For Keyboard’s Claire Huangci, piano builds a bridge between U.S., China and Germany

The Philip Lorenz Memorial Keyboard Concerts series kicks off the new year with a performance by the noted American pianist Claire Huangci.

“I’m really looking forward to meeting the Fresno audiences,” she says. “Many of my colleagues have performed in this series and I’ve heard wonderful things!”

She performs 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 10, at the Fresno State Concert Hall. (Tickets are $25 general, $18 seniors, $5 students.) Here’s what you need to know:

She’s a big name for the Keyboard series.

Keyboard artistic director Andreas Werz tells me: “She continues a recent tradition of fabulous Chinese pianists — Lang Lang, Yuja Wang, Haochen Zhang, etc. come to mind.”

She’s a globetrotter.

She was born in the U.S. to Chinese immigrant parents, both scientists. (At first they hoped she’d follow in their footsteps — “it was their wish to have a doctor in the family.”) Huangci currently divides her home between Philadelphia and Hannover, Germany. She has close ties to three continents: the United States, China and Germany.

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Reached via email, she tells me: “I feel so lucky! My family is quite traditional and I learned the Chinese language early on, but living and growing up in the US has given me a real sense of open mindedness and social perspective. From the age of 17, I moved to Germany for further music studies and this has opened my eyes to a world of new cultural lifestyles and I’m learning every day!”


In 2018, she won the Geza Anda Competition.

This international piano competition takes place every three years in Zürich, Switzerland. The purpose of the competition is to discover and promote young pianists.

What was it like to hear her name called as the winner?

“In the final stage, I performed the Beethoven Concerto No. 4, one of my favorite pieces of music, and sharing that on the Zurich Tonhalle stage was magical. But those few moments waiting for the results to be announced were brutal, absolute torture. After a speech, they announced the prize winners from 1st to 3rd, so my agony was short-lived.”

Her career has taken her to some of the world’s great concert halls.

Among them: Carnegie Hall, the Wiener Konzerthaus, Konzerthaus Berlin, Gasteig Munich, Gewandhaus Leipzig, la Salle Cortot, Suntory Hall Tokoyo and Franz Liszt Akademie Budapest.

I tell Huangci that I was in Hamburg, Germany, last summer and got to attend a concert at the spectacular Elbphilharmonie. Has she ever gotten to play there?

“I had the pleasure to have performed there three times in the last two years! It is truly an architectural wonder and one is always inspired about the beautiful harbor views before going on stage.”

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Elbphilharmonie concert hall in Hamburg, Germany. It sits right on the harbor.

She’s expanding her geographical horizons with this concert.

“My aunt, uncle and cousins live in California so I have been here relatively often for visits and later, for performances. This is my first time in Fresno, however!!”

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Her Fresno program includes Mozart, Schubert and Brahms.

That’s a change from her original program, which included Chopin.

“Andreas Werz and I discussed the program together and we decided finally on one with a focus on the German repertoire,” she says. “Also included are some Rachmaninoff preludes which I recorded recently.”

What is one non-piano thing that people might be surprised to learn about her?

“I love to cook,” she says. “It’s basically my way to relax and unwind.”

Covering the arts online in the central San Joaquin Valley and beyond. Lover of theater, classical music, visual arts, the literary arts and all creative endeavors. Former Fresno Bee arts critic and columnist. Graduate of Columbia University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Excited to be exploring the new world of arts journalism.

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