Tony Yike Yang, pianist

Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music and who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

My mum was the person who got me started on the piano. She’s a fantastic piano teacher, and without her wonderful guidance in the early years of my musical journey, I wouldn’t have the great honor of speaking with you today as a pianist. Therefore, it would be fair for me to accredit my mother as perhaps the most important influential figure on my musical life and career to date. Of course, my professors, mentors, close friends, and idols both past and present have also had great influence on my upbringing and development.

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

To stay focused and true to my inner thoughts and musical self.

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

I’m not sure. Probably none, if I’m being truly honest with myself. I try to not think too much about the past; instead, I try to live in the present and look towards the future.

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

I’m also not sure. I think it depends on the day really, but in general, I would say that I gravitate most strongly towards the Russian repertoire. Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Scriabin, among others. And of course Chopin as well, but he’s not Russian!

What do you do off stage that provides inspiration on stage?

I think traveling and meeting new people can sometimes give me a sense of freshness, curiosity, spontaneity, and wonder that can be useful for when I go on stage. My fellow classmates here in Arvika that I’ve had the great fortune of meeting and forming friendships with over the past year have also helped inspire me tremendously with their unique personalities. With the rest of the world mostly on hold, their energy has been crucial in keeping my creative and musical spirits alive during this time.

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

I’m quite simple about this. I usually just try to play the pieces I like. Of course, the list is constantly changing, and thankfully, there is a ton of piano music out there for us to love. Sometimes, an interesting recording of a certain piece might catch my attention, and so I would then try to learn that piece immediately. In the case of my performance of Mozart for the Ingesund Piano Center gala, I was inspired to learn this particular sonata after being exposed to a live recording of it by a mentor of mine (Eliso Virsaladze) on YouTube. She played it in a way that was so free and fresh – like I’ve never heard it before.

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

Difficult question, but the Filharmonia in Warsaw comes to mind perhaps due to my memorable experiences with the Chopin Competition back in 2015. Nonetheless, it is an extraordinarily beautiful hall with great history and unparalleled acoustics.

What do you feel needs to be done to grow classical music’s audiences/listeners?

Of course, it is important to expand the reach of classical music more on social media. Perhaps we could keep up with current trends a bit better, or create our own? We could also relax the concert setting for our audiences so that it doesn’t always feel so formal and uptight. We could customize the concert setting so that it is a bit more “in-sync” with the musical content of the programme? Lots to consider.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

February 2, 2016 in Seoul on the Chopin Competition prize-winners tour. We were doing two concerts that day because of how fast the first concert sold out. After the first concert, a few of us went out for lunch and I had this really, really spicy curry (the waitress had actually warned against me getting it). Turns out she was right. During the second concert, my stomach was not happy!

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

Being happy about all the little things in life and music-making.

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

It’s simple but difficult at the same time: stay focused and true to yourself. Don’t let anyone or anything take that away from you.

What is your most treasured possession?

My mind.

What is your present state of mind?

Thinking about everything and nothing at the same time.

Tony Yang is an Artist-in-Residence with Ingesund Piano Center in Arvika, Sweden, which offers young world-class pianists the support to cultivate international, sustainable and high-profile performing careers, led by Julia Mustonen-Dahlkvist. Tony Yang performs Mozart’s Sonata No. 12 in F major as part of the Center’s inaugural NORDIC STAGE Gala Concerts online on Thursday 27 May, 3 & 10 June, streaming free from

19-year-old Chinese-Canadian pianist TONY YIKE YANG is emerging as one of the foremost pianists of the younger generation. As a frequent prizewinner, Yang garnered 5th Prize at the  17th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition at age 16, the youngest-ever laureate of the competition.

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