Di Xiao, pianist

Who or what inspired you to take up the piano and pursue a career in music?

I think my mom was my first role-model; she’s very artistic and loves singing and dancing, but due to the Cultural Revolution she didn’t have the opportunity to fulfill her dreams.   I remember vividly how I enjoyed listening to the songs she sang and looking at her beautiful watercolours on the wall.

Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

When I was a teenager, I was quite rebellious and I struggled to find purpose in life.  The turning point was when I met my Russian professor Alexander Bogdyubsky.  He opened a completely new world to me.  He showed me how marvellous music could be and what is possible.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

I think the greatest challenge is to balance family life and remain focused. Performing can be very unforgiving and demands your whole attention. Life has many other things to offer and as much as I love performing, I also enjoy teaching, directing, creating and writing.  The challenge is finding time for all my passions.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of? 

I will say it is my album ‘Femmes de Légende‘, featuring and celebrating the works of several women composers. As a woman, I feel it’s my duty to promote the work of other women, not only because of the gender issue, but more importantly because some of the works are little known and are very beautiful.  They really deserve more attention. They are not women who compose but great composers who happen to be women.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

I always try to do things differently rather than always playing standard repertoire. alone  Last season I mixed Chinese traditional and folk with  western classical music. This season I’m celebrate the works of women composers and featuring the female muses who brought inspiration to others.

I think a good programme always has the combination of 3 ingredients:

  1. Pieces that people already know
  2. Pieces people want to know about
  3. Pieces that the audience have never heard of

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

It’s very difficult to choose as there are lots of great halls with completely different styles. In the UK I love Birmingham Town Hall and Symphony Hall. In my home country, I’m dazzled by the Opera House designed by Saha Hara, especially as that’s in my hometown, Guangzhou.  My 94-year-old grandma managed to be in the audience last time I gave a recital there, so it’s hard to beat that one!

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

Success is to continue pushing your limits, to be able to unleash your potential and enjoy the moment.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

Be adaptive, resilient and have a good sense of humour.

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

I want to carry on doing what I love to do and help to make the world a happier place.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Do what you love and to help other people to find what they want and love in life.


Di Xiao’s new album ‘Femmes de Legende’, celebrating both works by women composers and the muses that inspired composers to write celebrated works, is released on 12th March. Di performs at Birmingham Town Hall on the same day

Hailed as ‘a pianist of awesome gifts’ and once named among the ten most outstanding young Chinese pianists by the Pianist Magazine, Di has performed in over 20 countries and in many of the World’s most prestigious venues. The piano has taken her from the post Cultural Revolution backstreets of southern China to the world stage. A performer, educator, author and director, Di is passionate about sharing her knowledge and love of music, creating innovative concert programmes that mix Western and Eastern musical fabrics. Didi takes her role as cultural ambassador very seriously and aspires to create a bridge between the two cultures.

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