Zhan Hong Xiao
On Radio-Canada’s Virtuose
By Olivier Gentil
“For me, music is the highest form of communication, the highest form of language.”
This 17-year-old piano prodigy came to Quebec’s attention when he appeared on Radio-Canada’s Virtuose, broadcast last spring and hosted by Gregory Charles. At the end of the show he played the fourth movement of the Piano Concerto in E flat by Liszt. “I only entered by chance, because my prof told me about it,” he recalls. “I was surprised to be selected!” And he doesn’t regret it in the least. “There was nothing to worry about, it was all so well organized. His team and the other candidates were wonderful and I met some lovely people. Gregory is very open and gave me a lot of advice!”
Unlike many pianists, Zhan Hong started late, at age nine. He was at Notre-Dame-des-Neiges primary school, where he joined the Petits Chanteurs du Mont-Royal. In his third year of secondary school he applied to the Conservatoire de Montréal, which he entered the following year. Today he is still there, under the tutelage of a certain esteemed teacher: “When they asked me who I wanted to study with, I said Richard Raymond!”
As for his future, Zhan Hong intends to continue studying and to enter different international music competitions, including the highly-regarded Warsaw Chopin Competition. “Just to take part in a competition with such a long history! It would be such an honour, not necessarily to win, just to be part of the event!” For him, the Romantic period was when music freed itself from any constraints on the composer’s personality and inventiveness, when musicians such as Chopin and Liszt conveyed emotion through music. In this sense, going to Warsaw is symbolic as the competition is dedicated to the Romantic period.
The young artist is clear when he talks about his passion for music: “I can’t imagine the world without it,” he says. “When you play, you have to enjoy the moment, just concentrate on the music. You need to be honest with yourself and your instrument, be at one with the experience. Because in the end, it’s the music that benefits!”