Fri, Jul 23, 2004 - Page 17 News List

World's 'most successful pianist' to perform in Taipei

He might be a Frenchman with an English sounding name, but this hasn't stopped Richard Clayderman from becoming a global phenomenon

By Gavin Phipps  /  STAFF REPORTER

Internationally renowned pianist, Richard Clayderman tinkles the ivories at a press conference in Taipei earlier this week. With his classical approach to pop music, the pianist is, according to the Guinness World Records, ``the most successful pianist in the world. ''

PHOTO: AP

Award winning and record breaking pianist, Richard Clayderman will be treating local audiences to a feast of melodies this weekend, when he takes to the stage of the Taipei International Conference Center (台北國際會議中心) on the Taiwan leg of his current Asian tour, which has already seen the ivory-tickling Frenchman play to packed houses in Japan, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia.

Clayderman, who arrived in Taiwan on Sunday fresh from the South East Asian leg of his current tour, has divided his time in Taipei this week by preparing for the upcoming concerts and meeting with fans. A huge draw whenever he plays in Taiwan, the self confessed "Kenny G of the piano" was mobbed by hoards of fans on Wednesday when he participated in an autograph signing session at a Taipei department store and his up-coming concerts look set to be sellout.

Once referred to as "the prince of romance" by Nancy Reagan and categorized as "the most successful pianist in the world" by Guinness World Records, Clayderman was born Philippe Pages in Paris in 1953. The son of a piano teacher, the young Pages could reportedly read music with more accuracy than he could his native French language by the time he was six years old.

He began his full-time musical studies at the age of 12 after he was accepted into France's prestigious music school, the Conservatoire of Music. By the age of 16, he was already being tipped by his teachers to become a leading figure in the world of classical music. But Clayderman, or Pages as he was still known at the time, decided to turn his back on the classics and instead turned to contemporary music.

In the erly 1970s Clayderman changed his family name to that of his great grandmother's on the advice of his producers because, as Clayderman told the Taipei Times, "they didn't like it and felt it was to difficult to pronounce outside of France." Shortly thereafter he was enjoying moderate success as an opening act for popular French pop and rock musicians of the day such as Michel Sardou and Johnny Halliday.

An opening act he may have been, but it wasn't long before Clayderman had built up a sizable fan base of his own. His 1977 vinyl debut, Ballade Pour Adeline, sold a staggering 22 million copies in 38 countries. Success followed success and within a decade Clayderman had become a household name worldwide.

Since his first recording, the French pianist with the English-sounding name has gone on to release over 100 albums, make guest appearances on numerous others and performs between 150 to 200 concerts around the world in any given year.

Clayderman's concert and recording schedule would leave other musicians on the verge of a breakdown, but he has retained his youthful looks which have made women the world over swoon. According to Clayderman this is not due to diet and exercise, but simply because "music makes me feel so young."

The award-winning pianist attributes his superstar status to the distinctive piano style he dubs "New Romantic." A style created by the pianist almost three decades ago, Clayderman's approach combines standard piano melodies with both classical and pop variations and themes. And Clayderman believes that this unique format has been the key to his success.

"I set out to create not only a new style but also a new composition ... when I find a melody that interests me I interpret it from my heart," he said. "This enables me to give each tune a flavor of its own and ensure that each [tune] is unique and has never before been performed in this manner."

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