World class violinist, teacher, master performer, conductor
A short biographical article by Rosemary Phillips
Written for a performance with the Vancouver Island Symphony, March 2003
Update 2020: It’s not just his great talent and superb playing of the violin that make Hu Kun such an interesting performer, it’s also his background, his determination to learn against all odds during the Chinese Revolution, and his position as a professor at the the Royal Academy of Music in London. At the time of writing this article there was nothing on the Internet about Hu Kun. There is now a Hu Kun web site where you can see information on his discography, and on his own orchestra in London, England - Hu Kun and Friends.
|Hu Kun - Conducting|
Photo by Clive Barda
Only three when he started playing violin
Kun, a child protegy, was only three years old when the Cultural Revolution in China began (1966-1976). He and his sister were taught music at home by their father, Hu Wei Ming, and mother, Pen Shi Jung, both professors at the Szechuan Conservatory. The family was often divided as his parents were alternately sent away to do farm work. Western music was officially banned but pockets of culture continued to exist. Kun’s mother copied by hand most of the études that they played.
A dream - to enter the Conservatory in Beijing
Kun’s dream was to enter the Conservatory in Beijing. He was refused. He felt this was another way of punishing his parents. His alternate was to become a member of a new military group, an ensemble formed by the National Defence Science Technology Committee. At 13 Kun was the youngest officer. The forty-piece orchestra performed for various army troops around the country and when they finally reached Beijing, Hun auditioned and was accepted as a private pupil by Professor Lin Yoao Ji of the Beijing Conservatory. At only 15 Kun won both the preliminary Northern competition in 1978 and the national selections for the 1980 Sibelius Competition and was one of three candidates sent to Finland that year. He was awarded fifth prize and upon his return, as the first person from Mainland China to win a prize at an international violin competition, he was honoured with a party, organized and televised by the Cultural Service. When asked what he wanted as a reward, his only comment was that he wanted to study in the Conservatory.
Kun became a student of the conservatory on condition that he retain his defence membership and his uniform. From the conservatory, Kun went on to the Menuhin Academy in Gstaad, Switzerland, another dream come true. After entering the Queen Elizabeth Competition in Belgium his world opened up and he was invited to perform for concerts all over Europe. He won the Menuhin International Violin Competition then received the title “Grand Laureat de la Ville de Paris.”
The only private student and protégé of Lord Yehudi Menuhin
In 1986 Kun was invited by Lord Menuhin to London. Teacher and student played all over the world together and made several recordings under several labels. While Kun played, Menuhin conducted, from world premiers in London to the Chinese premier performance of the Elgar Violin Concerto with the National Symphony Orchestra of China. Kun is also credited with introducing classical Chinese music to Western audiences.
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