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15 Questions to Claire Huangci

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Hi! How are you? Where are you?
Hi! I’m well, thanks, just got back to Hannover, Germany, after a month in the states.

What’s on your schedule right now?
Over the next three months, I’ll have performances in Hamburg, Berlin, Frankfurt, Miami, Novi Sad, Geneva, and Paris. And then Saint Saens Concerto no. 2 in San Francisco, and a tour in China with Sir Roger Norrington and the Radio Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart in April-May. Really excited for that!

What is your earliest musical memory?

When I was 7, in my ‘debut’ at a school event, I sat at the piano and played a few pages of a Clementi Sonatina before suddenly blanking out. I had to call my mom out of the audience to bring my score to me so I could finish! 

Was there a deciding moment, which made you want to become an artist?

Until the age of 15, I think I was pretty undecided. I think from the beginning, I looked upon the piano as a lifeline without realizing it. Whenever I was unhappy or angry, I had something to take it out on. As I grew older I began to feel more and more dependent on it. There wasn’t an exact moment, it was more of many small events assimilated to create a permanent bond with the instrument.

How satisfied are you with life as an artist?
I feel very lucky, to be able to travel to different places and to share my music with many others. It gives me such a great joy, and this is only the beginning. The best thing about being an artist is that the search for perfection never ends. I hope to continue for many years to come.

What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion? What’s your approach to performing on stage?

When I go onstage, I like to keep my mind pure and blank, and listen much more than think. Then, I just let go and my imagination takes off. All the preliminary work is done in the practice room but concerts are to make unexpected magical moments, moments that leave lasting impressions on the listeners.

How do you balance your personal emotions and the intentions of the composer in your interpretations?
I feel that it is very important to know the personal life of a composer, if there was an important event going on in his life while writing a piece. After knowing the biographical details and understanding the score, it is up to the artist to make the piece their own. However you do it, the key for me is to know the piece so well that it seems to run in my system.

In which way, would you say, is your cultural background reflected in your performances?
My parents are Chinese but I was born in America. In my whole life, I’ve been to China 6 times. Probably, I don’t have much of a Chinese cultural background, I feel much more grounded in the American lifestyle. 

How would you describe and rate the scene for classical music of the country you are currently living in?

I am studying music now in Hannover, Germany and one of the things I love most about this country, is the devotion that people show for classical music. Classical music is a way of life for the people there and this really inspires me because I know they have very high standards!

Do you consider it important that more young people care for classical music? If so, how, do you think, could this be achieved?
Actually, I believe that the situation is getting better. There are many young artists today and this stimulates the younger generation, seeing people their age performing classical music. Also, since classical music has begun merging with technology (ie, itunes) younger people are finding classical music more accessible. All people, young and old, want to be moved, whether its through classical music or pop music. If young people were to hear a really exciting performance of classical works, I am confident that they would want to hear more. 

How would you rate the importance of the internet and new media for you personally?
Everyone is on the internet! Personally, I couldn’t survive without a computer. As the world of technology progresses, it’s important for all things to follow, otherwise they are left behind. 

What’s your view on the relationship between musical education and music?

In some ways, classical music is an acquired taste, especially certain composers, such as Bach, Brahms, Scriabin..but this is the same for all kinds of music. Everyone has their personal favorites. As an audience, you don’t need to be educated to appreciate the beauty. For a musician though, it is important to understand certain music theories to create an interpretation that makes sense.

You are given the position of artistic director of a concert hall. What would be on your program for this season?
A diverse collection of different genres in classical music... and the artists can choose whatever is closest to their hearts. Just not too much Stockhausen, Messiaen, etc..

How would you describe the relationship with your instrument?

Mutual symbiosis, beneficial to both ends.

Have you ever tried playing a different instrument? If yes, how good were you at it?

No, I think the piano is enough ;)

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