Life-long love of music

Li-Wei Qin is looking forward to playing his ‘‘old friend’’ the Dvorak cello concerto again. Photos: Dong Wang
Li-Wei Qin is looking forward to playing his ‘‘old friend’’ the Dvorak cello concerto again. Photos: Dong Wang
Singapore-based cellist Li-Wei Qin
Singapore-based cellist Li-Wei Qin

Li-Wei Qin has followed in his father’s footsteps by becoming a cellist. He tells Rebecca Fox about playing at the BBC Proms and at two Olympic Games.

At just 17 years old Li-Wei Qin recorded his first CD - the Dvorak cello concerto he is about to play in Dunedin.

''The experience was a little overwhelming for me, but very exciting indeed. Hopefully, I am a mature performer now.''

Qin, who will play with the Dunedin Symphony Orchestra at the Dunedin Town Hall this weekend, will be conducted by principal guest conductor Simon Over.

As well as the Dvorak concerto, the programme includes John Adams' The Chairman Dances and Brahms' Symphony No4.

''I have since recorded it with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra for Decca Classics, and I'm really looking forward revisiting this old friend again.''

Qin's love of music began while growing up in Shanghai with a musical father who played the cello.

Qin, who was born in 1976, started playing the piano at age 5 and moved on to the cello at 8.

The family moved to Australia when he was 13 years old, settling first in Hobart where his parents studied, before moving to Melbourne.

He continued to play cello, spending two hours a day practising and spending the rest of his time like a ''normal'' teenager.

Qin received scholarships to study with Ralph Kirshbaum at the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester, and with David Takeno at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London.

''Although I was concertising from a very young age, it was not until after university, when I decided to go pro.''

He was inspired by Russian cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich, who is considered one of the greatest cellists of the 20th century.

''A true artist who has inspired generations of musicians.''

After achieving success at the 11th Tchaikovsky International Competition where he was awarded the silver medal, Qin has since won First Prize in the prestigious 2001 Naumburg Competition in New York.

Qin was invited to join the BBC ''New Generations'' scheme in 2001 and in 2002, he received the Young Australian of the Year Award.

He has played with some of the world's great orchestras, including all the BBC symphony orchestras, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, London Philharmonic, the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, the NDR-Sinfonierorchester Hamburg, the Konzerthausorchester Berlin, the Basel Symphony, the Prague Symphony, the Osaka Philharmonic, Hong Kong Philharmonic, China Philharmonic, the Sydney Symphony and Melbourne Symphony.

Qin is a regular guest at the Wigmore Hall and for the Lincoln Centre Chamber Music Society, New York, and has recorded the complete Beethoven Sonatas, Works of Rachmaninov with pianist Albert Tiu and Elgar/Walton Concerti with the London Philharmonic. Recently, courtesy of Universal Music, Qin's 2013 live concert with the Shanghai Symphony and Maestro Yu Long was released on Sony Classical.

He plays a 1780 Joseph Guadagnini cello, loaned by Dr and Mrs Wilson Goh.

Qin's highlights so far have been performing in the BBC Proms, - twice as a soloist - recording with the London Philharmonic, a concerto with the LA Philharmonic and performing at the Beijing and London Olympic Games.

Playing at the BBC Proms was a great experience.

''There is nothing like playing at the biggest classical music festival in the world and having a full house, too.''

He has also been professor of cello at the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester.

Now based in Singapore, where he teaches at Yong Siew Toh Conservatory, Qin enjoys spending time with his wife and two sons when not teaching or travelling.

He also enjoys listening to jazz music.

His time in Melbourne, where he completed his secondary school education and where his parents still live, meant he had a soft spot for the Australian city.

''It was one of the places that helped shape me a lot as a person so will always be a special kind of home from a certain time in my life.''

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