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A Chinese Wunderkind

Nine-year-old Niu-Niu's Wigmore Hall début,
admired by MALCOLM TROUP


It all began with an email from Margaret Murphy, that go-ahead agent for so many up-and-coming young pianists (including my own Chinese protegée Wu Qian), alerting me to a free concert at London's Wigmore Hall in a week's time to hear the nine-year-old would-be wunderkind Niu Niu (a term of endearment meaning 'cow' -- or 'moo-moo' as we might translate it into English -- his real name being Zhang Shengliang), fresh from the Shanghai Conservatoire. History seemed to be repeating itself, only now it was Leslie Howard who had stepped into my shoes and was keen to introduce his 'discovery' to a London public, thanks to David Tang, the well-known Chinese maecenas who, accustomed to starting from the top, had taken the Wigmore Hall for the purpose [Sunday 27 August 2006] and filled it with a random cross-section of multi-cultural music lovers.

Zhang Shengliang (Niu Niu) with Leslie Howard
Zhang Shengliang (Niu Niu) with Leslie Howard

Already as we drew near the hall, we could see a stream of people skirting David Tang's gleaming outsize Rolls-Royce which commanded the approach. The atmosphere, as befits a bank holiday crowd, was festive and relaxed -- an audience of sight-seers rather than the usual studious Wigmore concertgoers. Apart from one or two attendants, the hall had been given over to David and the box-office was reassuringly closed. David was to be our affable host for the afternoon and was soon up on the platform greeting us and introducing us in turn to Niu Niu's mother and father and to Leslie Howard, who supplemented the few details we had gleaned from the single-sheet programme. Last to appear, tiny in comparison to portly Howard, was little Niu Niu himself in an adaptation of evening dress with lapels, cuffs and bow-tie of gold lamé with even another little golden bow pinned on for good measure to where his 'tails' parted at the back. His salute to the audience was faultless, bowing as low to the public as if he were being received at court.

Left to right: Wang WeiXiu (vice-editor in chief of Xing Tao Daily), Leslie Howard, Zhang Shengliang and David Tang
Left to right: Wang WeiXiu (vice-editor in chief of Xing Tao Daily), Leslie Howard, Zhang Shengliang and David Tang


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Copyright © 2 September 2006 Malcolm Troup, London UK


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