Ray Chen's Virtuoso Coming Next Week
Winner of the Queen Elisabeth Competition (2009) and the Yehudi Menuhin Competition (2008), Chen has received rave reviews from critics, and high praise from distinguished musicians around the globe for the fresh insight he brings to his performances and a musical authority far beyond his age.
Maxim Vengerov, impressed by Chen's charisma, stunning technique and natural ability to communicate, has described him as "a very pure musician with great qualities such as beautiful, youthful tone, vitality and lightness".
Chen's upcoming engagements include performances with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester at Berlin's Philharmonie, and with the Munich Philharmonic, Filarmonica della Scala, Spanish National Orchestra, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Sydney Symphony, as well as recitals and chamber music at today's most prestigious venues and festivals, such as Verbier and Ravinia.
Virtuoso, Chen's first recording for Sony Classical represents a selection of his personal favorites from different strands of the violin repertoire. The album opens with the fiendishly difficult "Devil's Trill" Sonata by Tartini - a remarkable virtuoso and something of a rock star in his own time, whose phenomenal technique was reportedly explained by the fact that he had six fingers on his left hand. Legend has it the Devil appeared to the composer in a dream and tempted him into a pact by playing a beautiful melody on a violin.
Chen considers the "Devil's Trill" Sonata, with its haunting opening melody, to be the ideal curtain-raiser. In total contrast to the brilliant fireworks display of the first piece, the album continues with Bach's Chaconne from Partita No. 2 in D minor. Chen considers this piece - based on a simple but moving theme which evolves into myriad intricate musical figures - to be a study of a whole range of human emotions: melancholy, delight, grief and rapture in the magnificent chorale finale. He describes it as the epitome of the solo violin repertoire.
Henryk Wieniawski is among Chen's favorite composers whose music features not only breath-taking technical display but also true passion. He first played the beautiful Legende in G minor op. 17 at the age of eight and it has remained special to him ever since. The epic Variations on an original theme in A major op.15, however, is a work to be attempted solely by musicians in the very top flight. Chen confesses to learning it only when he felt that his fingers were "well-oiled enough to meet the challenge of this massive-monster-mammoth of a piece."
The mood shifts once again with Cesar Franck's intimate and poetic Violin Sonata in A major. This composer wrote very little chamber music, yet this late work is regarded as a major masterpiece.
Chen chose to end his first album with this sonata, as it examines the different stages of human existence: "A lifetime of experiences, all represented in one single piece." Dedicated as a wedding gift to the Belgian composer and violinist Eugene Ysaye, it provides a fitting conclusion to this imaginative and far-ranging debut recording, an important milestone in the increasingly exciting career of the young musician.