A Malaysian pianist’s musical bond with China

Malaysian pianist Claudia Yang plays the piano in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, July 15, 2019. “When hearing the Yellow River Piano Concerto for the first time, I was deeply moved,” Malaysian pianist Claudia Yang remembers vividly the scene after more than three decades. “Looking back, I feel incredible. I was only 12 years old, but I could feel the blood was boiling inside me,” she recalled in an interview with Xinhua. (Xinhua/Zhu Wei)

KUALA LUMPUR, July 22 (Xinhua) — “When hearing the Yellow River Piano Concerto for the first time, I was deeply moved,” Malaysian pianist Claudia Yang remembers vividly the scene after more than three decades.

“Looking back, I feel incredible. I was only 12 years old, but I could feel the blood was boiling inside me,” she recalled in an interview with Xinhua.

Born into a Chinese Malaysian family in Muar, a small town in Malaysia’s southern Johor state, Yang began her piano study at the age of five and soon her talent became apparent.

“When I was 12 years old, my brother bought me some cassettes of Chinese folk music as well as the Yellow River Cantata and the Yellow River Piano Concerto, that was when I heard the masterpiece for the first time,” she said.

The Yellow River Piano Concerto was based on the Yellow River Cantata by Chinese composer Xian Xinghai, which has inspired patriotism across China against the Japanese aggression. The piano concerto is one of the best internationally known musical works that present Chinese materials in the form of classical music.

That was how a Malaysian girl who aspired to be a pianist found her love for the Chinese music and culture. “I was thinking at the time, if given the opportunity, I want to perform it in China someday,” Yang said.

Yang later went on with her piano study in Europe, the heart of classical music, and fulfilled her dream to be a pianist. She married her a man from Beijing and the couple decided to settle down in the Chinese capital city.

As she started her career as a pianist in China, Yang achieved her wish to perform the Yellow River Piano Concerto in China. “Coincidentally, it took place in Fujian province, my ancestral home. It was also a charity performance for the Hope Project, so it was very meaningful for me,” she said.

As her performance tours took her around the globe, Yang felt more classical pieces should be created to promote understandings among the foreign audiences on the Chinese culture.

“China has a long history of literature, so I looked to the Four Great Classical Novels for inspirations,” she said. She chose “Dream of the Red Chamber”, a love story which Yang said was more suitable for a female panelist.

The Piano Concerto “Dream of the Red Chamber” was composed by Yang herself and Hungarian composer Gyula Fekete. It was completed in 2014 and has been performed in and outside of China. Yang later improved the arrangement of the piece and the new version was debuted in her hometown Malaysia, where she jointly performed it with China National Symphony Orchestra under the baton of renowned conductor Tang Muhai.

Spending most of her career so far in China, Yang is dedicating more of her time to promoting ties between China and Malaysia, both of which now she calls home.

Yang was born in 1974, the year Malaysia and China established diplomatic relations. Recently, she jointed China’s Guangxi Symphony Orchestra for a performance tour in Malaysia to mark the 45th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic relations between the two countries.

“Malaysia is China’s close neighbor and the two countries have cooperation in various fields,” she said, “As a Malaysian and a Chinese daughter-in-law, I feel I need to do more for the two countries.”