Tribute to My Mentor Fei-Ping Hsu
In Memory of Fei-Ping Hsu - From Surviving to Surpassing
By Hsing-ay Hsu, BM 99’
Juilliard Journal 2001
My uncle and piano teacher Fei-Ping Hsu passed away in an auto accident while on concert tour in China on November 27th, 2001. The sudden shock still remains after these many months. But from among the friends and family who came from all across the continent to pay him tribute emerged an amazing story of faith and joy. He was more than the sum of his awards and achievements; his character touched everyone around him.
I remember my uncle most vividly as a demanding teacher who instilled in me such overwhelming passion that I just had to practice. In my mind, he had always been the big celebrity in my family and my homeland China. What I never heard about was the obstacles he faced in pursuing the piano and the amazing grace that allowed him to survive.
The fact that he started to play at all was a miracle. When my grandfather was converted to Christianity, the government took away his job, his hopes, and his public dignity and rights. My uncle grew up in absolute poverty, but with much love and joy. My grandmother knew over 300 hymns by ear, and this was Fei-Ping’sintroduction to Western music. By practicing on a neighbor’s piano, he learned enough to be selected to the Shanghai Conservatory, to study with China’s best professors. At age 12 he performed for Queen Elizabeth of Belgium, who offered to help him get government permission to study abroad. This amazing opportunity was shattered by the birth of the Cultural Revolution nightmare, in which he was forced to watch the cruel publicized beatings of many friends and of his own teacher Prof. Fan. He was “sent down” to the countryside - barren wastelands with no “pollution” of any Western influence or convenience. Eventually his talent was remembered, and Mao’s wife approved him to work for the Central Philharmonic Orchestra Organization in Beijing- performing the only piano piece considered morally clean, the Yellow River Concerto. Playing this virtuosic piece hundreds of times on demand with no warm up facilities, he developed complex injuries. When he was no longer “useful”, the administration cut his already meager wages to what equaled $4 dollars a month- a sarcastic joke to punish the “dangerous and lazy intellectual”. Even in such dire times, he was always eager to help others. When a friend left the country, Fei-Ping gave him his entire life savings to finance the trip. At personal risk, he frequently visited Prof. Fan, who was imprisoned for teaching Western music and who later died of health complications. After his immigration to the U.S., Fei-Ping still visited his teacher’s widow at every opportunity.
After this persecution during his prime years finally ended, he made an unbelievable recovery and comeback. Somehow he was able to obtain government permission to study abroad, and proved his amazing artistry at Eastman and then Juilliard. He brought his fiancée to the US, then my father, and then my cousins. The little apartment he rented became the first stop of numerous immigrating musicians and friends. He had changed from a political target to a beacon of hope for the Chinese people and an international star, winning numerous competitions such as the Arthur Rubinstein gold medal, Gina Bachaur, University of Maryland William Kapell, and many others. Rave reviews of his poetry and sensitivity poured in from around the world.
Despite his success, public service still remained far more important than worldly honors to Fei-Ping. Right before his 1998 concert tour to China, terrible floods in theYangtze River killed a great number of Chinese people and left thousands others homeless. Without hesitation, he announced that all proceeds from his tour would be donated to flood victims. This contribution was but one of many benefits he was involved in. Rather then focus on his own advancement, he delighted in helping others.
The struggles of his life only intensified his passion for it, and his music expressed all the emotion he was never permitted to speak in words. He taught me never to be lukewarm in any playing. Often he would say in a lesson, “Do you really believe this piece is the most wonderful music? Are you really convinced there is nothing more precious than this moment?” No, not yet. But I knew that by the end of the lesson I would. I always saw how much he cared about passing on his knowledge to me and to all the students around the world. Until the very last days of his life, he was still mentoring students at music schools- including poor and disadvantaged schools that others would have deemed unworthy of their time.
When I was ready, Uncle Fei-Ping gave me a recommendation to the Juilliard School. My teacher, Mr. Herbert Stessin, remembered that Fei-Ping’s music was “beautiful and sensitive…everyone respected him both for his wonderful personality and for his artistry”. Ms. Lynne Rutkin recalled, “I met Fei-Ping in early 1985, when I arrived at Juilliard. I was immediately moved by his artistry, his dedication and his humanity.” At his memorial service, our family put together two walls of memorial concerts programs from all across China, programs and reviews from the New York Times, the Clavier magazine, the Washington Post, and major journals in Finland, United Kingdom, China, Scotland, Singapore, South Africa, South America, etc. My uncle, you have certainly left a beautiful mark on this world.
Beethoven: Moonlight Sonata
1. Sonata No. 14 in C# minor (Moonlight)
2. Sonata No. 8 in C minor (Pathetique)
3. Sonata No. 23 in F minor (Appassionate)
4. Albumblatt a-moll WoO 59 (Für Elise)
Beethoven: Piano Concertos No.1 & 4
1. Piano Concerto No.1 in C Op.15
2. Piano Concerto No.4 in G Op.58
Russian Philharmonic Orchestra
Chopin According to Fei-Ping Hsu
1. Three Mazurkas: Op.7 #2, Op.24 #2, Op.33 #4
2. Sonata No.2, Op.35 in B flat minor (Funeral March)
3. Polonaise Fantaisie, Op. 61 in A flat
4. Two Nocturnes, Op. 62
Piano Solo by Hsu Fei-Ping
Selected Piano Pieces by Huang An-Lun
1. Thirty Pieces in Saibei Folksong Style
2. Poem for Dance No.3
Everlasting Piano Works By Hsu Fei-Ping (1)
1. S. Rachmaninoff: Piano Concert No.2 , Op.18
2. S. Rachmaninoff: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini
Russian Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by K. Krimets
Everlasting Piano Works By Hsu Fei-Ping (2)
1. Huang An-Lun: Piano Concerto No.2 in C minor, Op.57
2. Huang An-Lun: Poem For Dance No.3 Op.40
Russian Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by K. Krimets
In Memory of Fei-Ping Hsu
A book in Chinese of memorial tributes to one of the greatest
Pianists of our time.
Purchase a CD
Each album listed here is sold for:
$20.00 USD (S/H included)
Send a check to:
Fei-Ping Hsu Discography
19 Personette St.
Caldwell, NJ 07006.
Please make check payable to:
Linda Hsu (Fei-ping’s daughter)
Friends of Fei-Ping Hsu
He hit the elusive combination of fire and delicacy.
-- NEW YORK TIMES
A commanding athleticism born of grace and agility.
-- THE WASHINGTON POST
Marvelous displays of technical virtuosity and musicianship.
-- SAN FRANCISCO EXAMINER
His performance seemed like small pearls attached, one after another, onto a long string of musical sensitivity and dazzling technique.
-- AL HA MISHMAR, ISRAEL
His audience was intoxicated and captivated by the beauty of sound that poured from his fingers. Here was a plentiful supply of poetry, humor and dazzling finger work.
-- THE HONG KONG STANDARD
Pianist Fei-Ping Hsu was one of the most important Chinese pianists to emerge in the 20th century. He was a Gold Medal winner at the Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Competition, the first pianist in the competition’s history from the People’s Republic of China. He has also garnered top prizes in many other international competitions including the Gina Bachauer Memorial Piano Scholarship Competition, the University of Maryland International Competition, and the Paloma O’Shea International Competition (Spain). Mr. Hsu made his New York recital debut at Alice Tully Hall in 1983 and has since performed throughout the United States, including appearances at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. He also frequently toured Europe, South America, and the Far East. Mr. Hsu was especially noted for the sensitivity, brilliance, and poetry in his interpretations.
The NEW YORK TIMES remarked he was “A fully developed performer of particular ability, he hit the elusive combination of fire and delicacy.”
THE WASHINGTON POST states he displayed “A commanding athleticism born of grace and agility.”
Fei-Ping Hsu passed away in an auto accident last November while on concert tour in China. In the ensuing weeks, friends and family poured into New York from all across the continent to pay him tribute. Memorial concerts were immediately organized all across China, and articles were collected from the New York Times, the Clavier magazine, the Washington Post, and major journals in Finland, United Kingdom, China, Scotland, Singapore, South Africa, and South America.
Mr. Hsu was born on the island of Gulangyu in southeast China. As the youngest son of a Christian pastor, he grew up singing hymns while his mother played on a missionary’s upright piano. One day when she was sick, five-year-old Fei-Ping went to the piano and played the hymns by ear. The family realized his great talent and began encouraging his music. When he was eight years old, he had a rare opportunity to meet Professor Ji-sen Fan, the head of the piano department of the Shanghai Conservatory, and recognized as a child prodigy. By the time he was twelve-years-old, he already played the complete Chopin etudes and had performed with the Shanghai Philharmonic. At this time he was invited to perform by Queen Elisabeth of Belgium, who was so impressed with his talent that she personally invited Mr. Hsu to study and perform in Europe. Unfortunately, he was not allowed to accept this invitation because of the advent of the Cultural Revolution in China. However, he survived the labor camps and became well known in China and toured extensively throughout the Far East as a soloist with the Central Philharmonic which is the top national orchestra.
In 1979, Fei-Ping Hsu miraculously received permission to study in the United States. He first entered the Eastman School of Music, and then the Juilliard School of Music under the tutelage of Sascha Gorodnitzki. He has received international acclaim ever since, performing in Germany, France, Andorra, Switzerland, and Italy. He has appeared as a soloist with numerous orchestras such as the Moscow Philharmonic, the Finnish Tempere Symphony Orchestra, and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra with Charles Dutoit, and in countless international festivals. Mr. Hsu was also in demand in his native Asia, where his concerto collaborations include the Kyushu Symphony Orchestra in Japan, the China National Symphony Orchestra in Beijing, the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, and the Shanghai Radio Symphony Orchestra. He has recorded for Columbia Records, RCA Victor Records, Hugo Records, ROI Productions, M-A Recordings in Japan.
Fei-Ping Hsu’s life was cut short by a fatal auto accident on November 27, 2001, while on a concert tour in China. May the beauty of his performance last in our hearts forever.