Music lovers in the capital enjoyed a series of concerts given by 15 international prize-winning Chinese musicians this March.
Guo Shuzhen, a soprano, won a gold medal at the 1957 Moscow Youth Festival. She is now an associate professor at the Central Conservatory of Music. At the concerts, she sang an aria from Puccini's Gianni Schicci and a sad song from The Yellow River Cantata, which is well known in China.
Li Xinchang, 48, a baritone, won a prize at the 1960 Second Schumann Vocal Competition in Berlin. He returned to China several months ago, after studying three years in Italy. His performances were very well received.
Ye Ying, a soprano, graduated from the Central Conservatory of Music sixth months ago. She is one of the promising sopranos trained after the chaotic "cultural revolution." In 1981, she won a prize at the 10th Rio de Janeiro International Vocal Competition. Ye has a smooth and graceful voice.
Two other young singers, Fu Haijing, a baritone, and Liang Ning, a mezzo-soprano, surprised London opera-goers when they sang in many different Western languages at the Benson and Hedges Gold Awards for Singers. Each came home with a prize.
Li Xuequan, 52, was the only flute player at the concerts. He has been playing first flute with the Central Philharmonic Society since he won a gold medal at the 1963 World Youth Festival in Romania. He performed Schumann's Romance Op. 94 and a piece by the young Chinese composer Huang Anlun. His fine technique and deep feeling probed all the moods of the two pieces.
Four stars of the concerts were violinists in their teens. Hu Kun is the first mainland violinist to win a prize at the 4th Sibelius Competition in Finland. He showed why he was a prize-winner with his performance of Tartini's G Minor Sonata - The Devil's Trill, a very difficult piece to play.
He Hongying and Wang Zhengrong, students at the Central Conservatory of Music, won prizes in the Yehudi Menuhin Violin Competition last year.
Xue Wei, also a student of the Central Conservatory of Music, won the third prize at the Second International Music Competition in Japan last year. His performance of Sarasate's Fantaisie based on Bizet's Carmen displayed his excellent technique.
Among the five pianists, Zhou Guangren, professor of piano at the Central Conservatory of Music, was the first prize-winning pianist of New China. She won prizes at the Third World Youth Festival in Berlin in 1951 and at the First Schumann International Piano Competition in 1956.
One of the selections Professor Zhou performed was The Cowherd and the Flute by the famous Chinese composer He Luting. In her 40-year career, begun in Shanghai at 16, she has performed this happy and graceful piece, full of folk flavour, many times at home and abroad. She played with great enthusiasm at the concert, combining a delicate style with a strict technical approach.
Liu Shikun, a featured pianist with the Central Philharmonic Society, performed Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6 by Liszt at the concerts. When Liu was 17, he won third prize at the 1956 Liszt Competition in Budapest, and was awarded a lock of Liszt's hair by the Hungarian Government.
Liu, and all the pianists, played on an instrument made by the Beijing Musical Instruments Factory. He also played the first movement of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata at the concert, just to prove the high quality of Chinese-made pianos for different kinds of music.
Two other pianists, Bao Huiqiao and Li Qifang, won prizes in Enesco competitions in the 1960s. Bao played a piece by the Romanian maestro Enesco and two pieces by Chinese composers. Her performance showed her excellent technique.
Li Qifang, who studied piano under a Polish master, played Chopin's Fantaisie in A Flat Major Op. 61. Her performances showed her full understanding of Chopin and his works, and her superb skill.
Wei Danwen, 19, a student of Li Qifang, won sixth place at the 19th Concours International Marquerite Long-Jacques Thibaud. He performed a piece by Liszt. Audiences could feel the nimble grace of his performances.
Another star of the concerts was the new grand piano, named after well-known Chinese composer Xian Xinghai (1905-45). Xinghai pianos enjoy a high reputation in China for their good sound quality and excellent action. The Beijing Musical Instruments Factory was the first to produce Chinese pianos. There are now three more piano factories in Shanghai, Guangzhou and Yingkou. Together, they produce about 14,300 pianos a year.
Note: Since the 1950s, 119 mainland musicians have won prizes at various international music competitions and festivals.