Pianist Chen Jie to perform “Cycle”
Updated: Sep 10, 2019
By Jennifer Aline Graham
Chinese pianist, Chen Jie, is an artist who truly believes in the “limitless possibilities” of her music as she prepares for her upcoming performance at The Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College.
Piano chose me, not I chose the piano
“I often felt piano chose me, not I chose the piano. At that young age, it was all a force of nature,” states Chen about her early passion for the art. Chen was only three and a half years old when she began learning piano and later studied in the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. Her talent and dedication led to her acceptance at The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, at the young age of thirteen, where she studied before moving on to receive her Master’s Degree at New York City’s Mannes School of Music.
Her early start with the instrument was not forced upon her, but was something she was instantly drawn to as a child. “It’s the one, single instrument that has the biggest range of sounds and color, and can imitate so many different instruments,” Chen explains in regards to her immediate connection with the piano. This early connection not only helped pave the way to her attendance at prestigious music schools, but also led to her debut performance with the Philadelphia Orchestra with maestro Wolfgang Sawallisch at only 16-years-old.
“Collaborating with the world’s top rated musicians has set my standard of excellence very high,” Chen says about her experience with world renown artists, orchestras and maestros. Chen expresses how “enlightening” it has been collaborating with composer/conductor Tan Dun in that he “really opened her eyes to new sounds and possibilities” through his immense creativity and talent. She has had the great honor of collaborating with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra with Neemi Jarvi, Minnesota Orchestra with Osmo Vanska, Israel Philharmonic, Vienna Chamber Orchestra and the Sinfonia Varsovia of Poland and Hong Kong Philharmonic. Some of the leading music halls Chen has performed in include the Kennedy Centre, Lincoln Center, Louvre Museum and Carnegie Hall.
Top 10 Pianist in China
On top of her already impressive list of musical achievements, at the age of 26 Chen founded the Music Department at the University of Shanghai Science and Technology where she is currently the Director. She has also received numerous honors and awards, some of Chen’s impressive honors include the “Top 30 under 30” (in the classic music genre) awarded by the KDFC Radio Los Angeles, “Ambassador for Arts and Education” awarded by the Shanghai International Arts Festival as well as two prestigious honors given to her by the Shanghai Government: “Top 10 Pianist in China” and “Culture Leader”. Chen’s second album, “The Yellow River/Butterfly Lovers” under NAXO’s Marco Polo, received an award for the Best Album of the Year through the Asian Hi-Fi Society.
“I think balancing a ‘normal life’ when you are a concert musician can be quite tough,” says Chen of her growing success – her many achievements occurring before the age of 32. Though Chen has challenged herself over and over again with time-consuming, meticulous projects, she has managed to unveil thought-provoking performances that prove her perseverance has paid off fully.
Chen has shown great talent in blending both music from the Western culture with traditional Chinese music in many of her performances. Being she splits time living in both Shanghai and New York City, Chen has grown fascinated with combining both cultures into her pieces – sculpting her music into relatable, intriguing art for the audience to absorb. “Chinese Piano Favourites”, Chen’s debut album, focused primarily on Chinese traditional music and was released under the NAXO’s Marco Polo label. She continues to thrive through her traditional pieces, but truly enjoys intertwining the Western culture into her performances to make the experience more personal.
“Cycle” to reflect life’s fragile movement
Chen’s upcoming performance will be a beautifully prepared sample of how she combines both the Western culture and the traditional Chinese culture in her music. Chen has titled the program, “Cycle”, to reflect life’s fragile movement from youth and adolescence to adulthood and old-age. Each segment of her performance will connect to a part of life’s cycle; the final half of her performance being sweet, traditional pieces expressing memorable emotions connected to nature. Her performance will be a perfectly blended combination of works created by both Chinese composers and Schubert.
“Working with Chinese musicians on transcribing the traditional songs onto the piano has been a great experience,” says Chen. “A big difference between Chinese music and Western music is that a lot of the nuances and tempo changes are not marked out, but only hinted at, so it’s really up to the performer’s personal taste and understanding of the music to interpret a piece.”
“Your only limitation is your imagination,” says Chen of her dedication and drive when it comes to her music. She is the prime example that following your passion, living that passion and learning from it is possible if you have the dedication to keep moving forward. Chen’s upcoming performance will be an experience the audience will grow captivated by and walk away feeling more than rewarded from.