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

"Because of cultural differences, it is difficult for most Chinese to understand German and Austrian music, yet Chinese are quite receptive to Chopin's music as it is full of poetic feelings and appeals to their aesthetic tastes," said Li Min, Dean of the Piano Department of the China Conservatory in Beijing, explaining why the Chinese love Chopin more.

HOME OF THE MASTER: Music lovers visit the former residence of Chopin in Poland (MA SHIJUN)

A pianist who graduated from China's Central Conservatory of Music (CCM), Li considers, besides style, the strong national feeling embodied in Chopin's music arouses resonance among the Chinese. For example, he said, Chopin's mazurkas and other dance music, as well as elements of Poland's national music in his ballades, preludes and sonatas impress upon people the composer's deep love for his nation.

Having also experienced dark colonial days, the Chinese well understand such a strong patriotic complex in Chopin's works, said Yu Runyang, former President of CCM and a prestigious Chopin scholar. It was coincidence the most mature pieces of Chopin featuring strong feelings of sadness, indignation and heroism were written in the 1840s, when the Chinese people were also undergoing trauma caused by foreign aggression.

Yu went to Poland to further his music studies 40 years ago, which helped deepen his understanding of Chopin, his favorite Western classical music maestro.

"The spiritual world unfolded in Chopin's music is extremely rich, and all kinds of feelings and passions were embodied in his unique, delicate and personal musical language, which made him a significant contributor to European Romantic music," he said.

Persistent influence

Chopin's music has been understood and loved ever since it was introduced to China. The first Chopin concert in China was held in the early 1930s in Shanghai, which shows his music was already very popular then among Chinese musicians, noted scholars.

In 1945, Columbia Pictures released a biographical film about Chopin, A Song to Remember, which was also shown in China and considered to have enabled a close empathy for the composer with the Chinese audience.

In 1955, China for the first time sent a pianist to participate in the International Frederic Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw. Chinese pianist Fu Cong took third place and also won a special Mazurka Prize for his mastery of that compositional rhythm. It was the first time a pianist from the East to win major prizes at the competition.

With the increase in Chopin's popularity, many books about him and his music have been published in China, and research on Chopin has also made progress. Up to now, most scores of Chopin have been published in China.

The composer's music has also inspired contemporary artists' creations. Taiwan's pop star Jay Chou is a big fan of Chopin. His album November's Chopin released in 2005 reflected an obvious influence, and the opening track Nocturne was dedicated to the maestro.

As greater numbers of Chinese children are embarking on learning to play the piano, the 19th century Romantic composer will surely continue to exert a growing influence on China's coming generations.

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