Sarah Chang Thread

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Sarah Chang Thread

Post by pianoman »

Sarah Chang gives an interview before performing and judging a competition for the first time in Michigan. Some interesting comments about music competitions and the life of a professional musician:

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Violinist Sarah Chang will perform Dvorak with KSO, work with Stulberg competition during Kalamazoo visit
By Linda S. Mah |
on May 13, 2015 at 6:10 AM, updated May 13, 2015 at 4:35 PM

KALAMAZOO, MI — World famous violinist Sarah Chang will experience a couple of firsts when she comes to Kalamazoo this weekend.

She will be attending her first musical competition and that competition — the Stulberg International String Competition — will be her first time judging a competition.

Before she gets to her judging duties, Chang will perform with the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra at 8 p.m. Friday at Chenery Auditorium. Chang will perform Dvorak's Violin Concerto in A minor on a program that also includes Elgar's Froissart Overture and Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 in C minor.

"The Dvorak is a beautiful piece and it's not done that often," Chang said from Philadelphia, where she was finally home for a few days — the first time in three months. "When people think of Dvorak th think of the New World Symphony or the Cello Concerto. I love this piece and recorded it several years ago.

"It's incredibly beautiful and challenging. He really threw in the kitchen sink into this piece there are double stops and triple stops and quadruple stops. Then he balances it out with these gorgeous, lyrical folk melodies. I'm happy to be coming to Kalamazoo for the first time, and especially to be bringing this piece."

Chang built an international competition with not one competition on her resume. That happens when the world labels you a child prodigy. Chang was a prodigy.

She auditioned for — and was accepted — to Juilliard when she was 5. She debuted with the New York Philharmonic and the Philadelphia Orchestra at age 9. From there it was a whirlwind of recording contracts and performance dates with the top orchestras and conductors in the world.

Now 34, Chang maintains a busy touring schedule. This season, she'll perform with BBC Scottish Symphony and in the Far East, Guangzhou Symphony, Shangahi Symphony and Taiwan Symphony. Highlights in the United States include appearances with the Cincinnati Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, New Jersey Symphony, Ravinia Festival and Aspen Music Festival.

"I understand the importance of what they can do for young artists," she said. "The prep is very good. Being given that opportunity to perform and be on stage with a live audience, I think that's fantastic.

"But the whole idea of judging is difficult. Music is so interpretive. It's not a tennis game. I think that is where my reticence comes from when it comes to competition. But you look at some of the biggest artists and many of them did come through the competition circuit."

Not having actually competed, Chang hesitated to offer advice to the dozen young performers competing at the Stulberg at Western Michigan University's Dalton Center Recital Hall on Saturday. But she did say she noticed one quality about her friends who did well in competitions.

"They were all obviously solid players and incredibly musical," she said. "But more than that, they had nerves of steel. Literally, they could be playing and a car alarm could go off and it wouldn't bother them. They would be unflappable. Those sorts of nerves are essential for any performer."

Chang said she was lucky to earn her nerves in a very different fashion. As a very young performer, she had teachers who taught her to appreciate her audiences — and not to fear them.

"My teacher wisely taught me that the people in the audience bought tickets. They emptied out their calendars to see you," Chang said. "You should be grateful. You shouldn't feel like they're judging you. They're here to be your friend.

"That's in my DNA now, when I go on stage and perform. It helped mold the whole performance experience for me."

While in Kalamazoo, Chang also will offer a master class for a select group of performers who audition for the chance to play for her. Chang said she has only recently begun leading master classes.

"I did my first master class when I was 16, because I was asked — and I swore I would stay away from it after that first experience," Chang said. "The students were older than I was. I thought, 'That was so ridiculous.' I felt like I was a student. You can't stick a 16-year-old on satge and have them give a master class."

She told her manager to turn down any request to teach or to lead a master class, she said. She realized she just didn't have the maturity or experience to offer good advice to other musicians. It's only in the last two years or so that she has slowly begun accepting offers to teach.

"Back then I was still very much learning and now I've been on stage exploring and figuring out my own voice. Now, I'm in a very happy, comfortable sort of place. I feel better about being able to share whatever I've learned throughout the years."

Chang said a master class doesn't really provide enough time for a full lesson. So what she hopes to impart on the students is a clear and realistic view of the life they are considering.

Yes, they'll talk about music, but more importantly, they'll talk about whether they're really prepared for the life they say they want.

"There comes a time in every student's life where you sort of have to make a decision if you love music enough," she said. "It's not the performing, it's the lifestyle, the performing, the traveling, the rehearsing. You have to decide if the whole lifestyle is right for you. If it doesn't fit what you want, deciding that soon than later is essential.

"I would really hope to be one of those very encouraging and honest and realistic voices."

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Re: Sarah Chang Thread

Post by pianoman »

Recent article about Chang ahead of a series of concerts in San Francisco. She talks about maturing as a performer, foot massages, and having to miss her high school prom to perform for Queen Elizabeth: ... om-to-grow

In Mid-Career, Sarah Chang Finds Room to Grow
BY LOU FANCHER , February 25, 2016

Look carefully at award-winning violinist Sarah Chang when she makes her first Bay Area appearance since 2013 in a concert with pianist Julio Elizalde in Chamber Music San Francisco’s series of performances March 12-14.

Why? Because her ears have grown, multidimensionally.

“There’s nothing specifically technical about my playing that has changed lately,” says Chang, “but there’s the whole area of my ears opening up. I’m now looking at a score and looking beyond the violin line to see how a composer phrased his question. To think of a piece in its entirety is something I never looked at when I was younger.”

Chang’s “rocket ride” onto the world stage as a soloist is well known: Child prodigy picks up violin at age 4, debuts with the New York Philharmonic and the Philadelphia Orchestra at age 8, three years later in 1991 the 11-year-old wows Walnut Creek audiences performing with the California Symphony, and continues on a trajectory that includes performing with the world’s finest conductors and symphonies, earning awards and honors that range from Hollywood Bowl's Hall of Fame award to the Avery Fisher Prize, releasing over 20 albums, and more.

It’s a wonder that Chang has not suffered burnout—or maybe it’s not surprising at all. For if there’s a second “change” Chang has undergone—a practice beyond more exquisite, efficient bowing or honed-to-perfection phrasing—it’s learning how to drive herself at variable speeds.

“I started out so early and it was all about playing the big standard violin concertos. Everything was 100-miles an hour from day one,” she says. Lately, she’s embraced nuance. And—back to the subject of ears—Chang says listening to chamber repertoire in a polyphonic way is her current passion. “It’s helped my solo playing. Now, I hear the whole sound, instead of my ear thinking of the violin line in a horizontal way.”

Intentional zigzag or vertical listening does not mean departure from the lessons learned at Juilliard from her most famous teacher, Dorothy Delay, who died in 2002 at age 84. “Everything she said stays with me. She’d take apart an entire piece and work for hours—a whole day—on one page. But when I went on stage, she’d say forget everything and play from the heart.” “You learn to color your performance and shade it in ways that are important for a certain composer. It’s like in your teens, every break-up is a seismic shift. As you get older, it’s a matter of knowing which rep suits you and which pieces are things where you need to check yourself.”

Chang says a person’s temperament essentially remains the same—she has described herself in the past as “turbo charged”—but with maturity, control increases. “You learn to color your performance and shade it in ways that are important for a certain composer. It’s like in your teens, every break-up is a seismic shift. As you get older, it’s a matter of knowing which rep suits you and which pieces are things where you need to check yourself.” Sibelius and Bruch, she says, can be played as if “you wear your heart on your sleeve.” The gorgeous and romantic works of Bach and Beethoven require “controlled drama” and parameters to retain their authenticity.

To discover the secrets that drive a composer’s music, Chang like many of her peers relies on research. Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto No. 1, a piece she says has taught her the most about herself, is rare in that Chang learned the work entirely on her own. She read extensively about the composer’s life under Stalin’s rule, and his subversive actions—hiding the concerto, changing its opus number—to preserve it. “Most of the other rep I learned while I was a kid, through lessons, very routine. This work is imprinted on me. It’s a monster of a piece.” Mastering the work’s “mad, then angry, then raging” early progression that resolves itself in the third movement’s peaceful, spiritual epiphany, Chang says, “You live a lifetime when you play this work.”

The March concerts in San Francisco, Walnut Creek, and Palo Alto include Bartok’s Romanian Dances, Brahms’ Sonata No. 3 in D Minor, Franck’s Violin Sonata, and Ravel’s Tzigane. Chang says Franck’s sonata is “glorious;” the Brahms, an ongoing inquiry that leaves her with a feeling of awe; and the Ravel, “just fun, a show-stopping piece.”

The Bartok was not in her repertoire and demonstrates the way in which collaboration keeps a solo artist fresh, flexible, constantly learning. “That was all him,” Chang says about Elizalde’s equal role in their partnership. “He’s not just accompanying me: he’s my pianistic partner. He challenged me to make (the Bartok) our opening.”

Chang is well-conditioned for performing the usual, 35-minute concertos with orchestras across the world. This program, two hours of large, dramatic pieces played at top volume, demands stamina. “I remember the first time we did this program. We said, why did we do this? We should take one piece off,” she recalls.

Mindful of her body’s need to recover, after-show massages are aimed not only at her arms and shoulders, but at her feet. “People never think of a violinist’s feet, but standing in high heels for a two-hour sound check and a two-hour show…that friggin’ hurts,” she says.

Although there are sacrifices she’s made as a solo artist, there are no regrets, even about missing her high school prom. “It was a sore point at the time. I had to go play for Queen Elizabeth and at that age, I thought prom was more important. When you look back on it later, it isn’t that big a deal.”

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