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Zeng Yun: Embarking on the journey of music



Located near the inner city of Beijing, within the second ring road, the construction of the Central   Conservatory of Music is a mixture of the East and the West, combining tradition with modernity.

There we met Zeng Yun, 19, a sophomore and the gold medal winner of the brass category at this year's International Tchaikovsky Competition in Russia.
As the summer vacation begins, students at the country's top musical college are preparing to head home, but Zeng is not one of them. He has to prepare for the upcoming Beijing International Horn Festival, where he will join in the world's top French horn specialists, as a guest.
The 16th International Tchaikovsky Competition in June this year in Russia has brought some changes to his life. It was the first time the brass category was included, and Zeng became the world's first gold medal winner at the contest in St. Petersburg.

'All the medals are checkpoints'


Zeng Yun, a 19-year-old French horn player from China, performs during the 16th International Tchaikovsky Competition in St. Petersburg, Russia, June 27, 2019. /Photo by Zeng Yun
"I still find it unreal sometimes," said Zeng. "Many things happened all of a sudden."
He said that he felt relieved after the competition, compared to the intensity before.
"While on stage, there are spotlights everywhere, and you are at the center and their aesthetic object, you have to be perfect all the time," said Zeng, who is critical of his performance but seems more relaxed when talking about the results.
"I think every competition is like a checkpoint in video games. Before every competition, I will go over my previous preparations beforehand, and it gives me the motivation to go for the next one," said Zeng.
"So it's like moving from one station to the next, and every time it's a new starting point, and they lead me to the Tchaikovsky Competition."

Zeng always compares such competitions to those in sports, saying that he could understand the athletes' nervousness. But obviously, he enjoys the feeling of sharing his music on stage more, which could help him overcome the stress.


Zeng Yun plays his French horn. /CGTN Photo
"When we are playing in the orchestra, or as a soloist on stage, what we need to do is to bring the beauty of music to the audience. We need to bring them art. But music is the art of the moment. If you mess up, you wouldn't get another chance for the moment," he said. "That's what we never expect to happen."
"Music brings me a sense of happiness, so I've devoted my time and efforts to it since childhood, to improve my skills, my knowledge of it, and my musicianship."
During the award ceremony, Russian conductor Valery Gergiev called Zeng Yun "the biggest surprise" of the competition, "the surprise from China."
"I feel proud, as well as constrained," said Zeng. "The best part of it is that I can bring the surprise to the world, and to music, representing my own country."


The orchestra's most indispensable musician


Zeng Yun performs during the 16th International Tchaikovsky Competition in St. Petersburg, Russia, June 28, 2019. /Photo via International Tchaikovsky Competition
Zeng said that the competitions he has attended since middle school have brought him experience as well as achievements.
Regarding his gold medal, Zeng said that although stress exists, he knows that it won't stick around forever.

"Records are for breaking," said Zeng. "And I would be happy about it. For instance, if a master is teaching his apprentice a certain technique, and the apprentice never exceeds him, the technique will decline as well. We can't let that happen. We need to go upward."


Zeng Yun plays his French horn. /CGTN Photo
He enjoys standing by himself in the spotlight, as well as being part of a group. While talking about his music and instrument, the young man compares the French horn to his personality.
"The horn is not quite outstanding in an orchestra, but it is indispensable, like the adhesive," he said, adding that it represents him.
"I like to stay in the supporting role in a group, even being unnoticeable sometimes," said Zeng. "It makes me feel satisfied, because I enjoy contributing my tiny strength to the group to make it better."
Besides the passion he has demonstrated through his music, in his life, the young man seems to be humble all the time. Throughout the interview, Zeng stressed that he is still "a student," and what he must do now is to "learn from everyone, as well as their praise and criticism."
When asked whether he would like to be a soloist, Zeng said he is open to all possibilities now, be it soloist, orchestra member or a teacher.
"The soloist is no doubt an ideal for every musician, because you can express your own understanding of music to the audience through the instrument," said Zeng. "But my best-loved occupation is probably to become a professor, because I can pass on what I've learned, and see them improve under my influence."

"It would give me a sense of accomplishment," said Zeng.


Zeng Yun performs during the 16th International Tchaikovsky Competition in St. Petersburg, Russia, June 28, 2019. /Photo via International Tchaikovsky Competition
The sixth Beijing International Horn Festival will open on July 29, and during the five-day event, a number of the world's best French horn players will gather here, such as Sarah Willis from the Berlin Philharmonic, Grammy winner Andrew Pelletier, and the chief horn players from renowned international orchestras.
Our guest, Zeng Yun, as the youngest artist among them, is set to embark on new journey of pursuing music.