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<<  -- 4 --  Malcolm Troup    A CHINESE WUNDERKIND


Leaving that issue aside, this event had two morals to teach us: firstly, how much our present age lacks the artistic entrepreneurship of a Lobkowitz at the sight of David Tang in action sweeping away all obstacles to letting Londoners share in an encounter which has taken the three weeks that Niu Niu has spent among us to achieve (as compared to the three years that such a booking might normally entail!); secondly, how important it is in such cases that someone, again the finger points at David, should insist on this premature exposure (all such early exposure being premature!) being brought to a halt in return for several years of a normal mind-broadening education at somewhere like the Yehudi Menuhin School combined with all the repertoire-building and chamber-music playing which that School has to offer. It was this enlightened stipulation on the part of a wealthy American backer at the turn of the last century which plucked ten-year-old Josef Hofmann from his sensational début with the Berlin Philharmonic to follow eight years of such balanced schooling before emerging aged eighteen as one of the greatest pianists of his time. This was the same policy I pursued with Wu Qian, now in the Royal Academy of Music, whom I had discovered aged eleven at that same Shanghai Conservatoire (from which Niu Niu now needs to make good his escape) and whom I persuaded Yehudi to take for six years into his School. It remains to be seen if David Tang, goaded on by the inestimable Leslie Howard, can accomplish this miracle a second time, Mr and Mrs Niu Niu permitting. Meanwhile, we Londoners can only thank this modernday Maecenas for his princely gesture on behalf of youth and music, at a feast in which we all could share!

Niu Niu and his parents, with David Tang
Niu Niu and his parents, with David Tang


Copyright © 2 September 2006 Malcolm Troup, London UK


Zhang Shengliang (performing as Niu Niu) was born on 11 July 1997. His father, Zhang Changfeng, headmaster of Aixin Training School, gave his precocious son formal instruction from the age of four. Later teachers were Professor Ye Xiauchu (Jimei University) and three professors from the Shanghai Conservatory - Zhou Keng, Tang Beihua and Niu Niu's current mentor, William Chen.

His first public recital took place in Xiamen in August 2003, and he has since given several important concerts in China, both recitals and concertos with orchestra. He has also appeared at festivals in Paris and Minneapolis-St Paul, and has participated in masterclasses with Chinese and international professors including Paul Badura-Skoda and Leslie Howard, who were all impressed with and moved by Niu Niu's innate muscianship.

Niu Niu's repertoire includes eighteen Mozart Concertos, as well as concertos by Beethoven, Chopin and Shostakovich. His solo repertoire covers a range quite incredible for a boy of his years and hands not as yet fully-grown: all the Chopin Etudes and Nocturnes and important works by Haydn, Mozart, Liszt, Greig, Tchaikovsky and Debussy.




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