Fou Ts’ong, a world-renownedv Chinese pianist, has passed away at the age of 86 after contracting COVID-19.
The Chinese-born British musician passed away in London on Monday. His wife, Patsy Toh, was also hospitalized for COVID-19 but was able go home before his death.
Regarded as the first Chinese pianist to achieve international acclaim, Fou was best known for his interpretation of Frederic Chopin’s music.
Fou was born in March 1934 to a family of intellectuals in Shanghai. His parents, French translator Fu Lei and Zhu Meifu, committed suicide in 1966 amid persecution during the Chinese Cultural Revolution.
As a young pianist, Fou studied under the tutelage of Italian conductor Mario Paci, who founded the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra.
Fou left China for Europe at the age of 19. He continued his musical studies in Warsaw, Poland and later won third prize in the city’s 5th International Chopin Competition.
Fou moved to London in 1959. From there, he became a globally-acclaimed pianist, touring Europe and the U.S., according to the BBC.
Fou did not return to China until 1979, when the Cultural Revolution had ended and economic reforms under Deng Xiaoping were underway.
News of Fou’s death went viral in China. Many recalled the letters he had received from his parents before their death.
“So sorry to hear of his death. For many Chinese who came of age in the 1980s, the name Fou Ts’ong became well known because of the correspondence he had with his father, Fu Lei, the famed translator. May peace and love be with him in heaven,” one Weibo user wrote, according to Global Times.
Some reportedly criticized his decision to move in the U.K. instead of honing the next generation of Chinese musicians, but others came to his defense.
“If he had gone back to China at that time, his career would be destroyed and his life would possibly not be guaranteed. The world would lose an art master,” wrote blogger Geng Xiangshun, according to the South China Morning Post.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Chopin Institute, an organization dedicated to researching and promoting Chopin’s work, described Fou’s death as “the closure of an extremely important page in the Chopin tradition.”
“We say goodbye to the master, musician, philosopher who, like no other, was able to tell the world the greatness of Chopin through words, but above all through his play,” the institute said.
Feature Images via Getty (left; cropped) and Chopin Institute (right; screenshot)