Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Review: Taiwanese Pianist Rueibin Chen Hands Masterful Performance at The Wallis

 Review :  

Taiwanese Pianist Rueibin Chen Hands Masterful Performance at The Wallis



Classical music is seen by many as a white European art form and its audience made up of mostly older fans. Symphony halls and other venues offering this type of music are trying their best to see how to pull in a younger and more diverse audience.
There is one ethnic group though that not only attends these concerts in large numbers but has produced many of today’s most important classical music artists and whose presence in symphony orchestra musicians may be the highest. Asian and Asian-Americans comprise the youngest demographic group attending classical concerts and many of the hot classical performers are coming from this community.
These artists include Chinese pianists Yuja Wang, Lang Lang, cellist Yo Yo Ma (French born of Chinese parents) amongst others.
One of Taiwan’s best pianists, Rueibin Chen performed two sold-out nights at The Bram Goldsmith Theater at The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills on Thursday and Friday evening.
A Chinese-Austrian born in Taiwan, Chen has a reputation for a brilliant technique and intense artistic expression as well as an expertise on the works of Russian composer, conductor and master pianist Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff, whose date of death in this city of Beverly Hills coincided with Friday’s performance.
Chen’s selected program titled “Total Rachmaninoff” began with three of Rachmaninoff Preludes, which were written for solo piano. “Prelude in G Major Opus 32 No. 5″ began with a soft, rain-like sound with multiple layers, followed by “Prelude in D Major Opus 23 No. 4,” which had a fuller and stronger sound showcasing Chen’s virtuosity. A more lyrical and melodic piece was “Prelude in D Major Opus 23 No. 4,” which was the longest of the three.
The “Three Nocturne Opus I” (1887), a premier for California, is regarded as the first serious attempt by the composer to write for the piano at all 14-years of age. These included “No.1 in F-sharp Minor,” “No. 2 in F Major” and “No. 3 in C Minor.” The pieces vary in tone and speed from a slow, soft, gentle sound to a full one with increase speed and complexity that Chen was able to transmit with great artistry and command.
“Lilacs Opus 21 No.” was a beautiful, contemplative melody with a more modern feel while the following piece, “Gavotte from Partita No. 3 in E Major,” was a baroque number by Johan Sebastian Bach; it was originally for lute and was transcribed by Rachmaninoff for piano. In “Etude-Tableau in D Major Opus 39,” Chen showcased a very animated, virtuoso technique in fast pace that increased with complexity as time went on.
After the intermission, the audience was treated to several other transcribed pieces for piano by Rachmaninoff such as “Lullaby” by Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and “Minuet from L’Arlesienne” by French composer Gerge Bizet. These were followed by two intense pieces by Austrian-born violinist and composer Fritz Kreisler, a contemporary of Rachmaninoff whose “Liebesleid” (Love’s Sorrow) and “Liebesfreud” (Love’s Joy) were packed with layers of complexities and so much power that Chen’s cufflinks flew off of his wrists.
After two standing ovations, Chen finally addressed the audience in his limited English thanking them for attending the concert and The Wallis for hosting him that evening. Not to disappoint he turned to the piano and gave a haunting version of Polish composer Frédéric Chopin’s “Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-flat minor, Op. 35,” popularly known as The Funeral March.
Fortunately, the evening’s selections and compositions of Vasilievich Rachmaninoff, interpreted in the power and artistry of Chen, had all in the audience “living it up.”

Sunday, April 6, 2014

PROFILE: Rueibin Chen A look at a former prodigy’s career as an international concert pianist

 PROFILE: Rueibin Chen 

A look at a former prodigy’s career as an international concert pianist

Interview by  Taipei Times

Sat, Apr 05, 2014

Photo : 
Rueibin Chen is an internationally acclaimed touring concert pianist.
Photo courtesy of Capriccio

Rueibin Chen (陳瑞斌) is on a brief stop in Taiwan to see immediate family, before flying out for two sold-out recitals to open the Wallis Annenberg Center in California. He is a former prodigy with a crown-jewel job, a solo pianist who follows gigs from one continent to the next.
When I meet him, he is a bit jet-lagged. He doesn’t sound like the way he plays, which the Boston Globe hails as “white-hot energy, steel-fingered, power and athletic virtuosity.” Offstage, he is a plain-spoken Greater Tainan native with good manners and a slight stammer, who is apparently without the motivation to punch up his statements and make a dazzling impression. He ends long sentences deferentially: “I don’t know the words to express it.”

The son of a public-school music teacher, Chen took up piano at five years old and learned instinctively, making his stage debut with the Taipei Symphony Orchestra at age 10. Shortly afterward, his father wanted to give him a shot at making it in Vienna.
“My father made the decision. I was 13 and couldn’t say no, I didn’t have a choice … Once I was there, I had to finish my education, otherwise how could I find a job?” Chen says.
For the next few years, Chen studied unaccompanied at the Vienna Conservatory under a special waiver of age requirement. In between classes, the teen struggled to find rice at the supermarket and tried to learn German. He also searched for appropriate places to practice his etudes.
“When you are playing piano, you bother your neighbors,” Chen says. “I was evicted many times.”
Meanwhile, he wanted to go home.
“I was so far from Taiwan. When I was little I liked playing Rachmaninoff and Chopin, and I felt that we shared a culture,” he says.
“Rachmaninoff went from Moscow to California’s Beverly Hills, and he never went back. Even though it was so sunny and beautiful there, what he composed was depressive and deep. You could tell that this person was never very happy because he could not go back.”

These days, with at least one major engagement per month, Chen is perpetually jet lagged and often spends nights practicing while his home time zone rests.
It’s a solitary lifestyle similar to his childhood in Vienna, with the difference that he has the means to fly to Taiwan whenever he wants. He treats his career like a nine-to-five job, dedicating regular hours and creating timely programs that match the needs of audiences.
“I want to deliver good music to people,” he says. “Taiwanese audiences have a very high expectation of me, because they are familiar with my sound. They want something different each time. I want to create something different each time.”
His latest major tour marks Rachmaninoff’s 140th anniversary. It’s a popular program, and he is among the world’s best at this repertoire — in 1984, he became the youngest winner of the Rachmaninoff International Piano Competition in Italy.
But Chen’s relationship with music has moved beyond his years as a prodigy. In some ways, music has become a much more private matter.
“For example, the older I get, the more I like Brahms,” he says.
“Some composers have a knack for sharing, and have the ability to create communion — for instance Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky, they spark chemistry with an audience. But others don’t have that quality, for instance Brahms,” he says.
“For an outdoor concert for 2,000 people, you would not hear anybody performing Brahms, because he is indirect with the emotions. Yet you can hear him when you listen by yourself behind a closed door,” Chen says.
He can now appreciate Vienna, in which the majority of people could not play classical music but were taught how to approach and engage with it. In Taiwan, many children like himself were taught to perform, but not to listen. Most eventually quit, he says.
“It’s more fortunate to have a relationship with music throughout your life,” he says.