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Wednesday, November 15, 2017, 11:05
Boost for young musicians
By Chen Nan
Wednesday, November 15, 2017, 11:05 By Chen Nan

A concert gala of the second China Youth Music Competition, based on the format of a contest in Germany, has just been staged in Beijing. Chen Nan reports.

German youngsters perform at the Beijing concert. (PHOTO BY ZOU HONG / CHINA DAILY)

When he finished playing Claude Debussy's Toccata from Pour le Piano at a concert gala recently, 11-year-old Jiang Yicheng stood up and bowed to the audience, who gave him a long and warm round of applause.

"I enjoy playing the piano and I like playing with other musicians," says Jiang, who also performed Camille Saint-Saens' Oboe Sonata in D Major, Op 166, along with 12-year-old oboist Zhi Yi.

Jiang, a Beijing native born to parents who are athletes, started learning the piano when he was about 6 years old.

This competition encourages children to play instruments with other musicians. There is fun in cooperating with others

Zhang Yong, founder of the China Youth Music Competition

He was introduced to music by his grandfather, who was a big fan of Taiwan pop star Teresa Teng.

Three years ago, the boy started learning piano with renowned pianist and educator Li Qifang.

Jiang recently won three first prizes - one for solo piano performance and two for chamber music (stringed and wind instruments) - and the second prize for piano duet performance at the second China Youth Music Competition.

The competition's Hummingbird Music Award - which was also awarded to other prize winners - was presented to him at a concert gala at the Pudu Temple, a Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) site, in Beijing on Sunday.

The China Youth Music Competition, launched in 2015, is based on the German Music Council's renowned Jugend Musiziert, the most well-known music competition for young performers in Germany, started in 1963.

At the concert gala, young German musicians, who were winners at this year's Jugend Musiziert youth competition, shared the stage with young Chinese musicians.

Munich-based pianist Clara Isabella Siegle, 17, played Johann Sebastian Bach's Flute Sonata in B Minor, BWV 1030, along with Chinese flutist Dong Danlin.

Speaking about her performance, Siegle says: "It was a spontaneous performance. Dong was supposed to perform with another pianist, who couldn't come, so I just stepped in. We did a rehearsal this morning. This is my first time in China and it's really exciting and fun to do this."

Zhang Yong, founder of the China Youth Music Competition, with Benedikt Holtbernd, artistic manager of the German Music Council. (PHOTO BY ZOU HONG / CHINA DAILY)

According to Zhang Yong, the founder of the China Youth Music Competition, eight winners at the 2017 China Youth Music Competition did a weeklong training and performance tour of Germany in September.

There, they joined the winners of the Jugend Musiziert to take part in four days of master classes in Bonn.

The young musicians from both countries then attended three concerts - one at the Chinese embassy in Bonn, the second at Beethoven House also in Bonn, and one at the city hall in Bad Honnef.

"The competition aims to promote amateur music education, so applicants should not be in full-time music training institutes or professional practice," Zhang says, adding that the China edition of the contest required applicants not to be older than 23.

In 2016, the first edition of the contest ran in Beijing and Shanghai, and attracted more than 600 applicants from across China.

This year, more than 1,100 students competed in eight cities and 410 came to Beijing for the final in July.

Jiang Yicheng performs at the gala concert in Beijing. (PHOTO BY ZOU HONG / CHINA DAILY)

"This competition encourages children to play instruments with other musicians. There is fun in cooperating with others. And technique is not the only standard here, but understanding of music as well," says Zhang.

Zhang studied pipa (a four-stringed Chinese plucked instrument) for three years before learning the oboe. He came to Beijing in 1986 to study at the affiliated middle school of the Central Conservatory of Music.

In 2006, he founded the Beijing International Music Competition, which brought together professional international musicians.

In 2014, Zhang met Benedikt Holtbernd, the artistic manager of the nonprofit arm of the German Music Council in Munich, where the Jugend Musiziert is headquartered.

Revealing how he and Zhang came to work together, Holtbernd says: "We share similar views about music and music competitions. But it took a very long time to work out the details about bringing the format of the Jugend Musiziert to China.

"However, I am glad to see talented young Chinese musicians compete not just for prizes, but also to enjoy and share music."

Contact the writer at chennan@chinadaily.com.cn

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