Léonie Sonning Talent Prize 2020
A pianist by chance
Throughout most of Lea Han’s childhood the idea was that she should study medicine. When she was sent to piano lessons at the age of six it was mainly because she needed to do something else apart from school. Lea’s Chinese parents believed that the piano would be good for stimulating both halves of the brain because you use both hands. In fact, they could just as well have sent her to sports, but piano it was.
In other words, there were not exactly any expectations that Lea should take piano playing far. However, her family did move from Copenhagen Northwest to Vallensbæk for Lea’s sake because it was closer to her piano teacher, Bella Zapolski. It is, after all, part of Chinese culture that you do things properly.
However, the move did have some unexpected consequences. In the Northwest estate, none of their many neighbours were disturbed by the young professional pianist-to-be practising. In their Vallensbæk neighbourhood of row houses, on the other hand, one neighbour did not find it charming. With the help of a solicitor the unmusical neighbour managed to chase Lea’s family away into the neighbouring Brøndby Strand, where Lea could continue her hobby undisturbed.
A very long sabbatical year
Even though Lea went to the very musical Sankt Annæ Gymnasium, she still had no ambitions about practising music on a professional level. Because she was going to study medicine. However, like so many others, she wanted to take a sabbatical after her A-levels and give music a chance. On a whim she applied for admission to the Royal Danish Academy of Music and got accepted.
Halfway through Lea’s bachelor a new policy came into being, which meant that you could not take a new degree once you had finished another one. At that point Lea was forced to decide whether she wanted to take a future as a professional pianist seriously or drop her studies like she had considered several times. In the end, music won and she is now studying for her master’s, and soon she will be studying abroad.
A soulmate from Vienna
One of the cities that Lea has fallen in love with is Vienna. It is everything she is attracted by: a big bustling city with lots of culture and. There is also a spirit about the city, which she hopes can rub off on herself as a musician.
“It is something in the air. I mean, you can feel it all over the city. The cultural life is huge, and people know about classical music,” Lea tells us and mentions Franz Schubert as one of the many composers who lived most of his life in Vienna. A composer who Lea is fascinated by because of his mixture of “vibrant joie de vivre and at the same time an enormous loneliness, where that which is in major can be sadder than what is in minor,” as she describes it. A duality which she recognises in herself.
“I imagine that if I met Schubert, we’d become pretty good friends. He was quite a small guy, and his music indicates that he was very open and straight-forward and not so complicated,” Lea imagines and adds that that is how she likes to see herself.
“Obviously it’s not going to happen, but if I move to Vienna, I’ll be a little bit closer to him,” she concludes with a grin.
Lea Han in brief
Born in 1997. Grew up in Copenhagen, Vallensbæk and Brøndby.
Has studied piano with Bella Zapolski from the age of six.
Started a four-year talent course in Copenhagen, the MGK, in 2011 and Sankt Annæ Gymnasium in 2012.
Has previously won gold in Berlingske Tidendes classical music competition as well as 1st prizes at the Steinway Festival and DR’s Spil for Livet competition. In 2015 was awarded the Copenhagen Summer Festival’s talent prize.
Bachelor studies 2015-2018 at the Royal Danish Academy of Music under Amalie Malling.
Since 2018 master studies in the same place under Amalie Malling and Jens Elvekjær.
The scholarship from the Léonie Sonning Music Foundation
Lea is planning to spend the money from the Léonie Sonning Music Foundation on expenses in connection with studying abroad, e.g. in Vienna.