In the lead up to the 2023 Great Romantics Competition on September 24, we sat down with Reuben Tsang, last year’s winner of the Elisabeth Murdoch Prize. We found out about his love for travel, Frederic Chopin, and performing in the semi-final of the Aarhus International Piano Competition in Denmark.
Why did you choose your instrument?
My mum played the piano when she was younger, and my older brother had started taking piano lessons. As I was exposed to the sound of the instrument in the house at a young age, I grew interested in also starting the piano as an extra-curricular activity.
As time passed, I began to view music as more than just a hobby and decided to pursue it as a career later in primary school. Although I had also picked up the violin along the way, piano always felt like home to me. A large quantity of piano repertoire has a special place in my heart, and I also feel freer and more expressive with the instrument, especially with its broad pitch range and varying sonorities.
When did you start playing your instrument?
I started playing piano when I was five years old.
Who are your musical heroes?
If I were to include composers, Frederic Chopin is one of the greatest composers I look up to. I grew up listening to a wide range of his piano compositions on the way to school and during my downtime, which strengthened my passion for music. The pianists that I feel greatly inspired by include Krystian Zimerman, Yulianna Avdeeva and Mitsuko Uchida (just to name a few).
What was it like to win the 2022 Great Romantics Competition?
It felt incredible to have won the 2022 Great Romantics Competition. I was competing alongside such talented musicians, so I was not particularly expecting to have made it this far. Apart from receiving the Elisabeth Murdoch prize, everything about this competition made it such a spectacular experience. I was particularly amazed by the vibrant acoustics of Elisabeth Murdoch Hall, which made me enjoy the performance experience even more. This prize also created more performance opportunities and led me to meet amazing new people.
What has been your performance highlight so far?
Performing in the Elisabeth Murdoch Hall for the Great Romantics Competition is one of my highlights. Additionally, performing a 90-minute recital in the semi-final round of the 2021 Lev Vlassenko Piano Competition was a huge milestone for me and extended my performance boundaries. But I would say the most memorable performance highlight is when I recently performed in the Preliminary and Semi-Final Rounds of the 2023 Aarhus International Piano Competition in Denmark. It was truly an eye-opener, and I was so enthused to have witnessed the captivating performances of the other competitors.
What pieces are you working on now? Most challenging aspects?
I am currently working on the full set of Rachmaninov Etude-Tableaux Op. 39. It is quite the adventure, and it has some of the most breathtaking moments captured in the piano repertoire. I would say the most challenging aspect of studying this set aside from the undeniably difficult technical demands is synthesising the whole 40 minutes of music into one cohesive piece.
What do you like to do outside of practicing music?
After travelling to Denmark recently, I never realised how much I love travelling. I hope to travel to more countries soon! It is always such a refreshing experience to learn about other cultures and to visit jaw-dropping landmarks. I love exploring in general, even if it’s a hike or a casual stroll, and I like taking photos to capture some of the beautiful moments. I also enjoy eating different kinds of food.
Any advice for 2023 Great Romantics applicants?
I would say that it is very important to choose repertoire which you are emotionally drawn to so that you can make the music your own. I would also advise applicants to keep exploring the piece/s they choose for the competition and appreciate every second of it. They’re always different angles from which you can approach the music, especially in the music of the Romantic oeuvre.
Applications are now open and close on Wednesday 16 August 2023 at midnight (AEST).
Please ensure you download and read the Competition Guidelines before completing your application.
Click here for more details.