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Play Me A Song, Piano Man: Haylie Ecker and Freddy Kempf’s classical playlist

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It’s been officially diagnosed as ‘Piano Fever’, taking China by storm. Over 40 million Chinese children are learning piano with some sources stating that number as high as 80 million. Professor Liang Maochun of Beijing’s Central Conservatory of Music says, “The ‘fever’ is not just hitting HK, Beijing or Shanghai, it’s even in smaller cities and towns. Families who can afford a piano will buy one.”

Chinese-born classical big cats, like Lang Lang and Yundi, are seen as rock stars to the Chinese youth, which makes piano an super-cool instrument to learn. Lang Lang boasts lucrative endorsements for Adidas shoes and has branded his own line of Lang Lang Steinway baby grand pianos. Sichuan-born Yundi advertises for Rolex, collaborates with pop stars of today, and is the “image ambassador” to Super Boys – China’s answer to Pop Idol with a viewership of around a billion. Yundi says, “They want to hold me up as an example of what Chinese children can achieve, so I play for them, to show that the dream is not so far off. With talent and hard work, your dream can come true.”


But why, aside of celebrity-cool, is piano such a great instrument for your child to learn? HK based concert pianist Evelyn Chang comes up with some answers for Sassy Mama: “Piano is a great gateway instrument to learning all other instruments – it teaches a child both melody and harmony simultaneously. The piano also marries left (analytical) and right (creative) sides of the brain. And there’s no problem with intonation as a piano key speaks the exact note versus violin searching for the pitch on the fingerboard!” She also humorously points out that piano guarantees instant gratification… “A child can produce a nice sound from the word go.”

The next concert in PPHK’s PLAY! Series, which endeavors to introduce HK’s young audiences to classical soloists and chamber musicians of the highest caliber in innovative and exciting ways, is at 3pm on May 26. The prodigious and emotive European superstar pianist that is Freddy Kempf will perform Mussorgsky’s “Pictures At An Exhibition” in an original multimedia format. Freddy Kempf, hailed by The Press as “… Young, yet already renowned as one of the world’s finest pianists”, will perform Mussorgsky’s stunning warhorse of a work to a backdrop of animated artwork from over 380 HK children (in collaboration with Hong Kong’s Kids Gallery). You can purchase tickets through Premiere Performances or through Hong Kong Ticketing.


In the meantime, here’s introducing you to Freddy Kempf with a personalised playlist he’s lovingly compiled for PLAY audiences and Sassy Mama readers. You can download tracks from iTunes, or stream it here via Youtube.

Freddy Kempf’s Playlist To Inspire!

1. Bach – Goldberg Variations
“This is one of the longest pieces that exists – 80 minutes without a break. You can’t really describe it – you just have to listen to it. For me the magical moment is when you hear the theme (from the very beginning) again at the very end – it’s exactly the same, yet it feels like you’ve just lived 20 years.”

2. Beethoven – Piano Concerto No. 3 – 2nd Movement
“This is some of the most beautiful music Beethoven ever wrote.”

3. Chopin – Grande Polonaise Brilliante Op. 22 (Freddy Kempf records Chopin: BIS Records)
“For me virtuoso piano writing doesn’t get any better than this – it’s very difficult to play, sounds even more difficult to the listener, yet it never loses it’s class.”

4. Dvorak – Symphony No. 7 – 3rd Movement
“Dvorak could make the string section of an orchestra sing and dance better than anyone else in my opinion – this is such beautiful, graceful music.”

5. Tchaikovsky – Symphony No. 4 – 2nd Movement
“Tchaikovsky is one of my all time favourites – and yet some of his best music sounds sad. This music reminds me so much of Votkinsk – where he was born and grew up – you can really imagine how huge Russia feels.”

6. Mahler – Symphony No. 5 – 4th Movement
“Many people say that Mahler is very difficult to understand. Maybe it is – but I think if you listen to this piece just as you wake up on a sunny morning you can’t fail to understand, and it will just make you feel happy.”

7. Gershwin – American In Paris
“This is one of the largest and lush orchestral scores – it has just about every instrument from saxophones to car-horns. There are just so many beautiful tunes – and it has everything from impressionistic sounds to jazz and pure Hollywood.”

8. John Williams – Music To The Star Wars Films
“I never forget the first time I saw my first Star Wars film – and the music had so much to do with it. I love how Williams takes what I reckon to be Tchaikovsky – there’s so much from the 4th and 5th Symphonies  here – and yet he makes it his own to create his own world.”

9. Alicia Keys – New York
“I think this performer has just so much talent – and this song, which so many people have heard – manages to be exciting and became a worldwide hit and yet it’s just voice and piano.”

10. Carly Rae Jepson – Call Me Maybe
“Most importantly music has to be fun – don’t ask me why!”

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