Pianist Susan Liu Shares Insights Into 2019 NTD International Piano Competition

By Amy Tang

NEW YORK—The live rounds of the NTD International Piano Competition will be held at the Engelman Recital Hall in New York on Sept. 26-28.

The semi-final includes a piece specially commissioned for the competition. Susan Liu arranged the piece, and she is also one of the competition’s judges. Liu highlighted the importance of the commissioned piece when she spoke with NTD Television.

“[The] Commission piece is the centerpiece for the whole competition, it plays a big percentage of the whole competition. I would like to recommend all the contestant [to] really pay attention to this commission piece.”

Preserving Tradition

The mission of the competition is to preserve tradition, making it unique among other international competitions. To reflect this message, Liu did not arrange the piece in a contemporary style, and instead opted for a more traditional approach.

“When I arranged it, I would like to get back to traditional harmony, functional harmony.”

Like the previous competition, the jurists have commissioned Mr. D.F. to compose the music.

“He wrote numerous beautiful melodies, beautiful songs, and a lot of other compositions.”

Pianist Susan Liu
Susan Liu, pianist and judge of the 2019 NTD International Piano Competition. (Courtesy of The Epoch Times)

The commissioned piece was originally the melody for a song. Liu says by studying the lyrics, she gained a better understanding of both the words and music.

“When I arrange the piece, I have to go back to look at the lyrics, the more I read it, the more that would inspire me.”

Artistic Director

Mr. D.F. is the artistic director of Shen Yun, a premier classical Chinese dance company that has captured the world’s attention over the past decade, and captivates new audiences around the world each year. Liu recommends that contestants see Shen Yun.

“Once you see the show, you will understand what is behind all the music, and when you come back to play this piece, you will have a much better understanding of the music.”

Dmitri Levkovich performs
Dmitri Levkovich performs during the finals of the 2016 NTD International Piano Competition in New York on Oct. 2, 2016. (Larry Dai/NTD Television)

One of Shen Yun’s most notable features is its orchestra, which blends Chinese instruments into a classical Western orchestra. Liu applied a similar idea in her arrangement. She is not only a pianist, but also a Guzheng (zither) virtuoso, and used her expertise in both musical traditions to arrange the piece.

“I also use Chinese traditional pentatonic scale into the piece. That’s what I wish to accomplish—to fuse the western harmony and Chinese style altogether.”

Challenge to Competitors

Pianists have just over a month to prepare to play the piece. Liu is currently in the middle of arranging the 2019 commissioned piece, and said that this year’s will be harder than the previous competitions’. While she can’t give us too many details, she talked about how she arranged the commissioned piece for the previous competition, which was named “Glorious Realm,” and again, composed by Mr. D.F.

“I basically divided the piece [in]to three parts. The first part, I want to present the beautiful melody, so I used very simple pentatonic scale, arpeggios, to just present the beautiful melody. But the second section, I changed the approach, I used western harmony and chordal style, this way I want to accomplish the atmosphere in the church. The last section, I use grandiose arpeggio on the left hand, wish to achieve the climax of the whole, and end the piece splendidly.”

The performances will be streamed live on the internet, and broadcasted later on NTD’s TV network, reaching millions of audiences throughout the world. The gold award of the competition is $10,000.

For more information, please visit the competition’s webpage.

NTD Piano Competition
NTD Piano Competition will be held at Engelman Recital Hall in N.Y. on Sept. 26-28, 2019. (NTD Television)