"Youngest International Piano Competition Finalist on Her Performing Philosophy" by Kati Vereshaka
NEW YORK—Out of 14 talented pianists, six finalists emerged on stage at Carnegie Hall Oct. 5, 2014, during the Future Stars Recital as part of the NTD TV International Piano Competition.
American-born Indonesian Chinese pianist Aileen Gozali who was 19 years old at the time, received an Honorable Mention Award. She made her concerto debut at the age of 10, and has since been performing on stages all over the world, including Asia, Europe and the United States.
Gozali spoke to Epoch Times about her unusual environment when she learned to play the piano and her future aspirations.
Questions and answers have been edited for length and clarity.
Epoch Times: At what age did you start playing the piano?
Aileen Gozali: I started to play the piano at age five and a half. I grew up on this island in China that is called Gulangyu, and it is nicknamed the island of piano. It is how I started because everyone on the island owns a piano; all the kids learn to play the piano, so naturally, myself and my two other siblings started playing the piano. It didn’t start off as a carrier path, it was more [like] something that everyone did. So we did it too. My brother switched to cello and my sister switched to violin, but I stuck with it. I was a very shy person when I was younger, so I wouldn’t talk to people. I felt most comfortable when I was playing the piano.
I was born in California and my parents are Indonesian Chinese. We moved to China when I was younger and I didn’t speak the language at all, which is also why I didn’t like to talk to people. So music was a way for me to communicate with other people.
Epoch Times: How long do you practice everyday?
Aileen Gozali: I started off with 15 minutes a day. Then, as I got more serious, it became one hour, two hours … and now a minimum of six to seven hours.
Epoch Times: What made you decide to participate in the NTDTV competition?
Aileen Gozali: My previous teacher (at Cleveland) was Antonio Pompa-Baldi, who was the professor that gave master classes at the competition. I knew about the competition through him. I looked up the repertoire requirement, and I happened to know all the pieces that were required so I thought, why not? I also thought that because the piano competition is partners with NTD Television the contestants get a lot of exposure, and that was another thing that I really liked about it.
Epoch Times: You might be the youngest of the finalists.
Aileen Gozali: Yes, I was 19 at the time and I’m currently 20.
Epoch Times: At what age did you start entering competitions?
Aileen Gozali: I started entering competitions when I was eight. In China there are a lot of national competitions and it’s part of our piano education that everyone does competitions, so it’s pretty natural [for me].
Epoch Times: What is your advice to pianists about entering in competitions?
Aileen Gozali: I definitely think that preparedness is very important when it comes to competitions because when the nerves kick in and being in a completely different environment, surrounded by all these wonderful musicians, you never know what’s going to happen.
There are many ways to prepare for a competition: perform many times in front of an audience of many guises—from just your family members to your friends, the general public, and run through your pieces many times. At the competition this should allow you to let go of your nerves, or be more at ease, so that you’ll be able to really just play the music that you love, instead of worrying about all the notes and the mistakes that you will probably make.
Epoch Times: What is the most important thing when you are playing in a competition?
Aileen Gozali: It’s definitely hard to let go of the idea that you are in a competition but for me, competition or performance—there should be no difference. The only difference would be that there are people there who are judging you; but in either case you shouldn’t be playing the music for the judges. You should treat it like any other audience that you would play for. So play your heart out. Put your whole soul into it. Do what you love.
Epoch Times: What do you consider to be the hardest piano piece to play or the hardest composer to play?
Aileen Gozali: I grew up playing Mozart and for me Mozart is the most comfortable to play. Actually the hardest for me is Beethoven because they are so different in terms of personality, style and everything in their compositions. For me it’s hard to switch from Mozart mode to the Beethoven type of playing.
Epoch Times: Who are your favorite composers and why?
Aileen Gozali: Mozart is one of them. I definitely love Chopin. There is so much intimacy and personality that you can put into [playing] Chopin’s music. I also feel that Chopin speaks closest to the audience because his style is very vocal, very narrative, it’s close to speech. Another composer I really love is Rachmaninoff. I’m more geared toward the romantic composers.
Epoch Times: What is the highest achievement you are aiming for in your musical career?
Aileen Gozali: Of course I hope to be able to perform, play music for people and hope that they would be able to relate to my music. I feel like a lot of musicians are so much into building their careers that they forget that music is for people. The ultimate goal is to play music for the people and to bring all sorts of human emotions to your audience. I hope that I will be given the opportunity the future to be able to do that more often. That’s what I want to do.
Link to Interview
Epoch Times | December 21, 2015
Recent Interview as a Finalist at the NTD Piano Competition in New York, NY
"As a parting gift to Singapore before leaving for the States for her university studies, young Indonesian Chinese-American pianist Aileen Gozali gave an hour-long recital at Singapore's Steinway Gallery. A winner of multiple musical prizes and awards, and finalist at this year's Hilton Head International Junior Piano Competition, Aileen's recital was as varied as it was well conceived.
She began with Mozart's Sonata in D major (K576), revealing a crisp and fluent technique. Her pedalling and crafting of the slow movement's lament was examplary, one that touched the heart. Totally different was Bartok's Suite (Op.14), where her rhythmic control and ability to bring on the required muscle and volume to bear showed she could vary her style to suit the music. Yet the quiet ending to the work with its syncopated chords held the most resonance. Then came a most musical reading of Chopin's Fourth Ballade (Op.52), where poetry and passion were worn heart-on-sleeve as it built to a tumultuous climax. She leapt fearlessly into the treacherous coda, and although there were a few missed notes, the overall effect paid rich dividends.
The surest sign of her musical maturity came in her traversal of the eight Fantaisiestucke (Op.12) of Robert Schumann. Not only did she understand its idiom, she also lived its varied moods and emotions like a seasoned veteran. Des Abends was shaped with a pearly lustre while Aufschwung soared with unabated fervour. There was a minor lapse in Warum? but its individual voices came across clearly. Most spectacular was her steely control and tension she generated for In der Nacht, easily the most difficult piece - technically and interpretatively - of the set. The humour in Fabel and the dizzying pirouettes of Traumes Wirren were also keenly displayed before closing with a valedictoryEpilog, the echoes of distant tolling bells bringing the work to a glorious close.
As a cheeky encore, her spin on the Mozart-Volodos Turkish Rondo, with all its Horowitzicms, brought down the house. It was NOT her teacher's choice of work, she readily admitted, which shows that this is young lady - just all of 16 - clearly has a mind of her own too. She will be a massive success wherever she goes.
Dr Chang Tou Liang | August 4th, 2011
Review on Aileen Gozali's Solo Recital, Steinway Gallery
Delightful and Confident
All of 13 years old, pianist Aileen Gozali tackles mammoth pieces such as Chopin's Ballade No. 4 In F Minor with gusto
Pianist Aileen Gozali's closing concert in the series by musical prodigies for the just-ended Asia On The Edge festival was a genuinely delightful affair, played to a roomful of supporters and parents with children in tow.
Apart from the odd shush and creak, the former Parliamentary Debate Room in The Arts House provided a quaint backdrop for a performance that seemed more like a private tete-a-tete than a concert.
The 13-year-old Indonesian's diminutive yet elegant stature betrayed no hint of the confidence she was about to display.
Haydn's Sonata In C Major was beautifully executed. The opening broken triad motif was cheerfully playful and carried through with brisk finger-work. It was comforting to hear this oft-tested piece in a different light, with more brevity and colouration than what most youth her age are able to convey.
A veteran of the Chopin competition circuit, she chose two contrasting works by the lyrical composer, Variations Brillantes On Je Vends Des Scapulaires and Ballade No. 4 In F Minor.
The latter is known to be one of the most technically demanding of Chopin's compositions and like every child prodigy worth her salt, such demands were clearly not insurmountable for Gozali.
She could rattle off the contrapuntals, the voluminous tensions and the trickling running notes. It was quite fixating to see such a demure-looking pianist confront the mammoths of a powerful work.
Debussy's Reflections In The Water had the usual poetically dreamy sort of feel but was slightly lacking in depth and expression. She made up for this with an interesting transcription of a Chinese melody (Longing For Spring) by Chen Pei Xun.
The choice of Grieg for the finale was an inspired one. Gozali's full-bodied interpretation of Piano Sonata In E Minor was powerful, tempered by warm second and third movements where her quiet maturity was evident. However, no compromise was made in the fourth movement, where intensity and romanticism reigned supreme.
Her choice of pieces were of special significance, as all except the Chinese folk song were learnt after moving to Singapore last July.
She has shown lots of potential, lots of promise and her new home would do well to support and encourage her development.
The Straits Times | December 6th, 2008
Concert Review on TO MY HOME Aileen Gozali (piano),The Arts House
Newspaper Article on Aileen Gozali's Solo Debut in Gulangyu, China | June 15, 2007
Article on Aileen Gozali by 厦门侨务 (http://www.overseas.xm.gov.cn/qxdt/qxdt/11986.htm) | 2005