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.
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