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Miu Miu is a shoe. No, he’s a pianist.

It means ‘little ox’, apparently.

No, that’s Niu Niu. Spellcheck just can’t cope. See press release below.

EMI Classics is proud to announce the first international CD release by the 15-year-old Chinese piano prodigy Niu Niu, featuring Franz Liszt transcriptions and paraphrases of compositions by Schubert, Wagner, Paganini and two original works by Liszt himself. The digital download bonus tracks are two transcriptions by Rachmaninov and Leopold Godowsky.


Liszt’s Wagner transcriptions are among his most important works in this genre. They are not only extremely difficult to play, they are also essays in compositional problem solving, in the art of transforming large-scale works into reasonable — and above all else musical — piano versions. That Liszt would focus on Wagner’s operas is not surprising. Liszt’s paraphrases played an important role in disseminating Wagner’s music to a wideraudience.


Liszt’s Études d’exécution transcendante d’après Paganini are a series of six études for the piano, revised in 1851 from an earlier version (1838). It is almost exclusively in the final version that these pieces are played today. The Études are based on five Paganini Caprices for solo violin and La campanella (the last movement of the Violin Concerto No. 2), and they are among the most technically demanding pieces in the piano literature.


Liszt had a particular affection and sympathy for the music of Schubert, reflected in some 60 transcriptions of Schubert songs. Many were written in the late 1830s and formed a popular part of Liszt’s concert programmes during his years as a travelling virtuoso. Through the transcriptions, he was able to bring his enthusiasm for the repertoire to the attention of a larger audience. The Grand galop chromatique, composed by Liszt in 1838,is one of the typical bravura pieces that brought the house down during his European concert tours. It was published as a piano solo and as a piano duet version (S.616). Its effect on audiences was mesmerizing. Liebestraum No.3 was originally conceived as one of three songs after poems by Ludwig Uhland and Ferdinand Freiligrath. It has become one of Liszt’s best loved solo piano works.


Niu Niu (meaning “Little Ox”) is the nickname and performing identity of Zhang Shengliang, born into a musical family in Xiamen, Fujian province, China in 1997. After showing talent at the age of three, Niu Niu received his first lessons from his father. He made his concert debut in August 2003, a few weeks after his sixth birthday, with a programme that included a Mozart piano sonata and a Chopin étude. At the age of eight, he became the youngest student in the 85-year history of the Shanghai Conservatory of Music.


From the age of ten, Niu Niu has studied with Professor Hung-Kuan Chen, initially at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music and, more recently, at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, where Niu Niu and his family relocated. Chen says Niu Niu possesses “an untold passion and aesthetic that belies his tender age”. Another mentor is the pianist Leslie Howard, who describes his protégé as “the finest young musician I have ever known.”  Howard, who has recorded Liszt’s complete solo piano music, wrote the liner notes to Niu Niu’s CD.


In August 2006, Niu Niu gave a recital at the Wigmore Hall and was invited to perform, alone and with the English Chamber Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall in the presence of HRH Prince Charles, as part of the 2007 Pearl Awards ceremony celebrating Chinese achievements in multi-cultural Britain.


Niu Niu has performed widely, in recital and as soloist with orchestras throughout China and Japan. His performance in China’s annual televised New Year’s concert in 2007 was watched by an estimated half a billion Chinese. In 2010, he gave recitals in six Japanese cities for audiences of over 10,000 people.


In Europe, Niu Niu performed Mozart’s Concerto K271, Jeunehomme, under the baton of Justus Franz at the Festival der Nationen in Bad Wörishofen, Germany, where he received the Festival’s 2009 Young Artist of the Year award. He has also performed in Berlin, Hamburg, Dortmund and Essen. In October 2010 in Berlin, Niu Niu was the laureate of the 2010 PRIX Montblanc, awarded annually to young emerging instrumentalists in the classical music world.  He has performed in Switzerland and France with the Zurich Chamber Orchestra and, in the United States, Niu Niu has appeared at Yale University’s School of Music in New Haven, at Boston’s Jordan Hall and in Minneapolis-St. Paul.


Niu Niu’s solo repertoire covers a range quite incredible for a boy of his age. It includes Books I and II of J.S. Bach’s The Well Tempered Klavier, all the sonatas of Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven, the Schubert Fantasy, all the Chopin Waltzes, Nocturnes and Polonaises, Schumann’s Papillon,Carnaval and Kinderszenen, Balakirev’s Islamey, Debussy’s Images, Preludes, Etudes and Children’s Corner, Scrabin’s Etudes, Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit, Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, Rachmaninov’s Preludes, Prokofiev’s Etudes, Sonatas and Visions fugitives.

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  1. Dr. Marc Villeger says:

    His solo repertoire would have been impressive at 5 but at 15, is this really news news?

    • Dr. Kevin C.H. Chiang says:

      I think Dr. Marc Villeger is trying to be sarcastic about the level of piano playing today among youngsters. I do not think anyone would have any doubt about the technical difficulty in Niu Niu’s repertoire list at the age of 15 (or even he were 25). In fact, I do not think the list by itself is that important either. It is more about whether he plays well, instead of what he can play. Let us wait and see.

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