Music Bridging Cultural Gaps In Hong Kong people look down on those from 'the mainland'.
Historically the Cantonese have been inclined to assume mainlanders
are coarse, ill educated and tactless; this unfair stereotyping
continues to this day. Still, despite the pianist's mainland-Chinese
background, the Cultural Centre was packed for his concert. He was the
youngest gold medallist in the history of the Chopin International
Piano Competition, and this was enough to intrigue Hong Kong
audiences. I watched him and the Philharmonic live on television.
At the start of the concert the pianist walked into the room to a
smattering of polite applause. He gave a quick bow, flashing the
yellowed teeth so often associated with mainlanders. His long hair had
been slicked back with gel and his face powdered white. He shifted the
piano bench slightly with his hands before sitting down.
The violins began the concerto, bowing with heavy sforzando. The oboes
joined the violins, crooning sadly, and then the flutes
flutter-tongued in the upper register. The full orchestra, in all its
grandeur, sang. Chopin's Concerto no. 1 in E minor resonated in the
concert hall, reverberating off the walls. Chopin was a Romantic, and
Romantic music is by definition very emotional and expressive.
He sat quietly and listened to them, nodding in time. He used no
music: he had memorized the whole of the forty-minute concerto.
Gradually the orchestra approached the climax of the piece; his
shoulders tensed and he flexed his fingers. Right before the zenith,
they paused. Then he started to play.
His fingers were long, white and very thin. They leaped and bounded,
then pounced like cats. They were removed from the pianist, separate
entities, drawing their life from the very keyboard they played.
Sometimes he opened his eyes and smiled at the air, eyes distant,
focused only on the music. The eyes were wild, open but not seeing
anything. They had an intensity that was almost frightening. He had
left our world and entered his own, far from us all.
Technically his music was faultless. His scales were clear-cut and his
timing precise. Emotionally his music was a masterpiece. He understood
completely the mood of the piece, and captured it brilliantly. Every
note was pulsing with energy and fervour. He was leaning forward in
concentration, eyes closed, brow furrowed. His head swayed like a
snake, bending with the notes. He was possessed, bewitched, crazy.
Sweat trickled through his hair and down his face, but he was
oblivious. He did not know and he did not care-he only played and
played, played like his life depended on the song's perfection.
There was a lull in the music, and the flow broke for a brief moment
while the orchestra played...