Aged 86 and visibly suffering from Parkinson’s disease, a revered Chinese pianist has been brought to a new audience via a viral video of her masterful playing.
The clip of Elaine Wu performing the classical Chinese composition “Butterfly Lovers” in late February has been reposted more than 30,000 times on the Twitter-like Sina Weibo.
Wu’s life is the stuff of legends. She began learning to play piano at the age of 6. When she was 18, her debut public performance of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No.1 drew a rave response in the music industry. At age 23, she served as the first soloist in the China National Orchestra, and China gave her the title of National First Class Pianist in 1962, when she met with then-Premier Zhou Enlai.
Settled in Singapore since 1993, she has been instrumental in nurturing young musicians.
Wu herself was taught by Mario Paci, the Italian musician and piano educator known for establishing classical Western music in China, and she has also composed and arranged numerous pieces of Chinese piano music. For instance, she originated and first played the piano part of the Chinese violin concerto “Butterfly Lovers.”
On February 25, she was invited to perform this masterpiece as part of a forum named “Older but Wiser” in Singapore.
The resulting video has impressed many netizens.
“Music can magically heal all diseases. I can see that Wu has Parkinson’s but when she was playing the piano, the music was still very beautiful. This is the spirit of art!” said Weibo user @yiranbushilaozhongyi.
“Seeing her hands on the keyboard, I believe she still has the vigor of youth,” wrote @Laojiumen.
“It must not have been easy to become the first class pianist in China. Wu is an invaluable treasure of the country. I wish her a peaceful and happy life,” said @zhuangyao_yao.