Interview with SHAN LIU , the youngest soloist to join the MSO in the forthcoming Family Concert 21 May 5pm
Playing Grieg’s Piano Concerto Allegro molto moderato in the upcoming MSO Family Concert, Shan Liu at just 13 years of age has already played in some of the world’s presitgious venues including a solo recital in Aachen Germany, Sydney Opera House and Carniege Hall, New York.
Shan began learning piano in 2017 at age 7 with Xi Jiang, and has gone on to win First Prize in several international competitions including the youngest ever to win 1st Prize, Best Performance Prize & Audience Prize at 2022 International Piano Competition for Young Musicians in The Netherlands, and most recently Gold at the Pacific Rim International Music Festival 2023.
At age 9, he began performing as a soloist with orchestras in New Zealand, including the APO UpClose Concerts, Auckland Symphony Orchestra, St Matthews Chambers Orchestra and the Bay of Plenty Symphonia. He recently starred in the NZSO Young Artists Showcase in the Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington.
How does he do it!? Many Twoset Violin ‘Ling-Ling wannabe’ fans might put it down to 40 hours practice a day, but no! Shan answers some of the burning questions we have for such a young soloist.
- How many hours a day do you typically practice, and how do you stay motivated to keep practicing?
Honestly, with all the schoolwork and extracurricular stuff I’ve got going on, I don’t have a ton of time to practice piano. On a weekday, I’ll usually squeeze in about 1-2 hours of practice, and on the weekends, I’ll try to ramp it up to 3-4 hours. But even with limited time, I’ve figured out a routine that helps me get the most out of every practice session. It’s all about working effectively.
- What is your favourite piece of music to play on the piano, and why?
I can’t get enough of the Scriabin sonatas on piano. They’re just so intricate and beautifully blended – every time I hear one, I’m totally hooked. Each sonata has its own feel and vibe, like you’re going on a wild ride through a bunch of different emotions and moods. It’s like a rollercoaster for your ears. I’d say those sonatas are what I would listen to every day when it comes to piano repertoire.
- What do you do to stay calm before a performance?
Typically, I don’t usually get super anxious when performing in public, but sometimes I do get a little nervous. Whenever that happens, I find that splashing some cold water on my face really helps me chill out. It’s a simple trick, but it works like a charm. It helps me slow down my breathing, get my heart rate under control, and just feel more relaxed and focused overall, which is key for playing my best.
- How do you balance your schoolwork and piano practice, and do you have any tips for other young musicians trying to do the same?
While I’m not exactly an expert on time management, my mum often tells me that I spend too much time idling away. However, when it comes to balancing schoolwork and piano practice, I believe that starting with a small and manageable amount of time, like 25 minutes a day, and gradually increasing it each day can be an effective strategy. By doing so, other young musicians like my age can find the optimal balance between their piano practice and other commitments, while also creating a simple routine that works for them.
- Who are some of your favourite pianists or musicians, and how have they influenced your own playing?
That’s a tricky question to answer! My favourite musician tends to change depending on my mood, but one artist who has always stood out to me is Glenn Gould. I’ve always admired his distinctive style of playing and his ability to infuse each piece with his own personality and interpretation. Listening to his recordings has definitely influenced my own playing and helped me to think more creatively about how I approach the music.
- What is something that not many people know about you? Or, what’s something that you would like people to know about you?
A lot of people think I practice like 40 hours a day, but that’s just not true. I mean, come on, that’s not even possible. I do try to practice regularly, but I usually shoot for around 1-2 hours a day, depending on what else I’ve got going on. This helps me to stay on track and make steady progress without getting too burnt out.
Besides piano, I like variety of activities such as reading, playing international chess, basketball, badminton and table tennis. I am also good at Rubik’s cube and origami.
Shan Liu will be playing at the MSO Family Concert, 5.00pm Sunday 21 May 2023 at the Due Drop Events Centre, Manukau. A fun evening of classical favourites and variety for the whole family, this concert also has special pricing for the evening, and free parking. Tickets from Eventfinda