He may only be 24, but Ray Chen has already accomplished more than most people do in a lifetime. Having won numerous awards, one of the highlights of his young career came when he performed as the youngest ever at the Nobel Prize Concert of 2012, backed by Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra. But as more success comes Chen’s way, it just seems to ground him even more.
“I believe that the thing about anything in life; be it classical music, sports, art, or cuisine, is that there’s always a guarantee that you’re only going to get better with age and experience. I’d say that as a violinist, I’m incredibly lucky to have a span of quite a few decades as a golden period (versus sports players who only have one or max two decades on the field before physicality becomes a hinderance) and right now I feel like it’s just the beginning! Plus, music is so transcended from what we experience in life, that the richer the lives we lead, the better the music sounds, so I’m really looking forward to watching how my music grows in the coming years!” he said in an email interview.
Chen’s age also has him acutely tuned into the changing landscape of music, saying “being accessible and having an online presence is incredibly important. For young people who haven’t been to – and are thinking of going to a classical music concert, it allows them to get to know a little bit about the artist and how he/she is like as a person without risking going to the concert hall and spending money on something they may or many not like.” He cites Facebook as his favourite way of interacting with friends, fans and family, explaining “it’s more photo-based so it’s kind of like an online scrapbook that I can share my personal adventures around the world!”
As he arrives at Roy Thomson Hall tomorrow night to play Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E Minor, Chen cites the usual nerves that, no matter how many times he’s performed, haven’t abated. “I think a lot of musicians will agree with me that nerves and the pressures of performing on stage are probably one of the most difficult things to deal with.” But the Mendelssohn concerto seems to hold a special place in his heart, with its simple sections providing more of a challenge to him as he grows older. “Like anything classical – the “easy” parts can actually be at the same time the most difficult ones. It seems that the only downside to getting older and more experienced is that simplicity seems to dance ever further away. I often catch myself thinking up complex ways of phrasing a certain passage before realizing that perhaps the best way was to let it simply play itself.”
You can hear the musician NPR has called “the finest current violinist you don’t yet know” perform with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra on Sept. 28, 2013 and Sept. 29, 2013. Tickets for either performance can be bought on the TSO’s website.