Zhang Zhao is among the most active and prolific contemporary Chinese composers, currently signed to German music publisher Schott, as well as a professor at the school of music of MINZU University of China. As a recipient of many national awards and reputation, Zhang has been invited to create works for many well-known musicians, including Sheng Zhongguo, Lang Lang, Yundi Li and Han Lei. Zhang was also the first Chinese composer to have his works chosen by the ABRSM, Trinity College London and the national piano grading of Australia as official audition selections.
Zhang Zhao was born in Yunnan, China, and grew up in the Ailao mountainous region of southern Yunnan before the age of fourteen, during which period he received much exposure to local folk music. Since his youth he enjoyed a love for art, poetry and calligraphy. He began learning yangqin with his mother Ma Jingfeng at the age of five, violin at six, piano at seven, and accordion at ten. When he was eleven years old, he began studying composition with his father Zhang Nan. At the age of fourteen he entered the Provincial Arts School at Dianchi Lake for studying piano for five years. During this time he started composing and wrote a large number of works for piano, violin, vocal and orchestra. After he entered MINZU University of China, he studied with Prof. Xia Zhongtang and Prof. Xiang Shizhong, and graduated from the school of music with a double major in both piano and composition in 1987. In 1998, he completed his post-graduate study with Prof. Guo Wenjing in the composition department of the Central Conservatory of Music. Zhang later served as the music director for the “Vibrant China” world tour held by the State Ethnic Affairs Commission of China, and during a tour spanning almost a decade, he visited scores of countries throughout Asia, Europe, the Americas and Africa.
Zhang Zhao seeks to achieve a musical style that naturally fuses ethnic sounds with his own imagination. He has received numerous awards, including the Golden Bell Award, Wenhua Award, Five Ones Project Award, as well as many more for international competitions held in the US, Japan and Australia. His compositions have been commented as “Unparalleled Contemporary Works” by ABC Radio Australia, and included in The Chinese Orchestral Music Exposition, The Chinese Music Centennial Collection and The Centennial Classics of Chinese Piano Solo Works. His representative works include String Quartet: Totem, the piano pieces Pihuang, Three Mountain Songs of Southern Yunnan and The Chinese Dream, concertos for piano (Ailao Rhapsody), erhu (Song of the Sun), liuqin (The Music and Dance of Bronze), pipa (Song of Heaven and Earth) and yangqin (Concerto No.1 for Yangqin), a large-scale work for Chinese traditional orchestra Harmony of Seven Colors, dance music Memories of the Grasslands, musical My Ulan Muqir, opera The Mustard Seed Garden and Flowing Stream, choral music Spring Has Arrived, and musical drama Border Town. He has also scored for films and television, including music for Flower Girl, Lotus Lantern, Dongfang Shuo, A Pair of Phoenixes, and Song of 49 Suns, etc.