occupies a place all her own in today’s musical world. Deliberately keeping her concerts few and far between, she appears in public only to perform especially demanding works, “mountains of the soul” which she judges essential, in interpretations matured over a long period of gestation, taking music to the most varied audiences in places that appeal to her and where she enjoys playing. But though she is nowadays the guest of the leading concert halls and the most prestigious festivals, though she plays with some of the most renowned orchestras and gives concerts everywhere in Europe, in Asia and in America, her career very nearly never took place at all.
Born in Shanghai, introduced to music by her mother at a very early age, she was already appearing on radio and television by the time she was eight.
At the age of ten she entered the Peking Conservatory, where her brilliant studies were interrupted by the years of the Cultural Revolution. She was sent to a reeducation camp on the border of Inner Mongolia for five years. However, thanks to sympathetic helpers she was eventually able to continue playing the piano.
On returning to Peking, she completed her studies at the Conservatory, and left China as soon as the regime gave its first signs of opening to the outside worlds. In 1980 she emigrated to the United States, then decided to settle in Paris in 1984.
From that time on, the career of ZHU Xiao-Mei, although begun relatively late and without any media coverage, began to take flight, going against all trends and fashions, in an incredible demonstration of the Confucian adage that
“life begins at forty”. She gives concerts all over the world, focusing on a repertoire which she limits to a few composers she cherishes above all others: Scarlatti, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann. At its very centre is Bach and his great cycles: The Well-Tempered Clavier, the Partitas and the Goldberg Variations, the work with which her name is particularly associated and which she has given in recital more than two hundred times, as well as The Art of Fugue.
Her autobiography La Rivière et son secret was published by Editions Robert Laffont (Paris) in October 2007 and was awarded the Grand Prix des Muses in 2008 (English translation at amazoncrossing: The Secret Piano).
ZHU Xiao-Mei is regularly invited to partipate to the jurys of international piano competitions (Clara Haskil, Long-Thibaud, Bach Leipzig,…). She has also teached during many years at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris.