Yin Cheng-tsung, the 20-year-old pianist who won the second prize at the Second International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, has taken musical Peking by storm. It was a triumphal return to his native land. At his first recital given in the Shoudu Theatre, he repeated many of the items which he played during the first and second rounds of the contest and which earned him an average of 24 points plus (the top mark was 25) placing him in the lead at that stage with Vladimir Ashkenazi of the Soviet Union, winner of the competition. These included Mozart's Sonata in C Major, Tchaikovsky's Dumka, Scriabin's Etude in C Minor, Rachmaninoff's Etude in E Minor, Chopin's Etude in A Minor, and Liszt's Etude in F Minor and Tarantella. He had to play four encores at the insistence of the audience even after he had been presented with a big basket of flowers by the Soviet Ambassador S.V. Chervonenko. At his second appearance, at the Cultural Palace of Nationalities, he got a standing ovation from a capacity crowd for his brilliant rendering of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 and Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 which he had also played at the contest.
Yin Cheng-tsung has tremendous power and technical accomplishment. But his style is refined, warm and never showy. He has a mastery over the whole gamut of sound that is truly phenomenal. He can swell to a ringing fortissimo or diminish to a velvety pianissimo with excellent control. An outstanding characteristic is the song-like quality of his playing; he caresses a melody and makes his percussive instrument sing gloriously. It is for this quality of his playing, that he has been called a "poet of the keyboard." Critics regard him as one of the lineal musical descendants of Konstantin N. Igumnoff, founder of one of the most important Russian schools of pianoforte playing. There is good reason for this. His present teacher, T.P. Kravchenko, studied with Lev Oborin, one of Igumnoff's most celebrated pupils.
Yin Cheng-tsung's understanding of the Russian romanticists (Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff and others) is remarkable, considering that he has been studying in the Soviet Union for only two years. He has made good use of every opportunity to gain a thorough understanding of the Russian spirit, studying Russian folklore and literature, visiting museums and art galleries and going to concerts to hear all of the greatest living performing artists visiting or living in Leningrad. He speaks with deepest gratitude of Professor Krav-chenko whom he described as "not only a distinguished pedagogue, but a warmhearted friend who always inspires and helps one shape a performance." It was Kravchenko who helped prepare Yin Cheng-tsung for the Tchaikovsky competition.
A native of Kulangyu, Yin Cheng-tsung showed a musical bent at an early age. He taught himself the works of Schubert, Chopin, Mosz-kowski and others and played in his first concert at the age of nine. His talent came to the attention of the Amoy branch of the Union of Chinese Musicians which sent him in 1954 to get a formal musical education in Shanghai. He studied in Shanghai and later in Peking at the music school attached to the Central Conservatory under experienced teachers, both Chinese and Soviet. They included the distinguished Soviet pianist Tatulian. Since 1958, however, he has been studying under Kravchenko first at China's Central Conservatory of Music where Kravchenko was then teaching, later in Leningrad. His swift progress may be seen from the fact that when he started taking formal lessons as a pupil at the music school of the Shanghai Conservatory in 1954, many other contestants in the second Tchaikovsky competition were already international prize winners.
In his school days in China, Yin Cheng-tsung was a diligent worker, a straight 5 (the top mark) pupil and a good sportsman (sprinter, third class). He was and still is a member of the Communist Youth League.
His first major success outside China was scored at the Seventh World Youth Festival in Vienna in 1959 at which he won a gold medal with his playing of Beethoven's Sonata Appassionata, Schubert's Impromptu in G Major, a Mozart sonata and other pieces. That same year he toured Finland. In the following year he entered the Leningrad Conservatoire as a first-year student. Before and after the Tchaikovsky competition, he toured extensively in the Soviet Union and made recordings. He will be going back to resume his studies at Leningrad in August and is scheduled for another concert circuit in October and again in January next in Moscow, Minsk, Odessa and other big cities in the Soviet Union.