Fou Ts'ong

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Fou Ts'ong
Fou Ts'ong 1965 (cropped).jpg
Fou Ts'ong in 1965
Born(1934-03-10)10 March 1934
Shanghai, China
Died28 December 2020(2020-12-28) (aged 86)
London, England
Zamira Menuhin
(m. 1960; div. 1969)
Hijong Hyun
(m. 1973; div. 1976)
(m. 1987)
ParentFu Lei (father)
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese

Fou Ts'ong (Chinese: 傅聰; pinyin: Fù Cōng; 10 March 1934 – 28 December 2020) was a Chinese-born British pianist[1][2][3] who was the first pianist of his national origin to achieve international recognition.[4][5][6] He came to prominence after winning third prize and the Polish Radio Prize for the best performance of mazurkas in the 1955 V International Chopin Piano Competition, and remained particularly known as an interpreter of Chopin's music.[6][7]

Early life[edit]

Fou Ts'ong was born in Shanghai on 10 March 1934 to a family of intellectuals; his father was the translator Fu Lei.[8] Fou's parents Fu Lei and Zhu Meifu were persecuted during the Cultural Revolution and committed suicide in September 1966.[6][9] Fou Ts'ong had a brother named Fu Min.[9]

Fou first studied piano with Mario Paci, the Italian founder of the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra.[2]


Early career[edit]

In 1951, Fou made his debut in his hometown of Shanghai, performing Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5.[10] Subsequently, officials in Beijing selected Fou to perform and compete in eastern Europe.[11] In 1953, he won the third prize at the George Enescu International Competition.[12] That year, at the age of nineteen,[6] he moved to Europe to continue his training at the State College of Music in Warsaw (now the Fryderyk Chopin University of Music in Warsaw) with Zbigniew Drzewiecki. In 1955, Fou won the third prize and the Polish Radio Prize for the best performances of Chopin's mazurkas in the V International Chopin Piano Competition.[10][13] While studying in Warsaw, he gave concerts in Eastern Europe.[10]

International career[edit]

Mario Paci (second row centre) with his colleagues and students in Shanghai, 1945. In the front row are two of his youngest students: Fou (front left) and Wu Yili (front right).

In 1958 or 1959, Fou settled permanently in London,[6][14] and soon began giving concerts in Europe and the United States.[6] In 1959, he performed under Carlo Maria Giulini at the Royal Albert Hall.[15] He made his debut with the New York Philharmonic under Paul Paray in Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 2 (Op. 21) in November 1961.[5] Harold C. Schonberg of The New York Times called Fou a "sincere musician", but was otherwise critical of the performance, calling his conception of the piece "heavy and sometimes awkward, with little of the grace, charm or sophistication that the Chopin F minor contains".[5]

Fou was nominated for a Grammy for most promising new classical artist in 1963 for a recording of Scarlatti's sonatas.[16] In 1964, he made his New York recital debut at Town Hall. The New York Times was more favourable in its review of this recital than his New York Philharmonic debut, noting his "admirable lyricism" in playing Mozart, Schubert, and Debussy.[17] He subsequently returned to New York several times; reviewing a 1987 recital at Alice Tully Hall, Bernard Holland of The New York Times described Fou as "an artist who uses his considerable pianistic gifts in pursuit of musical goals and not for show", and noted his "sensitive ear for color and that elusive gift of melody, whereby linear movement stretches and contracts in order to explain harmonic tensions."[18] In 1967, Fou performed the Grieg Piano Concerto with the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Sir Colin Davis as part of the First Night of the Proms.[19] Around that time, he also performed in a piano trio with Hugh Maguire and Jacqueline du Pré.[20] He also performed in Australia, South America and the Far East.[2]

He remained associated throughout his career with playing Chopin,[6] and Fou's recital programmes often included several of his works.[2] Writing in 1960, Hermann Hesse said of Fou's playing of Chopin that he surpassed the previous masters, Padereweski, Fischer, Lipatti, Cortot. Indeed hearing Fou, he said, was to hear the "pure gold" of Chopin himself playing. Speaking of his playing, Hesse said: "It breathed the fragrance of violets, of rain in Majorca and also of exclusive salons, it rang of melancholy and rang of modishness, the rhythmic definition was as sensitive as the dynamics. It was a wonder."[21] James Methuen-Campbell, in Fou's entry in Grove's Dictionary, also notes his interpretations of Debussy, Mozart and late Schubert, highlighting his "delicate touch and keen sensibility".[2] Fou's playing gained praise from fellow musicians. In 1965, Martha Argerich acknowledged the influence of his recordings when she won the International Chopin Competition.[10] In 1994, Fou's friends and fellow pianists Argerich, Leon Fleisher and Radu Lupu jointly issued a CD entitled The Pianistic Art of Fou Ts'ong; in the CD's sleeve notes, they declared Fou "one of the greatest pianists of our times".[10] The Chinese pianist Lang Lang has described Fou as a role model, praising his "unique" understanding of music.[6] Among his other recordings are the Chopin mazurkas for Sony and the Mozart Piano Concerto No. 7 for three pianos with Vladimir Ashkenazy, Daniel Barenboim, and the English Chamber Orchestra.[22][23]

He was a member of the Queen Elisabeth Music Competition's jury in 1991,[24] 1999,[25] 2003,[26] 2007,[27] and 2010.[15] He also served on the jury of the Chopin Competition in 1985[28] and 2010,[29] and on the jury of the Paloma O'Shea Santander International Piano Competition in 2002.[30]

Personal life and death[edit]

From 1960 to 1969, Fou was married to Zamira Menuhin, the daughter of Yehudi Menuhin, with whom he had one son. Their marriage ended in divorce. A brief marriage to Hijong Hyun from 1973 to 1976 also ended in divorce.[31][11][32] In 1987,[11] Fou married the Chinese pianist Patsy Toh,[33] with whom he had one son.[6]

Fou died from COVID-19 in London on 28 December 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic in England at age 86.[4]


  1. ^ Chen, Guangchen (2017). "Fu Lei and Fou Ts'ong," A New Literary History of Modern China. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. pp. 650–656. ISBN 9780674967915.
  2. ^ a b c d e Methuen-Campbell, James (20 January 2001). "Fou Ts'ong". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. doi:10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.10066.
  3. ^ Holland, Bernard (27 July 2006). "Fou Ts'ong Brings His Relaxed Precision to the International Keyboard Festival (Published 2006)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 29 December 2020.
  4. ^ a b Yan, Alice (29 December 2020). "Veteran Chinese-born pianist Fou Ts'ong, 86, dies of Covid-19". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 29 December 2020.
  5. ^ a b c Schonberg, Harold C. (18 November 1961). "Music: Chinese Pianist; Fou Ts'Ong Appears With Philharmonic (Published 1961)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 29 December 2020. And the fact does remain that no Chinese pianist has as yet achieved international fame
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Renowned Chinese pianist Fou Ts'ong dies of Covid-19". BBC News. 29 December 2020. Retrieved 29 December 2020.
  7. ^ Queirós, Luís Miguel (29 December 2020). "Morreu Fou Ts'ong, o luminoso intérprete chinês de Chopin". Público (in Portuguese). Retrieved 30 December 2020.
  8. ^ "Spirit of Fu Lei is alive and well in Zhoupu". SHINE. Retrieved 29 December 2020.
  9. ^ a b 傅雷夫婦“葉落歸根”骨灰落葬浦東 傅敏致辭 Archived 29 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine. (28 October 2013). Retrieved on 2015-07-04.
  10. ^ a b c d e "Fryderyk Chopin - Information Centre - Fou Ts'ong - Biography". Retrieved 29 December 2020.
  11. ^ a b c Qin, Amy (31 December 2020). "Fou Ts'ong, Pianist Whose Family Letters Inspired a Generation, Dies at 86". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 31 December 2020.
  12. ^ "Chopin Competition 2015 – 17th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition". Retrieved 29 December 2020.
  13. ^ Hillériteau, Thierry (28 December 2020). "Le pianiste Fou Ts'ong succombe à son tour au Coronavirus". Le Figaro (in French). Retrieved 30 December 2020. C'est sans doute ce sens mélodique qui avait séduit le jury du cinquième Concours Frédéric Chopin de Varsovie, dont il sort troisième en 1955, juste derrière ... Vladimir Ashkenazy !
  14. ^ Oestreich, James R. (3 February 1993). "Classical Music in Review (Published 1993)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 28 December 2020.
  15. ^ a b "Jury". (in French). Retrieved 29 December 2020.
  16. ^ "Fou Ts'ong". Grammy Awards. 19 November 2019. Retrieved 30 December 2020.
  17. ^ "FOU TS'ONG, PIANIST, PLAYS IN TOWN HALL (Published 1964)". The New York Times. 20 March 1964. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 29 December 2020.
  18. ^ Holland, Bernard (2 April 1987). "PIANO: FU TS'ONG (Published 1987)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 29 December 2020.
  19. ^ "Prom 01 - First Night of the Proms 1967". BBC Music Events. Retrieved 29 December 2020.
  20. ^ "Hugh Maguire". The Telegraph. Retrieved 29 December 2020.
  21. ^ "Citation / Fou Ts'ong - 118th Congregation(1983)".
  22. ^ "Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos. 7 & 10". Presto Classical. Retrieved 29 December 2020.
  23. ^ "Chopin: Mazurkas / Fou Ts'ong - Sony Classical Essential Classics: SONY53246 | Buy from ArkivMusic". Retrieved 29 December 2020.
  24. ^ "Jury". (in French). Retrieved 29 December 2020.
  25. ^ "Jury". (in French). Retrieved 29 December 2020.
  26. ^ "Jury". (in French). Retrieved 29 December 2020.
  27. ^ "Jury". (in French). Retrieved 29 December 2020.
  28. ^ "Chopin Competition 2015 – 17th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition". Retrieved 29 December 2020.
  29. ^ "Chopin Competition 2015 – 17th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition". Retrieved 29 December 2020.
  30. ^ "Winners, Jury and Artistic Guests". Retrieved 12 January 2021.
  31. ^ Obituaries, Telegraph (31 December 2020). "Fou Ts'ong, Chinese-born pianist and interpreter of Chopin who made his name in the West – obituary". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 1 January 2021.
  32. ^ Fou Ts'ong. The Peerage. Retrieved on 4 July 2015.
  33. ^ "Patsy Toh". Royal Academy of Music. Retrieved 29 December 2020.

External links[edit]