Title - 'The Golden Age'
Artist - Ray Chen
For those not in the classical know, yes, Ray Chen is a Taiwanese-Australian violinist. Indeed, he was the first prize winner in the 2008 International Yehudi Menuhin Violin Competition and the 2009 Queen Elisabeth Music Competition and now records on the Sony Masterworks label.
Born in Taipei, Taiwan, Chen began learning violin at the age of four. Within five years he completed all 10 levels of the Suzuki Music Education (Suzuki method) in Brisbane, Australia. Chen was invited to play solo with the Queensland Philharmonic Orchestra at the age of eight. He was also invited to perform at the opening celebration concert of the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan.
In the summers of 2006 and 2007, Chen attended the Encore School for Strings, studying under David Cerone at the Cleveland Institute of Music. In 2008 he attended the Aspen Music Festival on a full tuition fellowship, studying with Cho-Liang Lin (Juilliard School) and Paul Kantor (Cleveland Institute of Music).
In April 2008 Chen won the senior division first prize of the Yehudi Menuhin International Competition for Young Violinists in Cardiff, Wales. In 2004 he had won jointly the third prize of the junior division in that competition.
Chen then came to the attention of Maxim Vengerov, who served on the competition jury, and was engaged for performances including debuts with the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra in St. Petersburg and at the International Rostropovich Festival with the Azerbaijan State Symphony Orchestra in Baku, under the baton of Vengerov.
Chen was signed by Sony Classical in 2010 and then for Decca Classics in 2017. He has recorded the César Franck Violin Sonata, the violin concertos of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Felix Mendelssohn, and more.
Chen won the Newcomer Award in the 2011 Echo Klassik Awards. He was invited to perform at the annual Nobel Prize Concert in 2012, playing Max Bruch's Violin Concerto in G minor with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra.
In April 2016, he was the youngest juror ever of the Yehudi Menuhin International Competition for Young Violinists in London, with Pamela Frank, Joji Hattori, Martin Engstroem, Ning Feng, Julia Fischer, Dong-Suk Kang, Tasmin Little and Jeremy Menuhin.
And so, as you can tell, one of today’s most charismatic young, and highly admired violinists, on June 8th, 2018, Ray Chen released his eagerly-awaited new album, The Golden Age via Decca Classics.
1. KONCZ / SATIE "A New Satiesfaction (featuring Gymnopédie No.1)" [4:33]
2. KREISLER "Syncopation" [2:04]
3. PONCE "Estrellita arr. Heifetz" [3:37]
4-6. BRUCH "Violin Concerto No.1" [25:40]
7. DEBUSSY "Clair de lune arr. Koncz" [4:39]
8. KREISLER "Schön Rosmarin" [2:17]
9. GERSHWIN "Summertime arr. Heifetz" [1:57]
10. SCOTT "Lotus Land arr. Kreisler [5:11]
11. TRADITIONAL "Waltzing Matilda arr. Koncz [3:16]
A simply stunning, truly delightful set of 11 classical works are proudly (and rightly so) brought forth here in this wickedly infectious collection of chamber and orchestral works.
Chen's first from Decca Classics since signing to the label last year, The Golden Age comprises virtuoso works from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Amongst the stunning set is Bruch’s "Violin Concerto No.1" with the London Philharmonic Orchestra which, for me, at the very least, is one of the many stand out highlights here.
Also embedded throughout are solo and chamber pieces, many of them written or arranged by Kreisler and Heifetz. Indeed, all chamber pieces feature Chen’s chamber music collective, Made In Berlin, an ensemble made up exclusively of members of the Berlin Philharmonic.
Another stand out composition is the album opener, a piece for string quartet entitled, “A New Satiesfaction (featuring Gymnopédie No.1)” it is by Erik Satie with Erik Koncz (as I'm sure you all already know). With a polite, yet stated nod to Rossini’s “William Tell Overture,” it is performed superbly by Chen and his aforementioned Made in Berlin quartet; with the arrangement of “A New Satiesfaction” done by the group’s cellist, Stephan Koncz.
The album also features compositions and arrangements by such legendary violinists as Fritz Kreisler and Jascha Heifetz, which Chen performs with pianist Julien Quentin. Among them are Kreisler’s “Syncopation and Schön Rosmarin” and Cyril Scott’s “Lotus Land”, plus Heifetz’s transcriptions of “Estrellita” by Manuel Ponce and George Gershwin’s “Summertime”.