Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Taipei Times(2011/03/29):Chen Rueibin strikes the right note

Tue, Mar 29, 2011 - Page 16

Having left his Tainan hometown to study music in Vienna at the tender age of 13, pianist Chen Ruei-bin has carved out a career as a much sought-after soloist. He performs in Taichung on April 6

By Ian Bartholomew / Staff Reporter /Photo Courtesy of Capriccio Chamber Orchestra

Taiwan-born pianist Chen Ruei-bin (陳瑞斌) has spent most of his life abroad, having left his hometown in Tainan at age 13 to train in Vienna. He now divides his time between Europe and the US, performing a grueling schedule of concerts. He trained under the Russian master Lazar Berman, and is known for his energetic, sometimes athletic performance style, as well as for his interpretation of modern Russian composers such as Stravinsky and Rachmaninoff. Earlier this month he performed in Taipei and Kaohsiung, and on April 6 he will perform in Taichung.

In addition to receiving numerous international accolades, Chen won the Taiwan Millennium Best Artistic Performance Award (台灣最佳表演藝術獎) in 2000 and in 2004 he took home Golden Melody Awards (台灣金曲獎) for best classical album and best performance. At his Concert of Russian Ballet Music (陳瑞斌俄羅斯芭蕾鋼琴音樂會) at the National Concert Hall, Taipei City last week, Chen was given an enthusiastic response despite the unconventional nature of the program, which opened with two movements from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet Ballet Suite, Op. 75, and finished with three movements from Stravinsky’s Petrushka.

In an interview with the Taipei Times last week, Chen said he particularly enjoyed playing technically demanding music such as Petrushka, which is not well-known in Taiwan, because it was a chance to “show how good I am.” Chen is determined to prove himself in the eyes of his peers, and his efforts have achieved considerable success. He is now a much sought-after soloist. But Chen’s career as a concert pianist was far from a foregone conclusion. He described his childhood in rural Tainan, where at the time few people would have been familiar with a concert piano. “Unlike many younger Asian musicians, I was never given a structured musical education,” he said. “It just happened that my father taught music at a local primary school and we had a piano in the house. It was a secondhand Japanese-made piano and must be nearly 100 years old by now.” He went on to describe how his father would search out old vinyl recordings of classical music to listen to. “Often the crackling of the needle was even louder than the music,” he said. Chen’s uncle, a musician in Taipei, would occasionally visit and give his nephew a piano lesson, but that was the extent of Chen’s formal musical education. Despite this rather haphazard foundation, Chen won himself the opportunity to study at the Vienna Conservatory after being selected in a government national talent search program.

“The first time I ever got on an aircraft was to fly to Vienna,” he said with a chuckle. Prior to arriving in Vienna, Chen said he was not at all sure he would pursue a career in music. “My parents didn’t really know what to do [about this opportunity to study abroad], so they thought I might as well go and see what would come of it. If I could come back with some kind of diploma, that would have been sufficient.”

His love of music began in the concert halls and opera houses of Vienna. “I didn’t speak any German when I arrived,” Chen said, “so there wasn’t much for me to do other than go listen to music. That is when I came to love music and decided to continue on this path.” To subsidize his stay in Europe, Chen said he began registering for all the piano competitions he could. “I was pretty lucky that I managed to pick up quite a few prizes, and in this way, my musical career also developed.”

Chen made his European concert debut at the Grossensaal of the Vienna Konzerthaus in 1984 to considerable acclaim and his career as a concert pianist has never looked back. He has performed in many of the great concert halls of the world and worked with some of its most notable orchestras. Although he returns to Taiwan regularly, he says he feels as much European as Taiwanese. “After all, I have spent longer abroad than I have in Taiwan,” he said. Chen said that having been thrown into a foreign environment at such a young age, he needed to educate himself in a way that many other young Asian pianists do not. “At the time, few aspiring Asian musicians would have gone overseas so young [Chen was just 13], or at least they would have traveled in the company of their parents. I was on my own and had to deal with everything myself. My career is a totally different world for my parents, one that they have little understanding of."

Chen’s performance style has been deeply influenced by his last mentor, the Russian virtuoso Berman.

The pianist said that he was the only Asian student ever taken on by Berman and talked about his work developing a feel for the Russian composers. “In playing a piece like Petrushka, the technical challenges are considerable. You need a total command of the skills, before you can start giving it the true Russian feeling … The physical demands are huge.” At the Taipei concert, Chen attacked and caressed the piano by turn, giving substance to a much quoted Boston Globe review describing his performance style as one of “white-hot energy, steel-fingered power and athletic virtuosity.”

Chen’s combination of technical skill and Russian passion will be on display at the Chunghsing Concert Hall, Taichung (台中中興堂), 291-3 Chingwu Rd, Greater Taichung (台中市精武路291之3號) on April 6. A small number of tickets are still available and can be purchased through ERA ticketing by calling (02) 2341-9898, or from

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Central News Agency (2011,3,15):Taiwanese pianist returns home for recitals

Taiwanese pianist returns home for recitals 2011/03/15 19:45:42 Taipei, March 15 (CNA) World renowned Taiwanese-Austrian pianist Rueibin Chen has returned to Taiwan for three solo concerts in which he will perform some of the world's best known Russian ballet suites, the organizers said Tuesday.“For a pianist, reworking the much-loved orchestral scores for keyboard in a concert setting is a great challenge, " Chen said at a press conference in Taipei. "But if the pianist plays really well, listeners will find greater enjoyment in the piano recital than in a 90-member orchestra performance.”In the three recitals that will be held in Taipei, Taichung and Kaohsiung March 20, March 25 and Apr. 6, respectively, Chen will perform piano transcriptions of Russian ballet music such as Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet Ballet Suite, Op. 75.The program will also include Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker from the Ballet Suite Op.71a, Stravinsky's Three Movements from Petrushka Ballet Suite, Rachmaninoff's 18th Variation from Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, and Chopin's Nocturne in C minor, Op.48 No. 1 and Barcarolle in F Sharp Major, Op.60.Chen told reporters he had been a big fan of Russian ballet since his teenage years, and later when he began to practice ballet score transcriptions for piano solos, he realized how talented the Russian composers really were.When he was much younger, he said, his playing of Russian music was focused more on technique, how fast his fingers could move on the piano. But as he matured, he began exploring ways of interpreting the distinctive characteristics of the Russian people and their music, he said."Russian music is about sharp contrasts and intense emotions," he said. "It's not just about presenting the electric power from within the pieces."Chen, born in Tainan in 1967, began learning piano at the age of five under the tutelage of his school teacher father.At the age of 13, Chen went to Vienna, Austria on a state-funded scholarship and later obtained Austrian citizenship in 1999.He is the only known Asian follower of the late legendary Russian pianist Lazar Berman, who was famous for his thunderous technique and thrilling interpretations of Liszt and Rachmaninoff."I think I am now fully capable of portraying the distinctive flavor of Russian scores," Chen said.The pianist has won 18 medals in various international competitions and now spends

Monday, March 28, 2011

Taiwan News(2011,03,19):Austria-based pianist Chen to perform Russian ballet suites in Taiwan

Austria-based pianist Chen to perform Russian ballet suites in Taiwan By Yali ChenTaiwan News, Staff Reporter

2011-03-19 10:56 AM

Austria-based pianist Rueibin Chen is set to hold his recitals in Taiwan from March to April. Central News Agency

Internationally acclaimed Austria-based pianist Rueibin Chen is scheduled to hold his recitals in Taiwan from March to April. These concerts feature the world’s best-known Russian ballet suites. Playing famous orchestral scores on the piano was very challenging, Chen said, adding that but if a pianist plays really well, audiences will find greater pleasure in the pianist’s recital than in a 90-member orchestra performance. The first-half program of Chen’s concerts will open with Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet Ballet Suite, Op. 75, followed by Russian pianist Sergei Rachmaninoff’s 18th Variation from Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, and Russian composer Peter Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker from the Ballet Suite Op.71a. The second half includes Polish composer Frederic Chopin’s Nocturne in C minor Op.48 No. 1 and Barcarolle in F-sharp major Op.60, and ends with Russian composer Igor Stravinsky’s Three Movements from Petrushka Ballet Suite. A big fan of Russian classical ballet, Chen played Petrushka on the piano at the age of 17. When he was younger, he said, his performance of Russian music was focused more on technical skills and how fast his fingers could move on the piano. But as he matured, he began to play with a touch of Russia – he called it Russian spirituality. These pieces, Chen said, are also famous soundtracks to the films “The Pianist,” “Somewhere In Time” and “Fantasia,” as well as a Japanese television serial “Nodame Cantabile.” Chen, born in Tainan in 1967, learned to play the piano at the age of five under his father’s teaching. Eight years later, he went to Vienna, Austria, and obtained Austrian citizenship in 1999. The Tainan-born pianist, the only Asian disciple of the late Russian pianist Lazar Berman, has lived overseas for many years. He graduated from the Vienna Academy of Music City and the German National Institute of Music in Hannover in the eighties. After winning in the International Piano Competition of Rachmaninoff in 1984, the soloist began shining at many international piano competitions held in Warsaw, Tel Aviv, Salt Lake City, Athens, Vienna, Spain and Italy. Working with the Shanghai Chinese Orchestra at Shanghai Oriental Art Center, Chen was the first Taiwanese musician to perform the famous piece “Yellow River Piano Concerto” during the opening season of the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai, China. To mark the bicentennial birth date of Franz Liszt, the virtuoso Hungarian virtuoso pianist, Chen will perform some pieces of that composer’s works as his Taiwanese recitals’ encores. The concerts will be held at the National Concert Hall in Taipei on March 20, at the Sun Yat-sen Hall of the National Sun Yat-sen University in Kaohsiung on March 25, and Taichung Chung-hsin Hall on April 6. Tickets are now available at