert von Karajan made an impressive recording playing an antique piano with the Berliner Philharmoniker and violinist Annie Sophie-Mutter.

After Xu's concert, the Orchestre de Cannes will play another concert under the baton of French conductor Philippe Bender featuring Ravel's "Tombeau de Couperin," Mendelssohn's "Violin Concerto" and Beethoven's "Symphony No. 1 in C Major Op. 21."

"The French orchestra produces a very soft, mellow sound with fine, high-quality textures," says Xu. "I'm good at French music because I've learned piano and conducting in France. Playing and conducting simultaneously has given me the greatest satisfaction ever."

Before his conducting debut, Shanghai-born Xu established himself as a pianist and collaborated with Entremont, Sergiu Commissiona, Paul Badura-Skoda, Arie Vardi, Vladimir Krainev and Lazar Berman, among others.

He has won numerous international competitions and the founding member of the Shanghai International Piano Competition.

Date: April 27-28, 7:30pm
Tickets: 80-580 yuan
Venue: Shanghai Oriental Arts Center, 425 Dingxiang Rd, Pudong
Tel: 962-288