For her third birthday, Chelsea Guo received a CD and a DVD of the film, The Sound of Music, as a gift from a friend of her mother. It wasn’t long before the little girl became infatuated with the 1965 film-which was adapted from the 1959 Broadway musical of the same title-watching the DVD every day and listening to the CD in her parents’ car whenever they would have to drive somewhere. She even played out the roles and sang the songs for fun at home.
“I was fascinated by it,” recalls Guo. “I can sing every single song in the film. Music is the most natural way of expression. When the characters are excited, they sing. When they are sad, they sing.”
Guo, now 17, has become a professional musician, currently as a double major student-piano and vocal-in the pre-college division of The Juilliard School in New York.
“I can still remember how I got inspired by the film. When I want to express myself beyond words, I have music,” she says.
From Nov 15 to Sunday, the Chinese-American pianist, who was born in New York, is giving a series of solo recitals with both piano playing and vocal performances at the Tianjin Concert Hall and performing as a guest artist at the Sixth Shenzhen Piano Music Festival.
As a pianist and vocalist, she has chosen the repertories for her recitals, including Schubert’s Impromptu Op 90 D899 and Je Veux Vivre from the five-act opera Romeo et Juliette composed by Charles Gounod.
“The pieces I selected for the shows in China sound very entertaining, which I’ve heard and played from a young age,” Guo says.
One of the pieces, she says, is Chopin’s Piano Sonata No 2, which Guo describes as being different from the composer’s other work.
“The piece is dramatic, tragic and personal, which is unlike much of the composer’s beautiful and lovely work. I visualize the four movements as fights between good and evil, between life and death,” Guo says, adding that she relates the piece to a video she watched on social media that documented patients suffering from mental illness.
It’s not the first time that Guo has performed in China. She made her debut here at age 9, playing Mozart’s Piano Concerto No 23 with the Tianjin Symphony Orchestra under the baton of conductor Cao Ding. The young musician has also become interested in Chinese music, such as the jazz music of the 1930s and songs of the late pop diva, Teresa Teng.