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UPDATED: May 17, 2010 NO. 20 MAY 20, 2010
China Celebrates Chopin
Toasting the 200th anniversary of the great Polish composer's birth

PIANO PRINCE: Li Yundi plays during a rehearsal before the evening gala concert marking the 200th anniversary of Chopin's birth in Warsaw on March 1, 2010 (CFP)

March 1 marked the 200th birthday of the famous Polish composer Frederic Franciszek Chopin (1810-49). Music lovers throughout the world will dedicate 2010 to the Romantic poet of the piano.


On May 15, a Chopin concert by Chinese piano prodigy Li Yundi was staged in Beijing, a highlight of China's yearlong celebrations for the 200th anniversary of the composer's birth.

The performance, also the first leg of the young pianist's worldwide tour spreading the music of the great composer, was held at the newly built National Center for the Performing Arts (NCPA), where the nationwide celebrations for the musician's 200th birthday were launched on December 7 last year.

Known as the "prince of the piano," Li is considered as one of the best of today's interpreters of Chopin's music in China and is also regarded as sharing a similar temperament to Chopin. In 2000, Li won the first prize at the International Frederic Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw at the age of 18, becoming one of the youngest winners of the competition ever and also the first in 15 years to be awarded a first prize at the prestigious event.

Before his Chopin concert at the NCPA, Li released a new album Chopin: Nocturnes in April, to convey his respect for the great master's anniversary. Talking about the new album, the accomplished pianist said concentrating on the composer's famous pieces had given him a deeper understanding of the Romantic musician.

"These pieces represent the composer's style.The music is so lyrical and beautiful, and is also quite easy to understand. The pieces are very accessible to listeners," Li said.

Besides the events in which Li was involved, many other celebration activities have been and will continue to be held in China, as part of the global commemorations.

The special celebrations in China, with the curtain coming down on December 10 this year, feature a series of Chopin concerts presented by a stellar list of pianists from home and abroad, as well as exhibitions, movies, dramas and other events about Chopin's life and music, with the aim of helping the Chinese better understand this musician of the Romantic era.

Cooperating with the Chopin 2010 Celebrations Committee of Poland, the NCPA has invited 14 of the world's piano maestros, including Italy's Maurizio Pollini, Russian conductor and virtuoso pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy and Japanese jazz pianist Makoto Ozone, to interpret Chopin's classics at the grand theater in 15 concerts. Nine of these famous pianists have won the International Frederic Chopin Piano Competition.

Such a large-scale celebration for a foreign musician reflects the deep impact Chopin has made on music lovers in China, where Western classical music is still looked as an art form for a small audience and far from the lives of ordinary people.

Synonym for piano

Many Chinese, especially the young, know the name of Chopin. For them, the name of Chopin equals "piano." Quite a few people in China are able to hum the tunes of some of Chopin's masterpieces, though most of them may not be able to say what the names of these pieces are. In reality, Chopin is one of only a few Western classical musicians with whom Chinese people are familiar.

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