• Born 1990
The American pianist Claire Huangci has successfully transcended a child prodigy's career through a long period of training in Germany, where she made her first recordings and has concertized extensively.
Huangci was born March 22, 1990, in Rochester, New York, to parents who were both Chinese immigrant scientists. They gave Claire a grand piano as a sixth birthday gift. Huangci's debut performance at school was a debacle: performing a sonata by Muzio Clementi, she suffered a memory lapse and had to ask her mother to bring her the printed music. Huangci persisted, however, although it would be some years before she would make a commitment to a career at the keyboard. She studied at Philadelphia's Settlement Music School, won regional competitions, and was featured on a local television station. At ten she performed for U.S. president Bill Clinton. Huangci attended the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia as a high school student, studying with Gary Graffman and Eleanor Sokoloff. She told the website Tokafi that in her whole life, "I’ve been to China six times. Probably, I don’t have much of a Chinese cultural background, I feel much more grounded in the American lifestyle."
A third country entered the mix, however, and Huangci's life changed directions when she won scholarships from the German academic exchange service DAAD and the Deutsche Stiftung Musikleben for piano study in Germany. Enrolling at the Hochschule für Musik, Theater, und Medien in Hannover in 2007, she studied with Arie Vardi in 2007, becoming his assistant as her work continued. A breakthrough came with a first prize at the European Chopin Piano Competition in Darmstadt, Germany, in 2009, and she took home other top prizes over the next several years, in both Germany and the U.S., often as the youngest competitor in the event she had entered. Huangci made her first recording, an album of Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky ballet transcriptions, for Berlin Classics in 2012, and she has continued to record for that label. In 2017 she issued a complete set of Chopin nocturnes (claimed to be the first since Arthur Rubinstein's) under the concept and title A Chopin Diary; each nocturne was furnished with a quotation from a French poem that Huangci felt matched it in mood. Praised for having "the fastest fingers in the world" by pianist Vladimir Krainev, Huangci expressed a desire to have audiences remember her performances for their beauty, not just for their speed.