Di Xiao performing Mozart & Ravel @ City of Sounds

On Saturday 11 June, the Birmingham Philharmonic Orchestra (BPO) will take the to Adrian Boult Hall (ABH) stage for the final time. Birmingham Conservatoire alumna, Di Xiao will perform with the BPO in two piano concertos, the Mozart d minor (No. 20) and Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G, conducted by Michael Lloyd.

To make this concert even more special, they will be joined in the first half by the LEAP ensemble, consisting of talented young musicians from the Conservatoire’s Aspire programme performing orchestral favourites selected from the pioneering BBC Ten Pieces initiative.

We spoke to Di Xiao, a tutor and former student at the Birmingham Conservatoire to get her thoughts ahead of the concert

Birmingham Conservatoire alumna and tutor, Di Xiao

Have you performed with Birmingham Philharmonic Orchestra  or Michael Lloyd before?

I have met Michael and know he is an excellent conductor but this will be my first performance with the BPO, which I am really looking forward to.

Can you talk about your role as ‘an ambassador for the piano’? Is education and passing on passion for music to young people an important part of your career?

Sharing the beauty of music on the platform, in the studio, lecture hall or wherever it may take me is my passion and has given me so much. I was born & trained in China then developed a base in the UK, my cultural background, language skills and understanding of both systems gives me a unique perspective. I am a very sociable person and have a real zest for art and performance so acting as an ambassador to bring people from different backgrounds together through music, and show them how exciting classical music and performance can be is a real privilege.

I enjoy passing on my knowledge and find teaching extremely rewarding, I am very fortunate to have many mentors in my life and without them I could never have achieved half that I have.  I feel a sense of duty as well as honour to do the same for my students. My career on the stage and in the classroom enrich each other,  my own performance experience refreshes and injects new ideas into my teaching.  Then through explaining and teaching, it comes full circle and deepen my own understanding in music further still.

You are learning two concertos for this concert, Ravel and Mozart. Is that particularly challenging? Have you discovered anything about the two pieces/composers which complement each other?

Ravel & Mozart are two composers I greatly admire and feel very close to, their compositions are both ingenious and charismatic. These two concertos are in 2 completely different characters: Ravel G Maj is a playful and dazzling piece, but the Mozart D minor is tragic and dramatic.  What they have in common is that they both have the most breathtakingly beautiful slow movements. I think their contrasting moods will bring a beautiful balance to the evening.

Birmingham Conservatoire alumna and tutor, Di Xiao

As a graduate and tutor of Birmingham Conservatoire, you must have fond memories of the ABH. What are you going to miss the most about it? Are you excited for the new performance spaces in the new building?

Yes I have lots of wonderful memories of the hall: I won many awards including the symphony hall prize in the ABH when I was a student and that led to a recital at the Symphony Hall and many more performance opportunities. I have listened to so many great concerts and met many great musicians in the ABH as well as sat exams, given performance classes, adjudicated on competitions, given concerts and master classes and attended ceremonies.  It is the atmosphere and spirit of the hall I will miss the most. However, the future is very exciting so I look forward to the new performance spaces in our new home. It’s giving to be great to have all those facilities and specially design spaces.

How special did you find Birmingham Conservatoire when you were studying here? What was it that made you want to learn here, and ultimately become a tutor here as well? Are you proud to work for the Conservatoire, and why?

I think everyone who has studied in the Birmingham conservatoire will agree it is a very special place. What makes a place special is the people here, the friendliness, everyone willing to help, they not only do their job, but really invest in the institution and truly believe in what they are doing.  I feel so proud to be part of this family and I feel a sense of duty to give my all to help our students to find their own path, to reach their full potential and be the best that they can be, after all  that’s what I learned and achieved with my student years and now I am passionate about helping other young musicians to do the same.

The concert on Saturday 11 June starts at 7:30pm. Tickets are available from the THSH website.

You can read more about the BPO on their website and Di Xiao’s website can be found here.

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