Fou Ts’ong, Chinese pianist who bridged East and West, dies at 86 of covid-19

Mr. Fou had received a visa to accomplish in Britain and had no purpose of returning to communist China. His father, Fu Lei, a number one highbrow and celebrated translator of French literature, were centered in Mao Zedong’s Anti-Rightist Marketing campaign in opposition to perceived critics of the communist executive. If Mr. Fou returned, he could be pressured to denounce his father and used to be more likely to endure persecution himself.

“All indicators informed me that I stood no likelihood, and I used to be particularly scared as a result of on this case it wasn’t best myself but in addition my father,” Mr. Fou mentioned years later in an interview.

After arriving in London, the place he lived for the remainder of his existence, Mr. Fou become some of the first Chinese language pianists to upward thrust to the entrance ranks of classical tune. He by no means noticed his father once more, their touch restricted to letters brimming with highbrow vigor, paternal worry and filial devotion that a long time later had been printed in a best-selling quantity in China.

In 1966, on the outset of the Chinese language Cultural Revolution, Mr. Fou’s father and mom, Zhu Meifu, hanged themselves in Shanghai after Crimson Guard paramilitaries invaded their house. “My anguish after I won the tragic information can’t be described,” Mr. Fou as soon as informed famous piano trainer Carola Grindea.

Mr. Fou, who persisted appearing till fresh years, incomes renown for the sensitivity he dropped at the works of Chopin, Mozart, Schubert and Debussy, died Dec. 28 at a health center in London. He used to be 86. The purpose used to be covid-19, the illness led to by means of the radical coronavirus, mentioned his spouse, Patsy Toh.

Mr. Fou’s reputation on the Chopin Pageant in Warsaw — a symbolic victory for Chinese language communists looking for to display their cultural achievements on a global degree — predated by means of 3 years Texan pianist Van Cliburn’s triumph on the Global Tchaikovsky Pageant in Moscow, some other tournament with geopolitical importance that resonated a ways past the live performance corridor.

Jindong Cai, a conductor and director of the U.S.-China Track Institute at Bard Faculty Conservatory in New York, when compared Mr. Fou’s defection to ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov’s choice to depart the Soviet Union for the West in 1974. To Mr. Fou’s admirers, he used to be a very important hyperlink between East and West, a performer who made them pay attention anew to musical works that they had heard innumerable occasions.

“His Chopin or his Mozart may be very particular, very other from nearly all different Western pianists,” Cai mentioned in an interview. “Your intuition for the tune [comes] from your self, from inside of. . . . What you lived, what you skilled, influences your tune.”

Fou Ts’ong used to be born in Shanghai on March 10, 1934. His title, he informed the London Unbiased, intended “just right ear.” “The Chinese language personality for it’s composed of an ear, an open window and a middle,” Mr. Fou mentioned. “It’s a herbal and poetic approach of claiming, discuss directly to the guts. As Mozart must. As all tune must.”

Mr. Fou’s father had studied in France and produced Chinese language translations of the works of Voltaire and Balzac, in addition to the radical “Jean-Christophe” by means of Romain Rolland, primarily based partially at the lifetime of German composer Ludwig van Beethoven.

Fu Lei sought to instill in his son a profound appreciation for Western and Japanese cultural traditions and continuously endorsed him, Mr. Fou recalled, that “first you should be an individual, then an artist, after which a musician, and best then are you able to be a pianist.”

“My father used to be an peculiar particular person, a Renaissance guy of significant humanism; that’s the approach I used to be introduced up,” Mr. Fou mentioned in an interview with Jessica Duchen, a classical tune author. “This sort of classical schooling even in my technology may be very uncommon,” he persisted. “My father, when he used to be instructing me Lao-Tse or Confucius, would additionally quote Aristotle or Plato or Bertrand Russell or Voltaire.”

Mr. Fou used to be drawn early directly to Western classical tune, which he heard on his circle of relatives’s choice of data. He started piano classes in 1940 and studied all through and after International Warfare II with Mario Paci, an Italian pianist and conductor who led the Shanghai Municipal Orchestra.

In his teenagers, Mr. Fou had a younger dalliance with communism. He described himself as “making revolution far and wide, falling out and in of affection always, ingesting and enjoying bridge” till he settled into severe learn about of the piano.

“He used to be a rebellious, tough student — a boy of that age, in spite of everything, does now not in finding it simple to stick with hours of follow,” his father wrote in an essay relayed in an electronic mail by means of Cai. However Mr. Fou’s “love for tune used to be so nice that I discovered the severest punishment for slackness used to be to fasten the piano and forbid him to play. He would have a look at the tool and cry his eyes out.”

Of their letters, the 2 males exchanged ideas on tune and on existence. Right through his research in Poland, he confessed to his father that he used to be lonely.

“He wrote again: ‘It’s good to by no means be lonely. Don’t you suppose you’re residing with the best souls of the historical past of mankind always?’ ” Mr. Fou informed Duchen. “Now that’s how I think, at all times.”

Revealed in 1981 as “Fu Lei’s Circle of relatives Letters,” the correspondence riveted Chinese language readers.

“Those letters had been no dry sermons, however had been as a substitute the only automobile for intimate confessions of a father and an individual of integrity at a time of common hypocrisy and excessive political force,” Guangchen Chen, a professor at Emory College and longtime good friend of Mr. Fou’s, wrote in an essay printed within the quantity “A New Literary Historical past of Fashionable China.”

“The 2 had been every different’s soul associates, discovering comfort within the values they each beloved.”

Mr. Fou’s first marriage, to Zamira Menuhin, a daughter of the acclaimed violinist Yehudi Menuhin, led to divorce, as did his marriage to Hijong Hyun. In 1987, he married Toh, a piano trainer on the Royal Academy of Track in London. But even so his spouse, survivors come with a son from his first marriage, Lin Siao of Shanghai; a son from his 3rd marriage, Lin Yun of London; a brother; and a grandson.

Richard Curt Kraus, a professor emeritus on the College of Oregon and creator of the ebook “The Celebration and the Arty in China: The New Politics of Tradition,” wrote in an electronic mail that he considers Mr. Fou “a sad determine, an excellent musician whose occupation used to be impeded by means of political currents and circle of relatives pressures past his keep watch over.”

“It took twenty years and big political adjustments for China to forgive him [for his defection], chopping Fou off from his herbal target market base,” Kraus wrote. “Fou have shyed away from changing into a pawn in chilly conflict propaganda, however his politically charged standing can not have helped his occupation.”

Mr. Fou returned to China for the primary time in 1979 and made extra widespread journeys again within the later years of his existence to show and carry out. He gave his ultimate public recital in Shanghai at age 80.

Of the entire composers whose works he carried out, Mr. Fou mentioned he felt closest to Chopin, who died in 1849 in Paris and used to be buried there on the Père Lachaise Cemetery, even if, on his request, his middle used to be returned to Poland. “He, too, used to be an exile,” Mr. Fou informed the Unbiased, “with a sense of longing, and anguish.”

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