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Ray Chen: Qobuz Exclusive Interview

We met the young violinist upon the release of his Mozart album, with Christoph Eschenbach conducting.

Ray Chen’s now very much in the limelight and is has been performing in classical music venues across the world since his successive victories in the Yehudi Menuhin and Queen Elizabeth competitions in 2008 and 2009. And we were lucky enough to sit down with him for a chat before his Parisian recital at the Salle Gaveau with Julien Quentin on 2nd April. The young Taiwanese-born Australian violinist was full of energy, and insisted that his beautifully-crafted 1721 Stradivarius violin, on loan from the Nippon Music Foundation, was in view throughout the interview. Chen, who is based at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia where he studies under Aaron Rosand when he isn’t touring the world, spoke to us about the challenges and opportunities in the classical music world, at the beginning of an already very promising career.

Chen has interesting opinions about building audiences and explained how they can be divided into three categories. The first category is composed of faithful concertgoers who make every concert. The second is made of up of people who go to hear a particular artist, and the third is people who have never been to a classical concert. Chen’s aim is to reach out to people in the third category and attract them into the second, in the hope that, one day, they will belong to the first… This is the strategy behind his social media engagement, his interactions with his fans and his eagerness to play to new audiences in unconventional venues. And it works: Eleanor Sokoloff sent him a thumbs-up on Facebook recently! “Most people only reach out to the first category: they walk on stage, play their piece, bow, then go home. There’s nothing interesting about that!”

Ray Chen followed up his first recital in 2010—which included Tartini’s ‘Devil’s Trill Sonata’, César Franck’s ‘Sonata’, Bach’s ‘Chaconne’ and pieces from Wieniawski—with interpretations of Mendelssohn’s and Tchaikovsky’s concertos with Daniel Harding. His third album release offers fans two of Mozart’s concertos, the K. 216 and K. 218, along with the K. 305. His latest recordings are led by Christoph Eschenbach, who also led the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival Orchestra in Bruch’s ‘Concerto’ which Chen performed at the Nobel Prize concert in Stockholm in 2012. In short, in the interview below, you’ll see a young artist who manages to maintain his profound attachment to his instrument and his music, but has developed an intimate connection to the digital world to reach his audiences.


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