From the Heart
Fou Ts'ong: I have been to various competitions throughout the world, but have never seen one like this. You can feel the spirit of Chopin here and appreciate the huge possibilities for interpretation his music offers. I feel that we have a new generation of excellent pianists. Each of the finalists plays in a different way. I cannot point to my favourite and say he or she is perfect because Chopin's music is so multidimensional; everyone can find and demonstrate something different in it. But truth is the most important thing. In music, there's no place for insincerity and lies, and unfortunately some pianists (I did not vote for them) are technically perfect, their playing seems wonderful, but it is insincere. My father used to say that it is the person first, then the artist, later the musician, and only finally comes the pianist. If someone is lying, they are neither a person nor an artist, but merely a pianist. I have learned a lot here, collected many good and bad experiences.
Are those your main evaluation criteria?
To be a member of the Jury, you have to fulfil three conditions. First, you must be an expert in music. Second, you have to be able to stand in another person's shoes, show understanding to the performer. The third condition, also very important, is the way you perceive. You cannot evaluate participants only according to your own preferences. Of course, at a concert or competition, I try to understand what a pianist is presenting, and follow his or her narrative. Each artist follows their own logic and intuition.
What do you remember about when you took part in the Chopin Competition in 1955?Then, just as this year, the Jury consisted of numerous acclaimed artists. I have many wonderful memories from that time. But I also remember that I did something wrong by practicing a little too much before the Competition and my fingers hurt really badly, which is why I did not do so well in the first round. In addition, I did not have enough time to warm up, as it turned out I had to play at 10am instead of at noon, because two people before me withdrew.
You received an award for the mazurkas. Where did you learn them, where did you find your inspiration?
I can still remember the recordings of Ignacy Friedman. In China, I listened to the mazurkas he performed - my father had many records. But before I came to Poland, I actually did not play any of Chopin's mazurkas. I began playing them while studying with Zbigniew Drzewiecki.
Polish professors were surprised that a Chinese pianist could thoroughly understand the rhythm so characteristic to mazurkas. I actually still do not understand it. Now, young pianists come to me and want to learn from me, but that is not possible, you cannot imitate someone's playing. You cannot teach someone what they do not have in their heart.
To me, there has not been a perfect mazurka at this Competition. However, the award must be given; it is a majority decision. Still, I wouldn't want to say that the winner of the mazurka prize does not feel the genre.
Interview by Klaudia Baranowska
This article comes from the current edition of the "Chopin Express" gazette, published by the 16th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition, in coooperation with the Adam Mickiewicz Institute and "Gramophone" magazine.
Other articles of interest from Chopin Express No. 20:
"Poetry and Emotion" - An Essay by John Allison