Yeomen of the Month April 2017 – Hin-Yat Tsang

Hooked – the sole adjective that best describes the feeling of awe in my childhood that marked the beginning of my long and continuing companionship with the black and white instrument with three legs: the piano. The music that came with it has continued to lead me to exotic locations and awe-inspiring places all across the world I would otherwise not have visited or let alone, known about.

I can’t remember when exactly this burning desire to pursue the piano began. The earliest memories of my first encounters with the instrument can be seen in photographs. My parents owned a very battered looking upright in the modest apartment in which we lived in Hong Kong, mostly for my mother to tinkle on once in a while. She was a keen musician, playing both the violin and the piano but also strangely pursued her talents elsewhere – in gymnastics, but that’s another story. I would sit on her lap while she played a certain slow passage from a Mozart Sonata, admiring the physical grace she inserted into the keys and stare in amazement at the complexity of the movements in the fingers. There would be moments when I was allowed to place my fist on the end of these long black and white blocks of wood, barely able to hold down two notes at once – I assure you my hands have grown a lot larger since. Little did I know that these keys would later become the very embodiment of my day to day routine.

I was introduced to my first proper piano teacher, Eleanor Wong, when I was aged ten. For the next ten years she grew to become more than just a mentor at the piano, but almost a second mother. Looking back, I developed so much more as a person through her than as a pianist. Even in the short one hour lessons where we indulged in the development of an early Beethoven Sonata, she would constantly point out the simple life issues that came with learning the piano: concentration, self-planning, time management and a tireless work ethic – all elements that are key to success in any field. They have grown with me ever since.

Moving to London and pursuing my Masters and Artist Diploma at the Royal College of Music was a big step for me both in terms of career and life in general. Learning to live abroad is never easy, and it was only when I came to London that I fully grasped many life skills. Being a single child back in Hong Kong, there were simply too many daily routines I was unaware of – these were often attended to by my beloved mother! The struggle to manage these simple routines alongside hectic practice schedules were constantly faced head on with active concert engagements.

Dmitri Alexeev was my mentor during my three years at the Royal College of Music. He introduced me to a world of unlimited possibility, an unimaginable colour palette and more importantly, a genuine freedom of expression. Throughout my time in London, we developed a close relationship built upon a single notion: the act of ‘being oneself’ in performance. This simply meant to not perform to impress or satisfy the likings of a particular person, but to fully and honestly reveal our true thoughts on how we sincerely feel towards the composer’s work. I will always be grateful to him for embracing me with this mentality.

My time at the Royal College has been filled with unforgettable experiences. The College truly offers an unparalleled experience in allowing students to bridge the gap between their studies and the international platform. I have had the chance to perform in many of London’s prestigious venues during my time at the Royal College, including Cadogan Hall, Drapers Hall, the Elgar Room of the Royal Albert Hall, Steinway Hall as well as the esteemed Wigmore Hall. Having enjoyed close encounters with distinguished pianists including Alexander Bonduriansky, Barry Douglas and Andrei Pisarev in masterclasses, it has also been the greatest privilege and honour to have worked with one of the world’s most renowned artist of our time, Sir András Schiff. His knowledge of both history and musical literature is incredible, as were his words of advice. “You are responsible for the piece until the last resonance of the last chord.” These words of wisdom still ring in my ears every time I mark the conclusion to the Schumann Humoreske, which I played for him during my final year at the College.

It was during this same final year as an Artist Diploma student at the Royal College of Music that I was selected to serve as the Constant and Kit Lambert Junior Fellow by the Worshipful Company of Musicians, for which I am very grateful. I also have deep gratitude to organisations such as the Hong Kong Jockey Club Music and Dance Fund, the Croucher Foundation, Craxton Memorial Trust and other wonderful charitable organisations for helping me fund my music career. Behind every musician and every performance, there is always a network of people working tirelessly behind the scenes to make it all possible.

Over the last few years I feel very honoured to have been awarded prizes from various prestigious competitions including the James Mottram Competition, Asian Chopin Competition of Tokyo, Hong Kong International Piano Competition and Piano-Campus Pontoise Competition in Paris. I was also selected for representation by the Keyboard Charitable Trust in London which made a huge difference to my musical journey. However, what continues to encourage me is the wonderful opportunity to communicate beautiful music to an audience on a regular basis. Having just flown in from Paris after a competition in London for a concert at Steinway Hall, I am now writing from Barcelona where I am halfway through the Maria Canals Competition. I now study at the Universität der Künste in Berlin, where I am pursuing a second Masters under the guidance of Klaus Hellwig. Music continues to take me around the world, and the continuous search for perfection in the art of performing has become the fuel of my very existence.

I have always felt recognition should never be something that is given, but slowly earned. The appreciation from listeners, endless support and relentless motivation from loved ones, peers and teachers are all key elements in the emotions that shape my desire to express on the concert platform. Results may not always come as expected. They may not even reflect failure or success. Instead, they mark an ongoing personal compilation that I will carry with me in life as an artist: experiences, all of the highest order.

Hin-Yat can be contacted at hinyattsang@gmail(DOT)com or for more news and updates, please follow his Twitter profile: http://twitter.com/HinYatTsang.