Young violinist from Taipei releases new album in Beijing
When Tseng Yu-chien was 5 years old, his teacher called his parents to school because he sang Happy Birthday out of tune.
“She was worried about my hearing, so my parents, who were themselves teachers, enrolled me for violin lessons in the hope that through the process of learning the instrument, I could hear the intonations and imitate melodies,” recalls Tseng, a musician who was born in Taipei.
After sixmonthsof learning, it turned out that Tseng not only had the perfect pitch but also could play the violin well. In a year, he was performing with the Taipei Symphony Orchestra.
In 2015, Tseng got his big break by winning the second prize at the International Tchaikovsky Competition, the highest prize in the violin contest since nobody won the first prize that year.
“One of the biggest challenges was physical strength,” Tseng says about his experience of competing. “I didn’t realize I was tired until the next morning after winning the award.”
The 22-year-old violinist, who continues to pursue his master’s degree at New York’s Juilliard School, visited Beijing recently to release his new album, Reverie, for which he selected a variety of solo violin works and sonatas of famous composers that include Giuseppe Tartini’s sonata in G minor, Chopin’s nocturnes and Heinrich Wilhelm Ernst’s Variations on the Last Rose of Summer.
Reverie was recorded by Tseng after he signed up with Universal Music in August. The album was released under the label Deutsche Grammophon.
“This album means a lot to me. It’s a very personal collection ofmy favorite music,” says Tseng, who gave the title of the album symbolizing “dreamy and beautiful music”.
One of his favorite pieces in the repertoire is Mozart’s Sonata K 454.
“When you play it with emphasis on the contrasts, emotion, energy and drama, the work has many shades of Beethoven, reflecting the violin’s romantic spirit,” he says.
The selection of Tchaikovsky’s Melodie from Souvenir d’un lieu cher, originally for violin and the piano, a rare example of the composer’s chamber music, is described as “irresistible” by Tseng.
“It’s just one of the most beautiful lines in all of music. When you hear it, you love it,” he says.
Tseng recorded the album in Berlin in October along with Sri Lankan pianist Rohan de Silva, who said in an interview that he was impressed by the young violinist’ performance.
“I admire his playing, especially his spontaneous response to music,” saidDeSilva, who is renowned for his partnership with violin virtuosos like Itzhak Perlman.
Tseng says he is not good at talking but he can do it with his instrument. The expressiveness of music inspired the musician at an early age to make music his career.
At 13, he knew he needed to expand his musical education abroad. His parents were supportive and Tseng’s father, who was a computer science professor back then, quit his job and accompanied him to Philadelphia to attend the Curtis Institute ofMusic, from where he graduated in 2016.
During his studies there, Tseng met two important violin teachers, Ida Kavafian and Aaron Rosand.
“I was introduced not just to solo violin repertoires I studied in Taiwan but also to chamber music, symphonic music and all the possibilities that one can explore with a violin,” Tseng says.
Tseng is a regular performer at competitions and his musical talent enabled him to gain early success.
He won the Sarasate International Violin Competition, which is held annually in Spain, in 2009. In 2011, he was the fifth laureate at the Queen Elisabeth Music Competition in Brussels. He also won the first prize at the inaugural Singapore International Violin Competition in January 2015.
Having performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra, the National Orchestra of Belgium and the symphony orchestras of Singapore, Taipei and Navarra among others, Tseng says he dreams to travel the world as a soloist.
Despite tasting success at such a young age, he says he hasn’t changed much.
“I am just always and always listening.”
One of the biggest challenges was physical strength.”