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Chinese Canadian pianist Bruce Xiaoyu Liu performs at the 18th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition, which was held in Warsaw in October. The 24-year-old won the top place at the event.

Already busy on a marathon, sold-out tour, Bruce Xiaoyu Liu has yet to process the enormity of his latest piano competition victory, Chen Nan reports.

The 18th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition, which was held in Warsaw from Oct 2-21, crowned Chinese Canadian Bruce Xiaoyu Liu as its champion, catapulting the 24-year-old to stardom.

Over a month after his win, Liu says he still feels overwhelmed and "needs time to digest what actually happened".

"I was not expecting that. People ask me about how I feel about the win, but I haven't really had time to think about it. The results' announcement took place in the middle of the night, and soon afterward, I was backstage and being told about the upcoming concert schedule," says Liu, via video call.

He was, at the time, preparing for a concert with the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra at Seoul Arts Center on Nov 27, just one of many performances on his marathon tour schedule.

"I've dreamed about this kind of life, touring and meeting lots of people in different places. I believe it's a dream for many pianists. But now it's really happening, which seems a bit crazy," Liu says. "In the beginning, the fast-paced working schedule made me anxious, but now I am adapting to it.

"I guess that I need more time to review and think about what actually happened, but right now, I need to focus on my concerts."

The prestigious competition was first held in 1927 and had taken place every five years since 1955.However, the event, which was last held in 2015, had to be delayed by an extra year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking fluent Mandarin, Liu, born in Paris and raised in Montreal, Canada, says the lockdown helped him concentrate on music and allowed him to gain a sense of inner peace. He read letters and books about Chopin. To keep a sense of freshness and inspiration, he decided to play music by other composers.

"When I played Chopin again before the competition, I found that I had gained new insight into the composer and his work, which I had failed to notice before. During the pandemic, I had lots of time studying his notes, which inspired me in a different way," the pianist says.

"When we play just one composer, it's inevitable that we will put our own personality into it. The way someone plays the piano mirrors themselves. As for Chopin, many people would consider his sound very nostalgic and sad, and feel that his music has so much suffering, because he could not go back to his country. My understanding about Chopin is more of a kind of happy man, because I, myself, am quite a happy and optimistic person," Liu says, adding that one of his favorite artists is Charlie Chaplin, whose comedic characters "inspire optimism".

Liu recalls that he didn't feel nervous during the competition because he had practiced the pieces many times, and even pictured himself performing in the concert hall of the Warsaw Philharmonic, one of the oldest musical institutions in Europe, where the Chopin competition was held.

"I didn't listen to the other competitors, since I wanted to concentrate on my own performances," he says. "What I needed to do was to show the same level as my daily practice."

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