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Published: Friday, 10/18/2002

Pianist Tian Ying says he enjoys challenges

BY STEVEN CORNELIUS
BLADE MUSIC CRITIC

The Toledo Museum of Art Peristyle will host a reunion this weekend when former Toledo Symphony music director Andrew Massey returns to the podium. He and the orchestra will be joined on stage by the dynamic Chinese pianist Tian Ying, who first played with the ensemble under Massey's baton in 1999.

Ying will perform Samuel Barber's Piano Concerto, a composition premiered in 1962 to help celebrate the opening of New York City's Lincoln Center.

The concerto won that year's Pulitzer Prize in music.

Yet, despite the critical recognition, the piece's complexity, for pianist and audience alike, has made for relatively few performances.

“Technically, it's a killer” admits Ying, who spoke last week from his home in Miami.

“One tends to play it very, very badly, or, hopefully, just very badly.”

That is an unlikely scenario for the sure-fingered Ying, however.

A native of Shanghai, the 33-year-old pianist made his debut with the Shanghai Symphony at age 10.

Three years later, he came to the United States and enrolled as a high school student at Michigan's Interlochen Academy. From there he moved to study at Boston's New England Conservatory.

While just 20 years old, Ying jump started his career by placing fourth in the 1989 Van Cliburn piano competition.

Despite the honor, and the demands of a growing solo career, Ying made the choice to stay in the supportive atmosphere that school allowed. He studied for another five years.

Ying says he would have stayed longer but he ran out of degrees to earn.

School still fits him.

This fall Ying took on a full-time faculty position at the University of Miami. He took the job in part because teaching is such a great way to learn.

“Teaching is one of the most important parts of a performance career,” he said. “My playing is growing all the time. That could not have happened if I had just been locking myself in practice rooms for hours and hours every day.

“Being a teacher gives you so many more possibilities. When you teach you have to listen really carefully. And as you do this you also learn to really listen to your own playing,” he said.

Pianist Tian Ying will join Andrew Massey and the Toledo Symphony in a program of music by Wagner, Barber, and Elgar at 8 tonight and tomorrow in the Toledo Museum of Art Peristyle. Tickets range from $15 to $42. Information: 419-246-8000.



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