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Avan Yu recalls comedic piano performances during CBC concert

02/23/2015 09:42 EST | Updated 04/25/2015 05:59 EDT
As an internationally-recognized pianist, Vancouver's Avan Yu has performed with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and at New York's Carnegie Hall, but even the most prestigious recital hall can mean little when he has to deal with a malfunctioning piano.

"You do the best you can," said Yu good-naturedly. "You can work with the piano technician to try to get them to improve the condition of the piano. But sometimes it's just not possible and you just have to do the best you can."

Yu, who now studies music in Berlin, was in Vancouver this past Christmas. In January, he put on a concert at the CBC, playing selections from Schumann and Debussy to a packed audience.

When asked by North by Northwest's Sheryl MacKay to recall some of the instances where he had to play on a malfunctioning piano. Yu brought up a performance two years ago, when a crucial piano key wasn't working.  

"Appassionata by Beethoven is in F minor and the key that was getting stuck was the F in the centre of the piano," he said as the audience chuckled. "There was nothing I could do, and I kept hitting, and all you can hear is just dead wood — you can't hear any tone. I only discovered the problem after I started the piece, so there was no way to repair it."

Another time, Yu found himself playing on a piano that kept moving away from him.

"At one point I actually had to stop playing because my bench wasn't moving and the piano just kept slipping away," he said.

Yu began playing the piano when he was five years old. He moved to Vancouver from Hong Kong when he was nine and began studying with Kenneth Broadway and Ralph Markham.

He has performed at home with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, the National Arts Centre Orchestra and Symphony Nova Scotia as well as abroad in Germany, China and Morocco.

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