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A key moment

By Chen Nan | China Daily | Updated: 2022-05-11 07:55
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Pianist An Tianxu, 23, has released his debut album featuring works by three Russian composers. [Photo provided to China Daily]

In 2019, a terrible mistake was made during the final of the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Russia, leaving Chinese pianist An Tianxu in a nightmare scenario onstage.

An, 20 years old at the time, took to the stage with the understanding that he was going to play Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No 1, which would be followed by Rachmaninov's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. However, the organizing committee of the competition gave the conductor and orchestra the wrong order of play. When the performance started, the orchestra struck up Rachmaninov's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini while An was expecting them to play the Tchaikovsky piece.

The stress and horror for the soloist in such a situation is hard to imagine. However, the pianist soon adjusted himself and responded quickly, switching to the piece being played by the orchestra. After his performance, An won the fourth prize and was also given a special prize for courage and restraint.

Three years on, An recalls that competition and the mix-up vividly.

"After I realized the mistake, I only had one thing on my mind, that was to keep the show going. Now when I look back, my ability to react quickly was the result of my good muscle memory, which was based on my daily practice," says An.

He considers the "nightmare" as a great learning experience, though, which has helped hone his ability to cope with sudden stress. He also feels grateful that, because of the events which unfolded at the competition, many people got to know him and he received many opportunities to perform with established symphony orchestras.

On April 27, the 23-year-old pianist just wrapped up his graduation recital held at the Curtis Institute of Music, where he studied from 2015-22. He performed pieces by various composers, including Mozart, Johannes Brahms and Robert Schumann, displaying his versatility as a pianist.

"The recital is the conclusion of my study at the Curtis Institute of Music. During the past seven years, I learned to play a large number of new musical works, which is good training for a young pianist," says An.

In April, the pianist also released his debut album, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov& Prokofiev, featuring pieces by the eponymous Russian composers.

As he says, the new album, recorded in August in Xinghai Concert Hall in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, was inspired by his days preparing for the International Tchaikovsky Competition.

"Ever since I was a child, I loved reading books by Russian writers and listening to music by Russian composers," says An, who read War and Peace, a classic novel by the Russian writer Leo Tolstoy, at 12 years old. "Both their literature and music are romantic, beautiful and epic. Those music pieces allow listeners to have different feelings-a touch of velvet, a sonorous-voiced narration or glittering gold."

Starting to learn to play the piano at the age of 5, An grew up by playing and listening to Tchaikovsky's music works. The composer's pieces, October and November from The Seasons Op 37a, Meditation and Scherzo-fantaisie from Eighteen Pieces, Op 72 are featured on his new album.

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