Astoria teen piano prodigy captures grand prize at international competition

Xuanxiang Wu1(1)
Xuanxiang Wu from Astoria won the grand prize at the annual PIMF Winter Concerto Competition. (Photo courtesy of Xuanxiang Wu)

A 14-year-old student from St. John’s Prep in Astoria captured top honors in a prestigious international music competition.

The Philadelphia International Music Festival (PIMF) featured nearly 300 musicians ages 8 to 25 from around the globe competing for scholarships, as well as a host of performance opportunities, and Astoria teenage pianist Xuanxiang Wu won the annual PIMF Winter Concerto Competition’s grand prize, including a full scholarship to the Philadelphia International Music Festival’s intensive classical music training program this summer, a private recital in Philadelphia and a featured performance on the PIMF YouTube channel.

The youngster will also take the stage next fall in the PIMF Winners Circle Concert, which regularly features performances by members of the Philadelphia Orchestra.

The St. John’s Prep student competed with Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No.3 in D Minor Op.30, “Allegro ma nontanto.”

“This concerto was one of my dream pieces. I’m glad it’s done,” Wu said. “Rachmaninoff is one of my favorite musicians. At the age of 9, I read the Chinese translation of ‘Sergei Rachmaninoff: A Lifetime of Music.’ I was fascinated and moved by his life’s magnificent ups and downs and liked his music even more. I think if listeners can read the biography and understand Rachmaninoff’s experience and state of mind, listening to the concerto will have a different feeling.”

Wu made his Carnegie Hall debut in May 2018 playing with the New York International Chamber Orchestra, playing Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto No. 1. He has been studying piano for nine years, abandoning drums to focus on the keyboard.

“The piano is a magical instrument, which can express all kinds of emotions,” Wu explained. “I want to share my feelings through the music. Music has opened doors for me one after another, from my hometown to Shanghai and then to New York, giving me the opportunity to contact with the wider world. Wherever the music takes me, I will keep enjoying it and share it with everyone.”

Before moving to Queens, Wu studied at the Music Middle School of the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. He joined the Juilliard Pre-College Program as a student of Ernest Barretta in September. His performance at the PIMF Winter Concerto Competition stood out in a competition that showcased a talented field of young musicians from across the globe.

“It was quite literally an outpouring of talent submitted to our Winter Virtual Concerto Competition from all over the world,” PIMF President Sandy Marcucci said. “Almost 300 young musicians offered their video performances, and the skills and artistic levels were simply dazzling.”

Judge Hai-Ye Ni, principal cello of the Philadelphia Orchestra, agreed.

“The level this year was very high,” she said. “I was very impressed by the effort that these young people made, and surprised by the countries that the contestants were from, from Singapore and Russia, and beyond. I am very hopeful for the future of classical music. It is going to get better and better.”