Pianist hits all the right notes

[attach]6742[/attach]It’s not uncommon for parents to register their kids for piano lessons, but 14-year-old Tony Yang chose to love the instrument.

While Yang was growing up, his mother, a piano teacher, would play songs that he listened to while standing attentively beside her. She also brought him to concerts. He vividly remembers attending a performance by Chinese pianist Lang Lang when he was four years old.

“Classical music is famous in China,” Yang says, citing Chinese pianists Hee Ah Lee and Yuja Wang as other influences. “It inspired me to learn.”

Yang, a North York resident and student at the Royal Conservatory of Music, recently placed first in the prestigious Bösendorfer and Yamaha Young Artists International Junior Piano Competition in Arizona.

Nearly 200 pianists from 31 countries entered, with 42 moving onto the semi-final and final rounds in Arizona. Yang’s category, for players 13–15, included seven semi-finalists, four of whom were accepted in the final round.

Organizers chose Yang based on a DVD recording of him performing a Ludwig van Beethoven sonata and a Frédéric Chopin ballade. His performances of Beethoven’s Sonata in F Major and Sergei Prokofiev’s Sonata Number 3 in A Minor won him the competition.

Each of the pieces Yang performed is written as a duet for one performer, with the right and left hands playing different melodies, which can be difficult to play because of their constantly shifting octaves.

“Winning the Bösendorfer competition was a tremendous accomplishment for Tony,” says James Anagnoson, Yang’s teacher and dean of the Glenn Gould School at the Conservatory. “This is an emphatic affirmation of Tony’s every growing artistic maturity and charismatic flair, and as well a reflection of his potential on the world stage.”

Yang was born in Chongqing, China and his family immigrated to Canada in 2004. He was introduced to the Royal Conservatory by a piano teacher, and accepted by the school when he was nine.

“It was a great turning point for a professional career,” Yang says. “Before, I just played for fun.”

In addition to the Bösendorfer competition, Yang has performed at the Royal Conservatory’s Koerner Hall; the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, the Music Niagara International Summer Music Festival and the Canadian Chopin Festival. He’s also performed as a soloist with the Toronto Sinfonietta Orchestra, and the Royal Conservatory’s Academy Chamber Orchestra.

“It would be very nice if I could become a worldwide concert pianist, performing and expanding the reach of classical music,” he says. “I would like to inspire new generations to interact more with music and the arts in general.”