Culture Monster

All the Arts, All the Time

« Previous Post | Culture Monster Home | Next Post »

Influences: Violinist Ray Chen

September 14, 2011 |  6:00 am

Ray Chen
Violinst Ray Chen has been called “a thoughtful player” by Gramophone and the possessor of “a beautiful sound” who “doesn’t get lost in tone for its own sake” by the Washington Post. Chen, who was born in Taiwan and raised in China, released his debut album, "Virtuoso," in January and has won acclaim for both the recording and for his extensive touring. 

Wednesday night Chen will inaugurate the new season at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, performing pieces by Bach, Tartini, Franck and Wieniawski. The 22-year-old violinist, who is also an enthusiast of food, exercise and family, talked to us about his influences.

Yo-Yo Ma: Whenever I think of the guy, he's always smiling and exhibiting an enjoyable presence. A true-to-himself musician, helpful, happy and warm, I'm glad that there are people like him who dispense with the gruff, unapproachable, ivory-tower-like appearance that is so often thought of classical musicians. I'm forever aspiring to be more generous and giving because I love to see the results of my endeavors, especially when it ends with a smile.  

Elvis Presley: The King -- a true performer whose onstage appearance was able to produce screaming fans even before he played or sang a single note. Of course, there have been many performers who have been able to achieve this throughout the ages, but Elvis has a special place in the immortal shelves of the people's memories with his awesome persona and charm.

Shinichi Suzuki: The inventor of the esteemed Suzuki Method, which I studied the first five years of my musical life. Every week involved a private lesson with my teacher, whose family supported the whole musical education of the students. The father taught flute and piano, the mother taught beginner's violin, and the daughter took over when they were more advanced. Every week I looked forward immensely to the group lesson where there would be cookies and cordial, and I would try to perform a new piece in front of my colleagues. To this day I carry the Suzuki philosophy with me in my heart: To create a world of beauty and have greater enjoyment in life through music.

David Oistrakh: My personal favorite violinist. You may ask why I chose him above all the other violinists. Well, it's because one can hear that Oistrakh always put the music before himself yet retained a personal and unique sound. The integrity of his playing is truly inspirational and a reminder that one should not lose sight of the fact that we are merely servants of the music we play.

Johann Sebastian Bach: One of the greatest composers who ever lived. The reason why he has been the most influential composer on my musical development is because of the "Six Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin," which have accompanied me throughout my years, from beginner to professional. There is not a day that goes by when I don't play Bach. These particular pieces require the utmost sincerity and humility, and when done properly are able to transport you to another place where time and reality become less rigid and one gets the feeling of being in the presence of something truly great.  


More Culture Monster Influences

-- Scott Timberg

Ray Chen, Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, 12700 Center Court Drive, Cerritos,, (562) 467-8818.

Photo: Ray Chen. Credit: Uwe Ahrens