Award-winning and globe-trotting French pianist Richard Clayderman is returning to Taiwan where he will kick off a three-day tour of the island tonight at the Chihshan Hall (至善廳) in Kaohsiung. His repertoire will include music from blockbuster movies such as the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Harry Potter. And no Clayderman program would be complete without the song that started his solo career, Ballade pour Adeline.
Dubbed “the prince of romance” by Nancy Regan, Clayderman was born Philippe Pages in Paris in 1953. The son of a music teacher, it is said that by the age of six the young Pages could read music better than he could his school textbooks.
Clayderman, who arrived in Taiwan on Tuesday, began his music career at age 12, when he was accepted into the prestigious Conservatoire of Music in Paris. When at 16 he took the school's prestigious first prize it became apparent that he was destined to become a brilliant pianist.
But to the surprise of his teachers, he cast aside classical music in favor of pursuing a career in rock music. However, contemporary music proved a difficult nut for the young musician to crack.
With a sick father and a rock career going nowhere, Clayderman decided to find work as an accompanist, where his talents landed him work with well-known French rock acts such as Michel Sardou and Johnny Halliday.
His star continued to rise when in 1976 a famous French music producer signed him on as a pianist to record a gentle piano ballad for his daughter called Ballade pour Adeline.
Still deep in the days of disco, his producers told him they'd be satisfied if they sold 10,000 copies. To everyone's surprise, the single sold a phenomenal 22 million copies in 38 countries, catapulting Clayderman to international fame.
The Guinness Book of World Records hails him as “the most successful pianist in the world,” having sold over 70 million records. He has recorded over 1,000 tunes and performed over 1,200 concerts worldwide. He also has a staggering 267 Gold and 70 Platinum discs to his credit.
Clayderman attributes his incredible success to the “New Romantic” style that he is credited with creating.
“The new romantic style gets its inspiration from classical music,” says Clayderman, “and then I add my own elements to it.”
Clayderman's sold out concert last year is what has brought him back. “I love Taiwan. I love performing for people who have such a deep response to my music,” he said.
Clayderman's grueling performance and recording schedule — he's been know to perform 200 concerts a year — would leave most other musicians breathless, but the youthful-looking pianist attributes his rigorous schedule to his love of music.
When asked why Clayderman is so popular in Taiwan, a young promoter named Cathy Shi said, “people in Taiwan don't have a long tradition of listening to [Western] classical music. Most of us prefer to listen to easy-listening or love songs, which is why Richard is so popular here.”
Popular indeed. The concerts in Kaohsiung and Taipei are almost sold out and there is only a hand full of tickets left for the Taichung performance. And with a charming and relaxed stage persona combined with his natural good looks, there is sure to be a few concertgoers swooning at his feet.
Who: Richard Clayderman
Where: At Chihshan Hall, Kaohsiung (高雄至善廳) tonight; tomorrow at Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, Taipei (台北國父紀念館); Sunday at Huisun Auditorium of the National Chung Hsing University (台中中興大學惠蓀堂)