Preview: Wu Qian, Blackheath Halls, London

Virtuoso brings joy from China to Blackheath
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The Independent Culture

Classical music may be booming in China, but top-flight Chinese pianists are still rarities. All the more reason to check out 22-year-old Wu Qian. Her way with Prokofiev is masterly, her Albeniz richly coloured, her Rachmaninov majestic, and her Schumann has a wonderfully dreamy lyricism.

She began quite late for a virtuoso, at six, when she saw a piano at a relative's house. "It wasn't being played, I just liked the look of it," she says. "So I said that I wanted one. My father said that he'd get me an electric keyboard, but my mother said no, a proper piano, so that's what I got.

I'd already started to paint seriously, but I was told - as all Chinese children are - that I must focus on just one thing, and do it properly. So I chose the piano." By nine, she was a star at the Shanghai conservatoire, practising seven hours a day, and playing Chopin's Etudes. Her mother gave up her job to serve her daughter's talent.

So, was Wu Qian, as a typically adored Chinese only-child, brought up as a "little empress"?

"No, I wasn't spoilt."

Her break came when she was spotted at 11 by a visiting British professor, and invited to audition for a scholarship at the Menuhin School, where she spent the next five years before progressing to the Royal Academy of Music. Having arrived with almost no English, she adapted fast and, by her mid-teens, had embarked on a concert career both here and in Germany. She's currently marrying her two loves by researching the links between music and painting.

But Wu Qian is determined not to be listened to as a mere "Chinese pianist": "I'm a pianist like any other. My aim is to bring people joy through my playing." She's doing that already.

28 January (; 020-8463 0100)