International superstar and Brisbane’s very own violin virtuoso, Ray Chen returns for
two epic performances with Queensland Symphony Orchestra in the Concert Hall
Friday 11 and Saturday 12 October 2019
Brisbane-born Ray Chen is a multi-talented performer – he’s written magazine blogs, designed violin cases and is a music consultant with video game company Riot Games, as well as being an internationally acclaimed violinist. Now dividing his time, when not touring, between Philadelphia and Berlin he will return to Brisbane in October for the much-anticipated Ray Chen Returns concerts with Queensland Symphony Orchestra.
“Brisbane is my hometown so it will always feel different performing here. I feel like each time I go back, there is an element of wanting to prove myself. I enjoy sharing the many new things I’ve picked up on my travels and all the sage advice that has been passed down from different maestros. It inspires me and provides growth, so I like to share that growth with my home audience,” he said.
Ray Chen Returns will feature pieces by Bach, Handel and Mendelssohn.
Says Chen, “We are starting the concert with Bach’s Chaconne, which I think is an interesting idea and the last piece is Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto – so it’s kind of a Ray Chen sandwich! The Bach Chaconne is the epitome of solo violin repertoire – it’s actually my favourite piece for violin! I feel there is nothing quite like it in terms of musical depth. I didn’t learn this piece until I was around 20 years old as it’s a very serious piece and I felt I needed to be more mature before I learned it.”
“On the other hand, I learned the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto when I was nine or 10 years old with the Suzuki method. It was such a fresh and exciting thing to learn and I try to maintain that freshness and excitement whenever I play it.”
The charismatic 30-year-old whose social media presence and television appearances (he played himself in the immensely popular TV series, Mozart in the Jungle) have exposed him to millions of fans around the world, many of whom are not traditional classical music fans, still looks after his own social media, although he admits he still struggles a bit with the medium. “You have to use a completely different part of your brain when communicating via social media as opposed to playing music. Being a musician is quite analytical in the way you interpret the music and compositions whereas social media is all about developing relationships.”
“I think it’s really important for artists to manage our own social media as it gives us a direct line to our audience, and it opens us to new fans and vice versa. It makes artists accessible in a way we never were and brings us closer. My career began just as social media was becoming popular, so it’s always been part of my life, a fact I’m quite grateful for. Nowadays if you aren’t on social media then you aren’t relevant – at least to the younger generations. Conductors can get away with not having a social media presence but as a soloist you can’t avoid it.”
Educating the younger generations is also a priority for Chen, and social media provides a way of reaching them. “Music is so important to a child’s education. Even if they don’t become a professional musician, the focus, responsibility and dedication that comes with learning an instrument is an extremely valuable skill. I think social media allows you to tread the line between giving people what they want, and also be entertaining.”
Chen left Brisbane more than a decade ago to study at Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, and whilst he loves the excitement of living and travelling overseas, his heart remains in his home country. “The thing I miss the most about Australia is just being there – it’s a feeling. The ingredients are the people, the atmosphere, somehow the air, even the infrastructure – they all add up to what Australia means to me. When I’m back home, I love going to the beach: Byron Bay, the Gold Coast, Noosa, Fraser Island. I went to Hamilton Island recently which was beyond nice.”
While he has travelled the world there is one particular place he is yet to conquer. “Weirdly I’ve never performed professionally in New Zealand so that is one of the places I’d love to tour. I did, however, participate in a Michael Hill violin competition there once and I got knocked out in the first round! So, I’d like to go back to New Zealand and triumph!”
So, what’s next for Ray Chen?
“The Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra recently ran a wonderful online competition called Play with Ray. We had 830 video entries from non-professional violinists from 70 countries with the youngest entrant aged six and the oldest 76. Three finalists were selected from those entries and they will all fly to Los Angeles to hang out with me before one is chosen to perform with me and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra at the Hollywood Bowl on August in front of 18,000 people. I’d love to be able to bring Play with Ray to Brisbane in the future!”
“I’m also working on a top-secret project with Riot Games, who make League of Legends, which has 100 million players worldwide, and on a new record with DECCA and I have number of concerts coming up in the US, Europe and of course, Australia – so I’ve got a few projects on the go!”
Queensland Symphony Orchestra presents Ray Chen Returns
Conductor: Erin Helyard
Morning Masterworks – Friday 11 October at 11am
Concert Hall, QPAC
Maestro – Saturday 12 October at 7:30pm
Concert Hall, QPAC
J.S. Bach Chaconne in D minor, BWV1004*
J.S. Bach Orchestral Suite No.4 in D minor, BWV1069
Handel Double Orchestral Concerto No.2, HWV333 in F*
Mendelssohn Sinfonia No.10 in B minor
Mendelssohn Concerto in E minor for Violin and Orchestra, Op.64
*Not featured in Morning Masterworks
Revel in music by Bach and Handel, the towering composers of the Baroque Period. About the Chaconne, Brahms said it expressed, ‘a whole world of the deepest thoughts and most powerful feelings.’ Bach’s compelling and energised Suite is majestic. Stately grandeur also informs Handel’s Concerto with its glorious antiphonal effects, the period’s equivalence of stereo. Also savour the refreshing sound world of horns, oboes and bassoon. In Mendelssohn’s Concerto, the violin’s soaring melody, the orchestra’s exquisitely spun accompaniment and the astonishing pyrotechnics required from the soloist is breathtaking. Enjoy more of this composer’s flair for crafting melody and dramatic string tapestries in Sinfonia No.10.