With the release of his recording of Poulenc, pianist Wang Congyu reflects on his life as a young (23-year-old) classical pianist.
“I was still serving National Service when I recorded this album and the challenge was that there wasn’t an acoustic piano for me to practise on at camp. Nevertheless, it was a blessing that I was in a music band and I played a lot of jazz and pop music. This whole experience helped greatly. Before the actual recording session, I would record myself on my Steinway-Boston baby grand so that I could listen back to my own playing and learn the pieces by heart. Each track represents a certain vivid memory, be it Paris, National Service and the journey of being a Young Steinway Artist, because my music is my life, my stories and my experiences.”
Sometimes hailed as a “complete musician”, Wang has garnered acclaim as a recitalist, accompanist and chamber musician. He has since made more than 500 recitals around the world including countries such as France, England, Italy, Germany, Sweden, Reunion Island, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and, of course, Singapore. He is also the founder and president of both the Association des Jeune Musicien (Young Musician’s Association) and Virtuose Ecole de Musique (Virtuoso Music School) in Reunion Island.
But Wang said recording this album has been a wonderful opportunity. If only because it gave him the chance to learn from his mistakes. Literally. “Recording is a very difficult task because you hear everything so much more clearly when you are inside the studio. Whether it is moving your fingers, hands, or even grinding your teeth, you can hear each and every subtle sound clearly. Therefore, you know you cannot make a mistake when you are recording.
“When I listened to my own recordings and had to hear my mistakes, naturally, I was discouraged,” he continued. “Through these experiences, I think I have found my personality in music. I don’t feel ashamed of my music now. Recording in a studio and producing an album definitely gave me the exposure I needed and helped to advance my musical development.”
One of the things he would like changed, though, is people’s perception of what it means to be a young classical pianist. “While I was living in Paris, people were seldom surprised to hear that I am a professional pianist although it is a rare occupation to have. In Singapore, I am often asked: ‘So do you have a grade 8 (the highest piano qualification)?’ or ‘Are you playing in an orchestra?’ People ought to Google ‘classical concert pianists’ more,” quipped the 23-year-old.