You’re from Holland, but you’re representing Switzerland. What’s going on there? It’s quite funny, really. My father is from Malaysia and my mother is from Singapore, but I was born in Holland and now I live in Switzerland. I teach at the Zurich University of Arts and play a lot of Swiss contemporary music, so that’s why I’m representing Switzerland.
You started learning at the age of five and made your debut performance with an orchestra at 12. That seems fast. It was quite fast. My first piano teacher noticed that I was able to learn difficult pieces very quickly, and by 12 I thought I should go to the university to be taught to a high level. I studied under a famous pianist, Homero Frances, and after my studies I stayed there to teach.
What will you be playing out here? I will play two pieces by contemporary Swiss composers, both of whom are my friends. One piece is interesting because I will pluck the strings inside the piano. It’s an experiment in a style that is not heard very often in Dubai. So I will not only play traditional things like Mozart and Chopin, but also very new, contemporary music. I really want to stimulate people.
How much variety can you put into the same old Mozart pieces? It’s very subjective and almost comparable to cooking. There, you take the same recipe, but you can throw in a bit more salt and pepper or make it more spicy. Here, you make the piece more dynamic or put more pedal into it. Personally, I prefer to learn the background of the piece and use that to inform my interpretation. This way I have an honest interpretation that is, I hope, very close to the original text and to the composer. But there are also a lot of artists who put themselves above that and play their own style.
So your performances are closer to the original thing than others? I don’t want to say that – I don’t think that artistic works should be compared to each other, and I think everybody has the right to express themselves how they want. But I set myself this goal to play it as the composer has said it to me. Many of the composers are dead, of course, but you can try to analyse it and explain it to yourself.
What are your plans for the future? I would like to make interdisciplinary events, so that you have a piano concert with visual and artistic effects. Currently, I do lecture recitals – I explain about the composition and background of the piece, and give a few examples so people can understand the piece and the interpretation. But I could do a performance with dancers, or have an actor who reads between the pieces, or a writer who reads from his book while you play over him. That is the future of piano – to change it from a static performance into something more interactive.