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Music column

Schumann Forum 2010

Schumann in China

by Wolf-Dieter Seiffert
Geschäftsführer G. Henle Verlag

01. November

Dear readers,

Prof. Li Ming Qiang

I have just returned from the International Music Fair in Shanghai. There I had the opportunity to talk to one of the most highly renowned Chinese pianists, university professor and member of the jury of international piano competitions: Professor Li Ming Qiang from Hong Kong. Of course the music of Robert Schumann was the main topic of our conversation.

How does someone in faraway China approach Schumann’s music? Can his music at all be understood or are there obstacles that are only very difficult to overcome? Our conversation was especially important to me because I know that you achieve new and fresh insights when you change your perspective. When, so to speak, we peer through Chinese spectacles, Schumann’s music will suddenly become exciting and new to our experience. This is discussed in our conversation that you can hear in excerpts (in English, with some Chinese) and which I have also made a protocol of in writing (English and German).

Click HERE to read the written version.

Wolf-Dieter Seiffert and Li Ming Qiang

At the beginning of our conversation I asked Mr Li to give us a short overview of the current situation of the Chinese music Conservatories. I had asked him to start speaking in Mandarin, which he did, and then changed to English. And then we remained with English to the end of our talk.


We soon moved on to Schumann and his piano works. Professor Li remarked that, just as in the western world, a small number of Schumann’s works are especially popular, the rest, however is mostly unacknowledged. Overall he thinks that Chopin’s music is closer to the Chinese than Schumann’s. Schumann is difficult for most all Asians to understand. Why is that so?


And still, the music of the “Romantic“ era is by far the most popular classical music among the Chinese audiences (and among Chinese musicians).


It is not without pride that I am here for the first time publicly announcing that G. Henle Verlag has this year contracted a license agreement with “Shanghai Music Publishing House” (SMPH) to publish the complete piano works of Schumann in our newly revised edition. In the course of the next years all six volumes of this version will be translated into Chinese and (exclusively) sold on the Chinese market. Professor Li was not insignificantly involved in the realization of this pathbreaking license agreement. In future the SMPH-HENLE edition will decisively distribute the correct and reliable music of Schumann in China.

Listen here to the part of our conversation that evolved around this topic that truly bears fruitful future prospects for Chinese musicians.


As something special on top, I would like to invite you to read the comments of Li Ming Qiang on Schumann’s work in comparison to that of Frédéric Chopin’s: 9 Questions

As always at the end of my bi-monthly Schumann articles I want to share with you an especially valuable recording of Schumann’s music. Of course today a, or rather THE Chinese pianist of our times needs to be honoured: Lang Lang. The virtuosic fireworks that are prone to explode in the “Abegg-Variations” op. 1 are a rare find in record shops (my favourite is and remains Clara Haskil’s recording). Lang Lang succeeds in creating exactly the intended tone, somewhere between salon and concert hall, clear and precise with (as always) astounding ease, lightness and casualness. Here is the You-Tube link to the 8min recording of Lang Lang, live in Carnegie Hall, New York 2003:

[Video unfortunately no longer available]

Schumann Forum at a glance