LEONARD BERNSTEIN-INSPIRED CHINESE PIANIST TO SOLO IN NEW YORK AGAIN
Xinhua News 28 March 2018
NEW YORK, March 28 (Xinhua) – Acclaimed Chinese pianist Warren Lee will present a solo piano recital next week at Carnegie Hall, New York City, celebrating the artistry and 100th anniversary of the U.S. legendary composer Leonard Bernstein’s birthday.
The performance, scheduled for 8pm April 2 at Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall, will feature a selection of Bernstein’s Anniversaries with readings of personal letters of the maestro by the Hong Kong-born pianist, etc.
The event is part of the Artist Series staged by Distinguished Concerts International New York (DCINY), a music entertainment production company with headquarters in New York.
Lee who has been a Steinway Artist since 2009, gave New Yorkers a rewarding evening in his performance with DCINY on Nov. 17, 2016 at Carnegie’s Weill Hall.
“The audience in NYC is fantastic: sophisticated, educated and yet very warm and responsive. I look forward to returning to NYC!!” Lee, a graduate of the Royal Academy of Music and Yale School of Music, told Xinhua in a recent interview.
“BERNSTEIN WAS MY IDOL GROWING UP”
“It is my absolute honor and privilege to be a part of a global Leonard Bernstein celebration, in the venue where he made his famous debut when he was 25, and across the street from where he lived in NYC for many years,” Lee said.
No Nov.14, 1943, Bernstein substituted on a few hours’ notice for the ailing Bruno Walter at a Carnegie Hall concert, which was broadcast nationally on radio, receiving critical acclaim. Soon orchestras worldwide sought him out as a guest conductor.
“Leonard Bernstein was my idol growing up, and I decided to become a musician because of him,” Lee said. “His passion for the art is so overwhelming and inspirational.”
“THIS IS HOW MUSIC ‘CHOSE’ ME”
Like Bernstein, Lee took piano lessons at an early age. He started going to music appreciation classes as an auditor when he was two and a half years old, tagging along with his elder sister. But he was the most observant of all.
One day when he was three, he went to the piano and played the entire sonatina that his sister was learning, without knowing how to read music. His mom then took him to the piano teachers; amazed as she was, she said he was still too young to start. “Wait unilt he’s four,’ she said.
On his fourth birthday, Lee had his first piano lesson, and two years later, performed with the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra in front of 10,000 people under live TV and radio broadcast.
“This is how music ‘chose’ me,” Lee said. “But my journey was not without struggle. At times, throughout my formative years, I was not at peace with why I ‘did not get to choose’, and wanted to venture away from music.”
“But 30 some years following my 6-year-old debut, I’m still here, doing what I love,” he said.
“MUSIC BREAKS DOWN ALL BARRIER BY AND IN ITSELF”
“I love two things: music and people. I don’t know which I like better, but I love to make music with them and play for them on this deepest level which is the musical level.”
This is a Bernstein quote which resonates with Lee, a first-prize winner of the 1995 Stravinsky Awards International Piano Competition and the Grand Prix Ivo Pogorelich.
“Without a doubt, the market for classical music in China is growing at an exponential rate, and at a very different stage as in the West,” he said. “The success of many artists with Chinese origin helps promote the art, and I am proud to have played a small part in the growth.”
Last month, he performed in the first-ever Chinese New Year concert in Adelaide in Australia, playing the famous Yellow River Concerto for an audience that he said is culturally diverse and receptive.
“And through this experience, it reinforces my belief that music is a universal language, and when I’m on stage with the orchestra, I don’t feel any ‘Chinese’ or ‘Australian’ or ‘American,’” Lee said.
“Bernstein’s music speaks to me the same way. He was a humanitarian. I don’t see myself as a Chinese playing American music. Music breaks down all barrier by and in itself,” he said.