NEW YORK, Aug. 15, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — The 40th Most Outstanding Asian Artist Lifetime Achievement Award Ceremony was held on Saturday, August 12th, in New York, presented by the Chinese American Arts Council (CAAC). Chinese pianist Mr. Liu Shih Kun was honored with this prestigious recognition. Established in 1981, this award is one the most significant honors in the United States dedicated to recognizing excellence in the Asian arts community. Past awardees include pianist Fou Ts’ong, Chinese opera performers Hung Sin Nui, Zhang Junqiu, Gu Zhengqiu, playwright David Henry Hwang, and cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
Liu Shih Kun is an esteemed artistic master and a witness of modern and contemporary Chinese history. Born in 1939 into a family of wealthy merchants and music enthusiasts in Tianjin, he started playing the piano at the age of 3, debuted at 5, and won the China Children’s Piano Competition at 10. In 1956, he took home third place and a special award at the Liszt International Piano Competition, receiving a strand of Liszt’s hair as an accolade. In 1958, he achieved second place in the inaugural International Tchaikovsky Competition, in which American pianist Van Cliburn won the first place, stirring international attention. He is one of the few highly decorated veteran pianists still active on the international stage.
Liu Shih Kun is a pioneer in U.S.-China cultural exchange. In 1973, during the historic first visit of the Philadelphia Orchestra to China, he soloed Franz Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6 at the Beijing Cultural Palace of Nationalities where he received a standing ovation from the entire orchestra. The visit, authorized by President Nixon and Henry Kissinger, kickstarted modern U.S.-China relations. In 1978, as Vice-Chairman and chief performer of the Chinese Art Delegation, he became one of the earliest Chinese artists to tour in the United States and was received by President Carter at the White House Rose Garden. In 1979, he collaborated with the Boston Symphony Orchestra to perform Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in Beijing and returned to the U.S. for two additional concerts at the invitation of Seiji Ozawa, the orchestra’s music director. His recording of Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Boston Symphony Orchestra became one of the best-selling Gold Records at the time. He maintained a lifelong friendship with Van Cliburn and served as a juror for the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in 2013. He was also the last guest Van Cliburn received before his passing.
Liu is an outstanding composer, with notable works including the Youth Concerto for piano and orchestra and the piano concerto Battling Against Typhoon which are prominent in China’s modern musical repertoire. He is also a distinguished arts educator, having established over 100 Liu Shih Kun Piano Schools and Kindergartens in more than 30 cities across China in the past 30 years. His efforts have enriched over 500,000 students, with nearly 100,000 currently enrolled. These endeavors have led to the emergence of numerous prize-winners in various piano competitions, contributing significantly to China’s ascent as a global piano superpower.
In his acceptance speech, Liu stated, “I have received numerous awards in the past, but this award holds a profound meaning for me and has made me feel particularly honored. Today, being here, I feel as if I have become much younger. In a world filled with many conflicts, music has the ability to bring beauty and warmth to the world. Today’s award inspires me to work even harder to fulfill the role of music in this regard.” Liu Shih Kun attended the ceremony with his wife Sun Wing and their daughter Bei Bei Lau.
Huang Ping, the Consul General of the Chinese Consulate in New York, and Alan Chow, the Founder and Director of the Chinese American Arts Council, jointly presented the award to Liu Shih Kun. Ambassador Huang Ping highlighted how Liu Shih Kun’s artistic achievements and journey have influenced countless Chinese children and how in today’s global village, mutual understanding and appreciation are crucial, and Liu Shih Kun’s work serves as a bridge of friendship between different cultures.
Representatives of the State of New York and New York City Mayor’s office were present at the ceremony, bringing with them citations and delivering a congratulatory speech on behalf of the Governor Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams. Governor Hochul congratulated Liu Shih Kun, acknowledging his outstanding accomplishments as a remarkable pianist and musician and the immense pride he has brought to Asian communities throughout his life. This marks the first time a foreign Asian artist has received such an honor this year. Mayor Eric Adams described Liu Shih Kun as “a globally acclaimed piano prodigy and performer who has made a tremendous contribution to the cultural sector” and celebrated “the incredible and inspiring imprint he has made on budding musicians around the world and across generations.”
Former Prime Minister of Australia and current Ambassador of Australia to the United States Dr. Kevin Rudd, former Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and his wife, Vice-Chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and the 1st and 2nd Chief Executive of the Macau Special Administrative Region Edmund Ho, Chinese Ambassador to the United States Xie Feng, Permanent Representative to the United Nations Zhang Jun, the 101-year-old first Chinese Nobel laureate Chen-Ning Yang, and writer Feng Jicai all extended their congratulations to Liu Shih Kun. Chen-Ning Yang described Liu Shih Kun as “one of the greatest pianists of this century,” while Feng Jicai stated that Liu Shih Kun’s award was “a momentous event in the world of arts and a positive development in Sino-American exchange.” Jacques Marquis, CEO and President of Van Cliburn Foundation thanked Maestro Liu for being such an inspiration for Chinese pianists, but also for pianists all over the world. Robert Blocker, Dean of the Yale School of Music, conveyed warm congratulations, affirming that “Shih Kun is one of the world’s great artists, an extraordinary pianist, an incomparable improvisor at the keyboard, a composer, and most of all, a wonderful human being. “
Wu Han, Artistic Director of Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, delivered an impromptu speech, “I am here representing all of the young musicians, especially pianists, to thank you for your incredible contributions. You have served as a shining example for all the young musicians like me.” Qian Jing, representing Ambassador of Australia to the United States Dr. Kevin Rudd, conveyed a message that Liu Shih Kun’s story and contribution bring love and strength to the world.
Eminent figure in the American music scene, 95-year-old Gary Graffman, attended the event. Liu Shih Kun and Gary Graffman met in 1978 when Liu visited the U.S. As old friends, they conversed in Russia during a touching moment.
At the ceremony, Chen Yimiao, a third-generation descendant of the legendary Chen erhu sect, performed an improvisational rendition of Wild Flying Horses.
The 84-year-old Liu Shih Kun improvised performances of the Chinese song Ode to the Motherland and the American song America the Beautiful. The latter was a piece played during President Nixon’s visit to China. His performance garnered enthusiastic applause from the audience.
SOURCE Chinese American Arts Council
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