MICHELE NORRIS, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
I'm Robert Siegel. And now, a young pianist from Pasadena.
(Soundbite of music)
SIEGEL: His name is Marc Yu. His parents are from China, and he spends a lot of time there. This week, he went to a Los Angeles studio and he played this Chopin mazurka for us.
(Soundbite of music)
SIEGEL: I met Marc Yu at a fundraising event in Washington, DC several weeks ago. It was for victims of the Sichuan earthquake. By coincidence, I was planning to interview his idol this week, the pianist Lang Lang. They're going to play together next month in London, so I thought I'd interview him, too. Here's what's so interesting about Marc Yu. He's nine years old.
Mr. MARC YU (Pianist): My legs are long enough for the pedal, but still, my legs aren't straight. Sometimes, your leg has to be straight for a pedal, but mine's not lented for a pedal. But I sometimes have to sit close to piano or stretch my legs. My left hand can reach an octave - not fast. My right hand - not yet.
SIEGEL: So you can stretch over eight notes with your left hand, but - well, obviously, you'll pretty soon have a longer reach than that. I mean, you're just - it's just a matter of growing into the piano, huh?
Mr. YU: Yeah.
SIEGEL: You know, you're now nine years old. When did you start playing the piano? How old were you when you began?
Mr. YU: I can vaguely remember it. But through all the numerous retelling through my mom, I was two. I was at a friend's party, where there were some children singing "Mary Had a Little Lamb." So I jumped on their piano and just started playing out the tune. But I can remember very well my recital debut when I was three, playing a G major sonatina by Beethoven.
SIEGEL: And when did you decide that you wanted to be a concert pianist?
Mr. YU: When I was three, I asked my mom if I could become a pianist, and then I started taking lessons from my mom, and then lessons from a teacher.
SIEGEL: And how much do you practice in order to be concert pianist?
Mr. YU: Oh, from zero to eight hours per day. It really depends whether if I'm traveling or I'm at home, even if I'm in the mood for it.
SIEGEL: Zero to eight hours. That's a very big spread. So I assume that if you do zero one day, it won't be zero the next day. How many days off can you take from practicing in a row?
Mr. YU: One.
SIEGEL: One. The next day, you'll be practicing again.
Mr. YU: Yeah. Practice makes perfect. You don't want a Beethoven piece to sound like something else. That's disrespectful to the composer.
SIEGEL: And do you also have to do other school work during the day? Are you going to a regular school, or do you have a tutor? How does that work?
Mr. YU: My mom actually homeschools me, and I have a lot of time to play. And I've many friends whom I play with.
Mr. YU: I think other kids are missing out, because they're confined to a school five days a week and seven hours per day.
SIEGEL: Well, I want you to tell me a little bit about what's going to happen in August when you play at the Proms in London, the famous promenade concerts. You're going to play a duet, I gather, with Lang Lang.
Mr. YU: Yes. I'm going to play a four-handed piece with Lang Lang by Schubert.
SIEGEL: Playing with Lang Lang sounds like it's going to be very exciting at the Proms in London.
Mr. YU: Yes. I'm very excited. It's like winning a lottery or, like, dining with muses or other gods. Yeah.
(Soundbite of laughter)
SIEGEL: He's a hero of yours, Lang Lang is.
Mr. YU: So exciting. Yeah.
SIEGEL: How do you explain to people your gift for this? How - why do you think you have this talent? Where does it come from?
Mr. YU: I have to thank my mom for that, because even though when I was still an embryo inside her tummy, she would play music from famous pianists on a CD, or she herself would sing tunes, nursery rhymes, or play some Beethoven for me.
SIEGEL: Well, when you performed in Washington at the fundraising for victims of the Sichuan earthquake, you chose a piece by Chopin to play. And I'd like you to explain why you played that piece, and then, if you could, play it for us.
Mr. YU: Sure. I will play it. I will tell why I chose that piece, first.
Mr. YU: Because Chopin wrote that piece for the victims of the Polish-Russian War. That's why I played that piece for the Chinese victims in the earthquake tragedy. Yeah.
(Soundbite of music, "Nocturne in C-Sharp Minor")
SIEGEL: Chopin's "Nocturne in C-Sharp Minor," played by nine-year-old pianist Marc Yu. You can hear more of his playing at npr.org.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.