ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — When Antonio Chen Guang was 4 years old, his father banned him from his piano studio.
When he turned 5, he begged the piano professor to let him in.
“I always wanted to play the piano,” the 24-year-old Guang said in a telephone interview from Fairbanks, Alaska. “He said, ‘We have to make a deal. You have to listen and obey my rules. If I tell you to practice two hours a day, you practice two hours a day.’
“He said, ‘You cannot quit easily. If you quit, I will never teach you again.’ ”
The Olga Kern International Piano Competition winner obviously listened, and he’s returned to perform Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 with the New Mexico Philharmonic on Sunday, March 10, at the National Hispanic Cultural Center. The orchestra also will play Robert Schumann’s “Rhenish” Symphony No. 3. Grammy Award-winning conductor Roberto Minczuk will lead the musicians.
Guang grew up near Wuhan, in central China. At age 11, he moved to Beijing to study at the Central Conservatory. In 2012, he earned his pre-college diploma at The Juilliard School. Today he lives in Vienna, Austria, where he continues to study his instrument.
Guang said he has always felt drawn to the music of Beethoven. He played the composer’s Piano Concerto No. 4 at his first public performance when he was 14.
Beethoven wrote the third (circa 1800) during the onset of his deafness.
“It’s in a quite different key,” Guang said. “For Beethoven, the C minor has always been related to the heroic. It’s almost always a mastery of fighting with destiny, with his fate, the end of the world.”
Placing first in the Albuquerque-based competition triggered a flood of opportunities, Guang said.
In January, he performed in Romania. Future dates include South Africa and Moscow. He’s also won the Scriabin Prize and the Rome Prize, along with numerous internationally renowned competitions.
He was humbled by the win.
“You have to go super, super prepared,” he said. “But you never know what’s going to happen. I think I was lucky that I was playing at my best.”