Young vi­o­lin­ist from Taipei re­leases new al­bum in Bei­jing

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE - By CHENNAN chennan@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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.”

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