Taiwan News, 2012-10-17
Internationally renowned pianist Rueibin Chen will offer music lovers a real treat on Saturday and Sunday, October 27 and 28, at 7:00pm at the bandstand in Daan Forest Park. Chen will present works by Beethoven, Mozart and Rachmaninoff on what promises to be a cool autumn evening of delightful classic music.
Hailed as “the kind of genius that comes along once in a generation,” Chen comes off in conversation as anything but a reserved, arrogant master, revealing a humble, earthy side more like that of a close friend. Reminded of his outstanding accomplishments at an early age in Austria, he murmurs only that "I was very lucky”.
Chen relates how once a mother passed a message to him after a performance, saying she had been worried that her three-year-old son would not be able to sit quietly during the show. Much to her surprise, she found her son breathlessly caught up in the music and even more focused than the adults around him.
Chen explains that his ultimate aim is not to be a self-absorbed virtuoso piano master, but to become immersed in the music, and to use his hands and fingers to project his passion to his listeners – even to the ones in the farthest corners of the venue.
Chen Ruei-bin received his first lessons from his father at the age of five, practicing on an old Japanese piano that he says “now must be a hundred years old.” By the age of ten he was a child prodigy who made his stage debut with the Taipei Symphony Orchestra.
At thirteen Chen went unaccompanied to Vienna – the first time he ever stepped onto an airliner – to begin his formal education in music. He found himself halfway around the world and unable to speak German, and consoled himself by taking advantage of every opportunity to listen to music..In addition to the language barrier, Chen also had to get by on a minimal budget, even limiting his phone calls back home to twice a year, at Chinese New Year and the Mid-Autumn Festival when he could take advantage of lower rates.
As he worked his way through competitions, gradually making a name for himself in the world of music, Chen was constantly aware of his precarious situation due to Taiwan's diplomatic isolation, which sometimes caused problems for him. He notes that "from the age of thirteen, I was entirely on my own." He explains when he set out for Vienna he had little more than a passport to his name and entered numerous competitions as a way to support himself. He adds that he hopes the Taiwan government will pay more attention to budding talent in the field of music, offering more support and assistance to young musicians so their talent will not be buried.
Chen devotes a good deal of his time to charitable activities. In 2012 he organized a "Love and Sunshine Concert”, in which he shared the stage with three mentally and physically challenged young pianists. Chen notes frankly how their disabilities – autism, blindness and cerebral palsy – did not affect their performance in any way. Chen says that when they play they are every bit as professional as the most accomplished pianist, even if they sometimes cannot express their feelings in speech. Music is the medium they use to interact with others, he notes, and when the language is music, they are as articulate as anyone else.
Chen relates how his appreciation of music has become more diverse as he has grown older. He says that many of the ‘bottlenecks’ that limited the range of his performances in the past have been removed as he gradually finds other types of music that he wants to interpret. “With many works,” he notes, “you cannot really understand the sweetness and the bitterness until you are a little older.”
In recent years Chen has also ventured into performing music from the Asia-Pacific region, such as Lu Liang-hui’s “Love River Piano Concerto.” Chen tells how he has played this work in front of foreigners who have never been to Taiwan and is touched by how deeply moving the music is for them. He adds that Taiwanese who listen to the music also comment on how it makes them homesick for the island. Chen says he is now concentrating on incorporating certain elements of Hakka culture, to help promote Hakka culture and make a contribution to cross-cultural understanding. That is part of the magic of music as Chen presents it, sounds from Taiwan and sounds from the rest of the world resonating across the barriers of time and space to move listeners wherever they may be.