Balance in the scales: Aristo Sham Ching-tao on school and music


Piano Recital by Aristo Sham
HK City Hall

At 17, Aristo Sham Ching-tao's life is all about being balanced. Having scored 14 "A*"s in his GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) exams in Britain this summer, the prize-winning pianist is studying mathematics, politics, French and English literature for his AS levels at Harrow School. But what about music?

"I decided on this combination because these subjects make use of different parts of my brain," says Sham, who won the Minnesota International e-Piano Junior Competition in 2011. He was also awarded the Schubert Prize and the Variations Prize in the same competition.

"That was why I didn't study music for my GCSE. I wanted to make better use of my time and learn other things."

It's a balanced approach to learning, and there is always time to make music.

"I love it there primarily because of its proximity to Central London," Sham says of his school, which last year organised about 100 concerts. "There are also lots of opportunities for me to perform there - and in London." The teenager says he loves performing in front of an audience. "I always play better when someone is in the room ... I like communicating with an audience."

Born in Hong Kong, Sham started playing the piano when he was three. He joined the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts as a junior piano student in 2002 and studied with Shirley Ip and Professor Eleanor Wong. He has performed extensively internationally and with ensembles such as the Hong Kong Philharmonic, City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong, English Chamber Orchestra and the Minnesota Orchestra. He was awarded the fellowship diploma with distinction in piano performance by the Royal Schools of Music in 2011 and has been a Young Steinway Artist since 2012.

Sham has a balanced programme for his latest recital at City Hall, featuring works by Bach, Schubert and Chopin. "I wanted to include Bach and Schubert right from the beginning - they are what I've been playing lately - but had then to decide between either Liszt or Chopin. I play Liszt a lot so I settled for Chopin because I don't want my playing to come across as stale." The moods of the chosen pieces are diverse, he says. "The Bach [Partita No 1 in B flat] is one of the most uplifting works in the classical repertoire, it feels very carefree and jolly, while the four Impromptus by Schubert are tragic and bitter in tone; but they also provide a good contrast and are very beautiful."

City Hall, 5 Edinburgh Place, Central, January 2, 8pm, HK$110-HK$160 Urbtix. Inquiries: 2268 7321


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