Kevin Chow, winner of The John Allison & Sydney Eisteddfod Piano Scholarship in 2017. Photo: WinkiPoP
Winner of The John Allison & Sydney Eisteddfod Piano Scholarship in 2017, Kevin Chow, recently spoke to Sydney Eisteddfod about what inspired him to start playing the piano and about how he prepared for his performance in the Final. He also discussed why Schumann’s Fantasie in C, Op.17 is one of his favourite pieces.
What inspired you to start playing the piano?
I was very young when I started playing so I do not recall much, but I would play tunes on the keyboard for fun, imitating my older sister Kathy – who was a finalist in The John Allison & Sydney Eisteddfod Piano Scholarship last year – who was taking piano lessons at the time. Not long after, my parents decided to find me a piano teacher.
What was it like to win the John Allison & Sydney Eisteddfod Piano Scholarship in 2017?
I was overjoyed and humbled to win The John Allison & Sydney Eisteddfod Piano Scholarship for 2017. Although I wasn’t able to hear my fellow competitors in the Final, I was able to hear several performers in the heats and I was amazed by both their technique and their musicianship. I especially want to thank the organisers of Sydney Eisteddfod and especially the sponsors for having this prestigious award. I also want to thank my teacher, Glenn Riddle, who won the very first iteration of the Scholarship when it was held back in the 80s. Importantly the scholarship will go a long way to assisting me in my future studies. At the moment I am planning to study in Germany next year.
You chose to perform Schumann’s Fantasie in C, Op.17, tell us about this piece.
The Fantasie is without doubt one of great works of the piano literature. It is dedicated to Franz Liszt – the greatest pianist of the nineteenth century, who in turn dedicated his equally monumental Sonata in B minor to Schumann. It was written in order to help raise funds for a Beethoven monument that was being constructed in Bonn. The Fantasie was however written very much with his future wife – Clara Wieck in mind. She also was one of the greatest pianists of the nineteenth century and premiered almost all his works. The Fantasie is a passionate, overtly romantic work and unusually ends with an indescribably beautiful slow movement.
What did you do to prepare for your performance?
In my practice I try to focus on performance technique. Naturally when we get nervous or feel the pressure of live performance it alters our fundamental technique of piano playing. I try to consolidate and control this technique in my practice. In addition, of course listening to the work and studying it. Giving as many performances as possible in order to prepare for this important performance is also very important.
Which other performers do you most like to listen to, and why?
I like to listen to as many pianists I can find. Listening to many different pianists gives a good musical foundation and helps me develop my own natural musical voice. Pianists I like include Richter, Zimerman, Trifonov, Seong Jin Cho, Arrau, Rubinstein, Argerich and Yuja Wang…. and many others.
What would you say to a young pianist that was thinking about entering Sydney Eisteddfod?
I would say to practise well and when performing try to enjoy playing for the audience and of course enjoy the music itself. Always choose a piece that you can’t imagine living without.