Tianxu An, 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?

Life – and living in general – inspires me to pursue a career in music. What I enjoy and suffer from have influenced my personality and ideology, which can only be completely expressed through music. I am always grateful for the fact that all of my piano teachers in my musical journey have inspired me to play music with passion and sincerity. From their musicianship and teaching, I am able to perceive the close connection between the characteristics of life and their reflections in music. Regarding my career, it has been my pleasure to meet Wray Armstrong, Evita Zhang and the Armstrong Music & Arts team, my current management. They respect my will as a musician so that I may devote myself more to music making.

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

Participation in the XVI International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition. It was the first time I competed in such a high-level competition, so I tried to practice and deliberately think through all kinds of details in my playing. Preparing for the competition was a tough experience and it finally strengthened my stamina and volition.

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

My first album (released by Alpha Classics in April 2022). It consists of all-Russian repertoire, including works by Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov and Prokofiev. These pieces together provide a wide range of emotions, which conveys the artistic effect I am currently pursuing.

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

I love to play large-scale works in rigorous forms such as Sonatas and Variations. I especially like Rachmaninov’s Chopin Variations Op.22. Many people think it is tedious, but I believe that the work unpacks the composer’s introverted world with a great variety of layers and nuances.

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

I read books (mainly fiction and biography) and watch movies to gain insight into various perspectives. I also enjoy traveling to different cities and meeting people with diverse cultural background to enhance my understanding of our civilization.

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

In the current phase of my career, I think it is still important for me to broaden repertoire in various styles. Thus, I have not yet planned to play an exclusive programme by an individual composer. I feel that a good programme should convey strong dramatic effect and contrast and I am therefore drawn to programmes that feature works with variety from different periods of music history.

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

This is a relevant question for the entire classical music industry. I think the contribution from a performer is to not play in an “academic” way. Sometimes playing with adventurous and ingenious ideas is better than a safe and precise approach. A concert should not resemble a lecture hosted by a serious professor, but a colourful journey with comfort and a great aftertaste.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

There is not one specific example. In general, I want to reach a level that I may “breathe” with the audience together. Meaning that the sounds of my playing fill the hall and that the audience is truly present.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

Nowadays regarding the success of young musicians, we may frequently refer to the events such as competitions or auditions. From my perspective, the importance of the competition or audition is not the possible result of winning (although winning can be important in certain phase of the career), but the extreme concentration and determination I put in the preparation of those events. The glory of a person’s spirit reaches the highest level only when their heart and soul are all devoted to one thing without hesitation. From a life-long scale, the pursuit on one subject with persistence and dedication is truly respectable. That is why figures like Rubinstein, Arrau and Kempff are regarded as the giants in our field. They finally achieved the ideal expression of music in the later stage of their career.

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

As classical musicians, we have to adapt to enjoying a quiet mind. The world is mainly occupied with electronic devices in which you can find various kinds of entertainments. For music, younger generations love many genres of pop music, and classical music is just an embellishment. This is an irreversible tendency. Nevertheless, I still have a strong belief that the classical music is one of the most developed and sophisticated music forms in the world. It can lead us to the truth, eternity or the Tao from an oriental perspective. For the people who really have willingness and determination to dig into the meaning of life, learning classical music is a magnificent and miraculous pathway to go.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Perfect happiness for me would be to reach a spiritual level in which I can simply do or achieve things with a pure ego regardless of the impact from other external factors.

What is your most treasured possession?

I am grateful for the growing environment that cultivates me. My parents, my teachers and my supporters all contribute to that. Therefore, I am not really treasuring “the possession”, but the people who surround me and give me kind and thoughtful words in my life journey.


Tianxu An, from Baoding (Hebei province), a former capital city near Beijing, China, is an outstanding young (22) pianist, much sought after both at home in China and around the world.

In June 2019, Mr. An drew international attention when won the fourth prize and a special prize for “courage and restraint” in the XVI International Tchaikovsky Competition, – the highest award at that famous competition for a Chinese pianist in 17 years. His performance was lauded by the jury chairman Denis Matsuev as “sensational” and “beyond his years of maturity.” In July 2019, following on from his win, he made his orchestral debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Mann Center, performing Rachmaninoff Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.

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