Just in: Major pianist dies of Covid

Just in: Major pianist dies of Covid


norman lebrecht

December 28, 2020

News media in China are reporting the death of the international pianist Fou Ts’ong, having previously reported that he was hospitalised in London with Covid-19. He was 86.

Fou Ts’ong came to attention in 1955 at the Chopin International Competition in Warsaw, taking third prize and a special Mazurka award.

He moved to London three years later, marrying  Zamira Menuhin, daughter of Yehudi. Together they were prominent members of the Barenboim-Du Pré and Argerich-Kovacevich social circles. They had a son together and divorced in 1969. Fou Ts’ong later married the London-based Chinese pianist Patsy Toh.

UPDATE: The French pianist Francois-frederic Guy, who has spoken to the family, writes: The great FOU TS’ONG passed away this afternoon..He got COVID .
He was one of my mentors and a musical father to me ..
His Debussy, Chopin and MOZART remain legendary…


How did we get from Fou Ts’ong to Lang Lang?

Tributes from Martha Argerich and more


  • Straussian says:

    Stunned and saddened. I grew up listening to him. RIP Fou T’song

  • Jeffrey Biegel says:

    So very sad and sorry that Covid has taken the life of one of the most inspiring and brilliant of musicians. We met at the Leeds competition in 1984, as he was a popular juror for many competitions. His playing and teaching will be a lasting legacy.

  • JB says:

    Sad. His playing of Haydn sonatas was very special.

  • Amy Struble says:

    I saw an interview where he spoke about missing Jacqueline du Pre. I can only pray he is in Heaven playing beautiful music with her. Prayers for his family.

  • Wise Guy says:

    Covid, really? Could age have been a factor?

    • Occamsrazor says:

      Wise guy, age has nothing to do with this. He died of lifelong pianistic convulsions that you can see on YouTube and since they cannot write it on the death certificate they conveniently added him to the plague statistics.

    • BruceB says:

      Sure, the same way that old lady died of old age because she couldn’t leap out of the path of that oncoming truck.

  • A.L. says:

    So sad to hear! I heard him once in recital and was phenomenal. May he rest in eternal peace.

  • Greg Bottini says:

    Fou Ts’ong was a brilliant pianist, one of the greatest Debussy interpreters. And as these clips demonstrate, his Chopin was wonderful as well.
    Rest in peace, Maestro.
    He died of The Virus, according to Francois-frederic Guy.
    When will the deniers wake up to the fact that The Virus is DEADLY and that all safety measures should be taken at all times?

    • Occamsrazor says:

      “When will the deniers wake up to the fact that The Virus is DEADLY and that all safety measures should be taken at all times?” Only after you die of it and one goddamn second before.

    • Player says:

      Norman, is this not considered abusive language? Please consider removing Occamsrazor’s comment. Greg Bottini is a regular contributor who uses his real name. He should not be the recipient of such bullying.

    • Occamsrazor says:

      “When will the deniers wake up to the fact that The Virus is DEADLY and that all safety measures should be taken at all times?” I won’t wait until you die of it to start wearing 1$ masks, scrubbing my hands with alcohol until the skin comes off and jumping away from my friends who are still in denial. For me the sign will be you using all capitals like this:” THE VIRUS IS DEADLY “. We are almost there already. As for me needing to be under the care of a psychiatrist. I’ve met a few shrinks, they didn’t notice the precise moment of themselves entering my care and left. PS. Deaths of piano competition jurors is not a universal cause for mourning.

      • M says:

        Fou a “piano competition juror”? Man, you have no taste. One of the greatest pianists in history; artists on the caliber of Argerich, Lupu, and Fleisher were endlessly inspired by him. Either grow a pair of ears or go back to listening to Matsuev and all of the other con artists.

      • Greg Bottini says:

        I repeat: you are insane.
        Get help.

        • Occamsrazor says:

          IMG_3016.jpeg Greg, the word “insane” is too broad, you need to provide a diagnosis. It sounds like a compliment, insanely good or insanely funny etc.

          • Greg Bottini says:

            OK, Occamsrazor:
            Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 6th ed.:
            insane /0ɪnˈseɪn/ adjective & noun. M16.
            [ORIGIN Latin insanus, formed as in-³ + sane.]
            ► adjective.
            1 In a state of mind that precludes normal perception and behaviour, and ordinary social interaction; mad; psychotic. M16. ▸ b Reserved or intended for the use of mentally ill people. E19.
            ….P. Theroux “She lost her mind and died insane.” D. Wigoder “I didn’t need to be locked up in an insane asylum.”

  • Petros Linardos says:

    Very sad news.

    If we focused our attention not to Fou Ts’ong’s swinging 60s personal life, but to his recordings, we discover a serious musician of great intellectual depth, a gift for melody and a rare sense of style, especially in Chopin’s Mazurkas. Fou Ts’ong’s artistry provided formidable arguments against Western bias towards Asian classical musicians.



  • Edgar Self says:

    Fou Ts’ong was the first pianist from China to win internaional notice in my memory, and one of the best. I heard his recital in San Francisco soon after his win at the Chopin competition: a long program with Beethoven’s Op. `110 and Schubert’s posthumous B-flat onata in the first half.

    At the inyerval an attendant announced, “Instead of the eight Chopin etudes on your program, Mr. Fou would like to play twelve Chopin etudes.” And he did.

    Excellent recordings soon followed on Wetminster LPs: Mozart’s 25th concerto in C, K. 503, and Handel’s Chaconne in G, both works associated with Edwin Ficher, and a selection of Chopin mazurkas.

    As his fourth ballade in the film shows, he joined some of its acclaimed players including Barere, Horowitz, Rubinstein, Hofmann, Cortot, and Moiseiwitsch.

    Now he has consecrated the passage after a long life and career. I remember him still as a young man that season, which also saw John Browning, and the piano duo of Joerg Demus and Paul Badura-Skoda.

  • Una says:

    Wonderful pianist.

  • The View from America says:

    A marvelous talent.

  • Gerald Martin says:

    Sorry to learn. I used to see his L.P. recordings on the Westminster label in the U.S.

  • CHUN KEUNG LAU says:


  • elgar edward says:

    his place was where jacqueline dupré and barenboim met, and discussed glandular fever

  • Nick2 says:

    Fou Ts’ong certainly had luck on his side. After his 3rd place in the Chopin Competition, he moved to London. A near contemporary and a piano virtuoso in his own right, Liu Shikun was 5 years his junior but won 3rd prize in the Liszt Competition aged 17 and then 2nd prize in the Tchaikovsky Competition 2 years later when Van Cliburn gained top prize.

    But Liu elected to stay in China. Coming from a wealthy family, he was banned during the disastrous Cultural Revolution, then jailed and placed in solitary confinement for 6 years. Not having seen a piano in all that time, he worked hard to regain his technique and was given a solo slot when the Philadelphia Orchestra toured China in 1973. When the Boston Symphony with Ozawa toured in 1979, he performed the Liszt First Concerto. During the applause he never smiled. When he received a rapturous reception after playing the same concerto in Boston a few weeks later, again he never smiled.

    Hopefully he is now smiling. At the age of 81 he and his 45 year old wife became parents of a baby daughter last month. I am sure Fou Ts’ong would have been smiling too when he heard the news.

  • Jan Kaznowski says:

    RIP – an inspirational pianist

  • Fu Lei says:

    Truly sad. Mr. Fou’s father was a noted translator of Balzac and French literature. Both of his parents committed suicide after being persecuted during the cultural revolution. The Chinese Communist Party killed his parents. Their son died of the virus that the CCP covered up and allowed to spread all over the world 54 years later. All three victims of the evil party.

    • CP says:

      CCP is the scourge of the modern world. Running concentration camps, ecviscerating Tibet, propping up North Korea, the list is endless. Yet, Western liberals just gloss over their atrocities and focus on pronouns.

  • yujafan says:

    Another sad loss in this year of unbearable pain… RIP

  • Kuei Pin Yeo says:

    He was invited by Yayasan Musik Jakarta to perform several concerts in Jakarta in 1990. Though it has been 30 years, but the time we spent together, including the many hours he practiced on my home piano still holds dear to my heart. We have many pictures together. May he RIP.

  • Edgar Self says:

    Norman quotes an announcement of Fou Ts’ong’s death by Francois-Frederic Guy, calling Fou his mentor.

    Guy himself is an acclaimed pianist whose Roque d’Antheron filmed recital and recordings of Beethoven’s “Hammerklavier” ,concertos, and Beethoven and Brahms cello sonatas are outstanding, as is his Grieg concerto once a cover mount of BBC Music magazine. We can choose bearded or beardless “Hammerklaviers”, a difficult decision; I slightly prefer the earlier, beardless one, but both are among the best I know, and which introduced this estimable artist to me.

    The stature and calibre of Fou’s mourneers is further tribute to him.

  • Dr. Michael Kaykov says:

    I had the pleasure of hearing him live a decade ago, at the IKIF Festival in NYC… supremely elegant and silky tone. What a loss.

  • Samuel Tarr says:

    I heard him play the Mozart E flat “Jeunehomme” concerto in the seventies at a concert in Leeds Town Hall. Sad to hear of his passing and of its manner.