Top piano event winner says pandemic helped him concentrate

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Pianist Bruce (Xiaoyu) Liu of Canada reacts after being named as the winner of the 40,000-euro ($45,000) first prize in the 18th Frederic Chopin international piano competition, a prestigious event that launches pianists’ world careers, at the National Philharmonic in Warsaw, Poland, on Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021. Almost 90 pianists from around the globe took part in the 18th edition of the competition that was postponed from 2020 due to the pandemic. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — The Canadian winner of what is arguably the piano world’s most important competition says the coronavirus pandemic lockdown helped him concentrate on music, and now he’ll have to try to retain the sense of inner peace he gained.

Bruce Xiaoyu Liu of Canada, 24, was named Thursday as the winner of the 40,000-euro ($45,000) first prize in the 18th Frederic Chopin piano competition, that has launched many a pianist’s successful global career.

“I still wouldn’t call myself (a) professional pianist,” the Paris-born musician told The Associated Press later Thursday.

He sees his win as a “huge responsibility to continue this shape that I have and to be able to constantly keep finding freshness despite all this noisy world.”

Liu said the pandemic and the resulting postponement of the event — held every five years — from 2020 helped him peacefully concentrate on music and refining his playing.

“Now, with this kind of exploding events and stuff I have to keep this kind of peace inside myself” and not destroy this inner feeling that led to his success, through three weeks of playing Chopin’s works — competing against 86 other young pianists from around the world.

The program included technical challenges like the Etudes, musical challenges like Poland’s dances — mazurkas and polonaises — as well as concertos with an orchestra. In the final stage Liu played the Piano Concerto No. 1 in E Minor, Op. 11, to great applause from the packed National Philharmonic concert hall in Warsaw.

A resident of Montreal, Canada, Liu, of Chinese descent, says his victory is a “life-changing event” as his career is expected to rapidly accelerate. And he is “ready for it.”

Finding new ideas, new inspiration will be the hardest thing because “the moment that you are satisfied with your performance that is the moment that you are going down,” Liu told the AP.

Being in Warsaw, where Chopin lived and performed, “you feel closer to Chopin,” Liu said. “Everywhere you see him.”

His biggest dream after winning the Chopin competition is “just to be able to keep doing what I’m doing.”

Liu started piano lessons at the age of eight, but had other hobbies and practiced little. But he won prizes from junior competitions that made him concentrate on music. He loves Baroque and French music.

“But still I devote a lot of time to other passions” like carting, swimming, reading, he said. “I’m not a really nerdy guy.”

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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