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Montrealer wins the prestigious Chopin International Piano Award

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A first-place win for Montreal pianist Bruce Xiaoyu Liu at the 18th Frederic Chopin Piano Competition is a victory that will be shared in some ways by Quebec’s most prestigious music schools, suggested one of his peers .

Charles Richard-Hamelin, who lives in Montreal and took second prize in the 2015 edition of the Warsaw competition, says the Franco-Canadian city pianists are bound to attract more attention after the high honor.

“We’re doing well these days – something is happening in Montreal,” the 32-year-old said in an interview from his home in the city.

“Brush is a success story for Bruce, of course, but it ‘s a success story for our institutions here. We are both almost entirely formed in Montreal.”

The 24-year-old Liu was named the winner of the 40,000-euro ($ 57,500 CC) prize on Thursday, a recognition that immediately raises his status in the music community and will send him to perform in locations across the globe.

“Just the second prize was a big enough deal to change my life, so I can imagine what Bruce is going through,” Richard-Hamelin said.

“I can also afford a completely different home and life, travel the world and do what I love, which is a dream for every pianist.”

There is an eight-year age difference between the two pianists, but Richard-Hamelin said he had known Liu for some time. They have competed against each other twice, he said, with Liu beating him the first time and Richard-Hamel coming out on top the second time.

“We lost touch a bit … and then (I saw) him in the competition and he had improved so much in recent years and made such an impression,” he said.

“I would say he is one of the most impressive pianists I have ever heard.”

Liu, who was born in Paris before moving to Canada, graduated from the Conservatoire de musique de Montreal where he studied under Richard Raymond for most of his youth.

The pair first met when Liu, then in his mid-teens, approached Raymond with a request to study privately under his direction.

Having already had his plate full of teaching at the conservatory, Raymond said he told Liu he could not take on such a responsibility. However, in the days that followed, he said he could not shake the “amazing” level of control that Liu displayed at his young age on the piano.

“I said to myself, ‘This is all wrong. I have to go get this guy,'” Raymond recalls.

“So I hooked up with him again and persuaded him to come to school and that’s how it started.”

Liu later studied at the University of Montreal where he worked with Dang Thai Son, another first prize winner at the Chopin Competition in 1980.

Raymond said he can’t wait to give Liu a “big hug” after his return to Montreal and share a few words about his great achievement.

“Sometimes you teach very talented kids, but you do not know how far they will go,” he said.

“But in this case it worked, so when it passes we have to celebrate.”

– This report by The Canadian Press was first published on October 21, 2021.

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