'Zubin Mehta is always open to ideas'
Ahead of his performance, 33-year-old Chinese violinist Dan Zhu recalls his first concert at age nine, his trips to India, and Zubin Mehta's influence
Q. You made your first public appearance at the age of nine; tell us about it.
A. My performing career grew out from my student years. I made my first public appearance as soloist when I was nine years old, where I performed the Mozart violin concerto no.4 with the China Youth Orchestra at Beijing Concert Hall (at that time, it was the only major Classical music concert venue in Beijing). The following year, I went to Japan, where I made my international debut at the Mendelssohn violin concerto. I was accepted to the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing when I was 12. Then, at 16, I was awarded full scholarship to study at Mannes College of Music in New York. I made my Carnegie Hall debut at 18, performing the Tchaikovsky violin concerto.
33-year-old Chinese violinist Dan Zhu
Q. Have you been to India before?
A. This is my third visit. My first trip to this wonderful country was nearly three years ago. I had also been invited by the Mehli Mehta Music Foundation for a recital. 2013 was the last time when I was in Mumbai, to perform chamber music concerts at the Sangat Festival. I’m always happy to be back and I look forward to share my music here each time.
Q. Tell us about the experience of performing with Zubin Mehta.
A. Maestro Mehta has been an inspirational figure since I was a child. I still remember the first time I saw him at a live performance in Beijing when I was 11; he came with the Israel Philharmonic. When he invited me to play together at Maggio Musicale in Firenze, it was a dream come true! He shared a lot of valuable advice, and was very caring. His artistry is warm, genuine, and expressive, at the same time, he’s always open to ideas through collaborations. I learnt a lot from playing next to him and watching his rehearsals with different orchestras. I admire his dedication to music. It’s a great privilege to see him every time.
Q. Tell us about working with German pianist Oliver Triendl.
A. We met and performed together for the first time last season during an international music festival in Holland. We got along well. So this season, we shared several recital and chamber music projects worldwide — in China, Germany, and now, India. Oliver is a fantastic pianist with sensitivity and dedication. He has a wide range and a lot of experience in collaborations.
Q. What will you be playing at the concert in Mumbai?
A. My programme will be focused around Fantasies. There will be one piece by the celebrated Chinese-American composer, Bright Sheng called Three Fantasies, and Franz Waxman- Carmen Fantasie (based on Bizet’s opera, Carmen, and written for Jascha Heifetz). Creativity is one of the most important elements in music making. The versatile programme will include inspirations coming from different cultural backgrounds, and ancient heritage to our time.
Q. Does Indian music interest you? Any particular artistes that you would want to collaborate with?
A. I’m very interested in World music, and India carries many ancient traditions in music, which fascinate me. I found them very beautiful and unique. I enjoy listening to Indian instruments, such as the sitar, esraj (Indian harp), tabla and tanpura. I understand that Indian music has a lot of variety, which I still have to discover and learn about. I have great admiration for the late Pandit Ravi Shankar, and I like the music of Ustad Zakir Hussain, whom I hope to collaborate with in the near future.
Q. Tell us about being the Cultural Ambassador for the youth programme by the city of Zhongshan, China.
A. It’s an honour to be awarded by the city of Zhongshan (the birth place of China’s founding father, Sun Yat-Sen, in between Guangzhou and Hong Kong), in recognition of my contribution and dedication to the music and cultural development of the local youth programme. I feel the responsibility of sharing my experience and passing on the musical influence for next generation’s growth.
On: Today and December 8, 7 pm
At: Experimental Theatre, NCPA, Nariman Point.