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A harmonious relationship

Updated: 2023-08-31 08:18 ( CHINA DAILY )
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Violinist Tang Yun and his girlfriend, composer Lin Ziqing, team up to launch a national tour with classical music and renditions of Chinese folk music. [Photo provided to China Daily]

After years out of the limelight, violinist Tang Yun returns to the stage as he embarks on a notable musical journey with his partner, Lin Ziqing, Chen Nan reports.

On Aug 22, violinist Tang Yun and his girlfriend, Lin Ziqing, a composer who plays piano, made music together in an intimate concert, just in time for Qixi, China's equivalent of Valentine's Day, at Temple Dongjingyuan, which is located in the centuries-old Zhizhu Temple Complex in Beijing.

It was a special concert that the couple began creating together at home by adapting contemporary music, finding harmonic voices for the two musical instruments.

One of the pieces they played was adapted from the popular Chinese song, In That Distant Place, written by Wang Luobin (1913-96). Lin initiated the idea of adapting the song, as she grew up listening to her grandfather singing it. During the concert, the couple dedicated the piece to Lin's 97-year-old grandfather, who was sitting in the audience.

The couple performed another concert at the same venue on Aug 5, featuring Mozart's four sonatas for piano and violin.

The audience warmly applauded the couple's performances, and seemed pleased that Tang is, once again, back in the limelight.

In 2002, at the age of 13, Tang became a household name when he was selected by renowned director Chen Kaige to play the leading role — that of a 13-year-old violin prodigy — in Chen's movie, Together.

The character, named Xiaochun, is a shy and sensitive boy, who doesn't talk much but lets music express his feelings. Tang's solid technique in playing his instrument, as well as his fledgling acting skills, impressed the audience.

Reflecting on that episode of his life, Tang, now 36, recalls that it was fun to be part of the movie because "it was not difficult at all".

"The story told in the movie was very much like my own life, so I didn't really need to act. Since I was the youngest in the crew, I was taken care of by the adults, who always encouraged and praised me," says Tang.

Together is a movie about music and family. Xiaochun lives with his father, played by veteran actor Liu Peiqi, in a small city. His father wants to give his son the best education, so he takes him to Beijing. The father hopes that his son can be enrolled in the best music school and learn with the best teacher, befitting his musical talent. In Beijing, which is a new world for the young boy, Xiaochun encounters new and demanding teachers, discovers friendship, learns how painful life's choices can be, and comes to understand his father's love.

Starting to play violin at the age of 4 under the guidance of his father, who is also a violinist, and making his stage debut at the age of 7, Tang, who was born in Bengbu, Anhui province, says that he shares similar experiences with Xiaochun, including often spending long hours practicing and looking for opportunities to pursue a music career.

"My father was very strict and had high expectations for me. I was very shy and practiced hard, because I always felt bad about myself due to the extreme pressure from my father. When I wasn't progressing as quickly as my father wanted, he would get very angry," says Tang.

The father-and-son relationship has been intense, but, despite "a very emotional journey", Tang says that their relationship has gradually been mended.

After the success of the movie, Tang, just like Xiaochun, had to make a choice. His was to either continue his music studies, or have a totally new career as an actor.

"Apparently, I am not a good actor. When more acting opportunities came my way at that time, I tried but I couldn't act at all. I only feel safe and comfortable when I am with my violin. It was very difficult for me to face the camera without playing my instrument," says Tang, who turned down a life in movies and TV dramas.

He decided to pursue his music career and, thanks to the movie, which brought him fame, Tang gained the opportunity to study with veteran music educator and violinist Lin Yaoji (1937-2009), and was admitted to study at the Middle School Affiliated to the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing.

"It was like a watershed moment for my family, because my mother came with me to live in Beijing and my father stayed in our hometown," says Tang.

From 2003 to 2006, he played with many symphony orchestras, such as the Chinese Philharmonic Orchestra, the Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra and the Shenzhen Symphony Orchestra, as well as giving solo recitals and touring around the country.

However, after traveling to the United States to study at Bard College and the Colburn School in 2009, he decided to drop out following the death of his teacher, Lin.

"I was confused and not sure about my future. I wanted to separate myself from classical music, hoping to figure out what I wanted to do with my life," says Tang, who has settled down in Beijing.

Since 2012, he has appeared in reality TV shows, such as I Am a Singer, broadcast and produced by Mango TV.

"I didn't like what I did with those reality shows, because I just played music that I was asked to play, and accompanied pop singers. However, looking back, I was able to learn how to improvise, because, as a classically trained musician, I usually played music based on scores," says Tang.

"When they realize that I was the little boy in Chen Kaige's movie, people often ask me questions like, 'where did you go?', and 'what did you do?'

"I lived a simple and easy life. I didn't plan to return to the classical music scene until I met my girlfriend and my current agent," he says.

Lin, a Beijing native, who graduated from the China Conservatory of Music in Beijing with a major in composition, says, "He was very quiet when we first met. It took us a very long time to chat after we got each other's contact details."

She sang with the popular female group, Black Duck, for seven years, and also played piano on reality shows.

"We decided to play music together about a year ago. He has a great technique and great musical sense. When he plays onstage, the shy violinist transforms into an active and expressive young man. While playing his violin, he walks into the audiences, kneels down and closes his eyes. He is fully immersed in his music," adds Lin.

The couple will embark on a national tour in 2024 and 2025 with plans to release an album also on the agenda.

"Making music with a loved one is great. We can rehearse at home anytime we want. It's a significant bond to share and it really is a gift for us," Lin says.

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