Our jury member Xiaohan Wang certainly knows the meaning of endurance, perseverance and the sense accomplishment as their reward. He has won several prestigious piano competitions, including the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, and recorded Bach’s monumental Goldberg Variations. He currently serves as Artistic Director in the Arthur Rubinstein International Youth Piano Competition and the Singapore International Piano Competition, has recently been appointed Head of Piano at the Tianjin Juilliard School Pre-College, Professor of Chamber Music for post-graduates. He also teaches as a piano professor at the Beijing Central Conservatory of Music.
This pandemic is testing everyone’s endurance. How are you using this time during isolation and social distancing? Taken up anything new? Learning new works?
In the onslaught of the current brutal pandemic, every human’s patience and resilience are put into test. I, like many of my friends, have been forced into self-quarantine at home. Needless to say, meeting up with friends is out of the question, but over time it has made me settle into a kind of a calm state of mind, enabling me to spend my time focusing on reading, exercising, learning new repertoire and revisiting old ones. What’s more, I can now spend more time with my two beloved cats!
You’re well known for your performances and recordings of very long works like Bach’s Goldberg Variations. What inspired you to take on that challenge? Is it like a marathon? How do you feel at the end of such a performance feat?
I would like to talk about my journey and my relationship with Bach’s Goldberg Variations. I was 12 when I heard it for the first time, from a 1981 recording by Glenn Gould, and have fallen in love with it ever since. I deeply feel that this music is imbedded in my blood and veins. Yet it was not until I was 25 that I started learning this piece, which took me two months. I still remember the nervousness and excitement when I performed it for the first time. It was as if traveling on a musical odyssey, experiencing the entire spectrum of humanity. At the end of each of my performance, there is always an indescribable sense of accomplishment and gratification.
What words of encouragement or philosophy to you use to motivate your students on their journey?
I often tell my students that we play piano because we love music. An artist’s journey is life-long. Only through our genuine love of music can we keep learning and keep living a life of vitality and motivation, all the way to our golden age. A burning desire for knowledge, an unwavering courage to face challenges, and a strong threshold for hardship are the three key ingredients for a meaningful life as an artist.
Are you looking forward to returning to Sydney in 2021 for the competition? What are you looking forward to?
2021 will mark my third visit to Sydney, a city that I particularly love. And the Sydney International Piano Competition is regarded as one of the most esteemed competitions in the world. Hence, I am filled with expectations to come to hear the best music performances, for it has always been my firm belief that the fundamental reason for holding such competitions is to discover top talents and true musicians.