May 10, 2012|
HK Magazine: What did your parents do?
Ray Chen: My parents have always been great supporters of my music and career even though they themselves aren’t professional musicians. My dad is in the trading business and has less to do with music, but my mother had experience in piano when she was younger. Over the years her ear for listening became so good that I would always invite her to listen to me play and give her opinion. It was like having a mirror placed before me and it was extremely helpful.
HK: How did you start playing violin?
RC: I am lucky enough to be part of a family where we don’t force our children to do anything. I began violin at the age of four simply because I had a love for the instrument. My first teacher played a huge role in this; her entire family taught the Suzuki method and each week their home would turn into a music school of sorts.
HK: When did you realize you wanted a career as a violinist?
RC: I first had dreams of becoming a violinist was when I was eight years old and was invited to perform at the opening celebration concert of the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics in Japan. This was my first “tour” overseas and I remember thinking to myself at the time, “Man, I would love to do this for the rest of my life!” It was a few more years later, however, that I made the conscious decision to rearrange my priorities and put violin first before everything else. This happened after I won the National Youth Concerto Competition in Australia. I was 13 and my competitors were a little older, so winning this prize bolstered my confidence and gave me hope that perhaps I could become a world-traveling soloist.
HK: Who would you cite as your biggest musical influences?
RC: My biggest musical influences would be: [late Russian classical violinist] David Oistrakh, for his wonderful sound and staying true to the music; [late Lithuanian violinist] Jascha Heifetz, for his brilliance and being himself in every way; [late American violinist] Nathan Milstein, for his sincerity and integrity behind the music; and, of course, my teachers and family because they are the ones who were there supporting me and taking care of me when things were difficult.
HK: Can you tell us something about your debut album, “Virtuoso?”
RC: “Virtuoso” was the first album that I recorded with Sony Classical. It features works by Tartini, Bach, Franck and Wieniawski, which lend to the name of the album because they are all pieces which feature virtuosity and technical difficulty. This year we’ve come out with a new album that showcases the Tchaikovsky and Mendelssohn violin concertos, which were the works that lead me to my international victories in the Menuhin and QueenElizabeth violin competitions.
HK: Do you listen to pop music?
RC: Yes, I do! Actually, I don’t listen to classical music in my spare time because it’s important for me to have a balanced lifestyle. I mostly listen to old classics, electronic music or bands that I think are really innovative and original. Frank Sinatra, Daft Punk and Mumford & Sons are a good example of those categories.
HK: Have you been to Hong Kong before?
RC: I have been to Hong Kong a few times and I have to say that I would seriously consider moving here. It’s a perfect blend of east and west and I feel myself relating to that—having been born in Taiwan and growing up in Australia and the USA. Plus, the food is so good!
HK: Are there any new recording projects you’re working on?
RC: Yes. We are working on a new recording but I’m not allowed to say anything as of yet, haha! I’ll keep you guys updated via Facebook (www.facebook.com/raychenviolinist) where you can also follow my travels and concerts. As for other projects in general, I’m really looking forward to my concert at this year’s Nobel Prize awards ceremony in December.