He amazed us with his interpretations of Tchaikovsky's "Piano Concerto No. 1" or "Polonaise No. 6 by Chopin", Thursday evening, in "Prodiges" on France 2, in front of 3.2 million viewers (16 , 6% of the public present in front of the television, a record since 2015). At only 15 years old, Paul Ji, a pupil in the second class at Fontainebleau (Seine-et-Marne) and at the Ecole normale de musique de Paris, won the 6th season of the classic contest of the public channel, presented by Marie- Sophie Lacarrau.
From Beijing (China), where he ends his family vacation, between two interviews with Chinese TV channels, the young Sino-American, who has lived in France since the age of 5, told us about his happiness on Friday morning.
How do you feel the day after your victory?
PAUL JI. I am very excited. I receive a lot of messages, from friends, from teachers at my François 1er high school in Fontainebleau. I even have a lot more followers on Instagram, I won 300 in one night! I am moved by these congratulations.
You welcomed your trophy by declaring that "the main thing was not to win but to participate". Is it a way to be humble or a handsome winner?
It was deep! Before the final, I said to my father: What will happen if I don't win? He replied: In life, winning is not essential. It's up to the ego. Me, of course, I wanted to win. But I understood that what counted was sharing, giving joy. It touched me, and it had to be said.
It's a "universal language" you say ...
Yes. I am Chinese, American, I was born in Chicago, I live in France since the age of 5 years but I do not have French nationality yet. My mother made a request. When you hear music, you connect, everything is possible. Everyone can understand this language and express themselves through it. It's magic.
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Why was it a dream to participate in "Prodigies"?
I had registered there three times, in 2016, 2017, 2019. I had been sad to be rejected. I told myself that, perhaps, "Prodigies" didn't want me because I was Chinese. But I always kept hope. It is an incredible program, because it introduces young talents to many viewers. It was a lot of pressure, all these lights on stage, the jury, the public, we were all super stressed, but the team gave us comfort. For me, it was a dream to participate in a classical music show that has such an impact.
Is classical music not sufficiently present in mainstream media?
It is not valued enough and it is a bit of a shame because it has a value and a depth that can inspire people. My friends at school don't like classical music. I often said: I have 84 friends and these are the keys of the piano. They accompanied me. I hope this victory will allow me to make new ones!
Where does this passion for the piano come from?
My father loves classical music. When I was 4 years old, he brought a piano home. He was a Steinway. A black giant! So I was a bit forced to do it at first. Then at 6 years old, I participated in a first competition which I won. It motivated me and encouraged me to continue. I loved the Mozart Sonatas, for their liveliness, their joie de vivre, they inspired me. Then I discovered Chopin, Liszt, Tchaikovsky…
How does it feel to receive the trophy from international piano star Lang Lang?
I did not expect him to come to Metz where the show took place. He said to me: Well done, I am very proud of you. Receiving an award from your hands is rare. I was very honored. He's my favorite pianist, a model. When he plays, he gives meaning to the music. He manages to transmit classical music to young people because he has a very cool, very inspiring style. It is modern. I hope to see him again!
What do you hope for this victory for the future?
That it will give me opportunities to play. I signed with Warner Classics to release an album in 2020. I will be recording it over the Easter holidays. It's very exciting. I will mainly play romantic songs, Chopin, Tchaikovsky… My happiness is to play on stage, to communicate through music. I want to make it my job, concert artist.