Catherine Cheung | 张瑛瑶

Pianist | Composer

Catherine Cheung is a pianist, composer and teacher based in London

IMS Prussia Cove 2013

I got accepted to participate in this year's International Musicians Seminar at Prussia Cove, Cornwall. This music course that is held annually during the Spring, was founded by Sandor Végh (the great Hungarian violinist and conductor) in 1972. Currently the artistic director role is held by Steven Isserlis, and András Schiff has also had long-standing association with the course.


I stared at this all day

After an overnight journey on a slow sleeper train from London Paddington I arrived at Penzance, only 20 mins drive away from the rather remote Prussia Cove. I had no signal (phone or internet). It was frustrating. I'm a renowned sucker for technology- how would I survive for 10 days being here?!

The first 48 hours were pretty painful and intense. I felt like I was put in rehab for technology addiction (it's true, technology had truly taken over my life), and the only way I could distract myself from the withdrawal symptoms was to attend classes given by the Maestri there, listen to my peers, have my own lessons, and practise. It helped that there was also miles and miles of the Atlantic sea to look at, a great coast line to walk along, and of course, great company. So, there it was. I had unknowingly put myself in a really nice self-imposed prison.

Practising on a Fazioli with a sea view

Practising on a Fazioli with a sea view



After the 48 hours passed, I noticed a clear difference in the way I thought and felt about music. My practise sessions were short, but productive. The classes were of course, inspirational. I was working with Rita Wagner, wife of Ferenc Rados, and one of the most uplifting, enthusiastic professors I have ever met. She's one of those 'hidden gem' professors who have hardly any online presence (don't bother Googling) but anyone who has been in contact with her will tell you she is amazing. Life away from busy London, and technology was starting to feel... refreshing. It was simple, there were no worries, no stressing, and the absence of the internet and contact with the outside world freed up some space in my mind to reflect on my work as a pianist and a musician. Because, that was really all I had to think about while I was there. For ten days, the piano, and only the piano was my focus.

But the question is, now that I'm back in London, am I continuing to live like I did in Prussia Cove?

It's pretty unrealistic to think that I could. I spent the first 24 hours back in London glued to my laptop screen (you know, to make up for lost time!). But, I will say this: I've cherished the extremely unique experience at Prussia Cove, and I will take what I have learnt, apply it to my work, and try and compromise, so my lifestyle here in London can somehow mesh with how I was living in Prussia Cove. It's amazing how just 10 days can make a huge difference, and I hope I'll be back there soon.

© Catherine Cheung 2015