Laure Chan, violinist

Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music and who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

Before I was born, my mother would listen to classical music, including Mozart operas and the Tchaikovsky violin concerto whilst she was pregnant with me. I do believe this may have had a role in my musical influences. When I was 4, she enrolled me in a music programme called “First Strings Experience” at the Royal Academy of Music, where I began my formal musical education and by 5 I started on the violin. In 2004, aged 9, I attended a violin and piano recital performed by Maxim Vengerov and Ian Brown at the Barbican Centre and I believe this was the night I decided to become a professional musician. I was absolutely inspired and elated by what I was hearing and witnessing; the audience’s reactions and standing ovations gave me so much joy. Vengerov continued to be a huge influence in my musical development and I would later have lessons and masterclasses with him in Switzerland and London.

These days, I find myself becoming more inspired by composers as an aspiring composer myself. Film composers such as John Williams, Tan Dun and John Corigliano are huge inspirations to me as well as female composers and performers who embrace their cultural roots including Chen Yi and Indian Classical violinist Kala Ramnath.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

I think my current biggest challenge is finding a balance in juggling between freelance gigs for multiple organisations and my own passion projects such as recording my independent albums and writing original music.

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

I am most fulfilled when performing concertos with an orchestra or performing original music as I feel freer in expressing my musical voice.

In 2021, I released my debut album “Tribute to Bach”. It was an independent release and I co-produced it with Yiannis Christofides from Mtec Academy. The making of the album meant I had to juggle multiple jobs at once which was a great learning curve and gave me the confidence to take control of my own musical direction. The album represented many things I am interested in as an artist: performing, arranging and composing and displayed both staple works of the repertoire by one of my favourite composers, J.S Bach as well as a fresh take on attempting to make contemporary classical music relatable and approachable.

Which particular works/composers do you think you perform best?

I feel I have an affinity with the Chaconne of J.S. Bach in particular.

I first encountered the piece when I was around 9 years old when watching a documentary on the Holocaust and my musical hero Maxim Vengerov was performing the work in memorial of those who suffered. I was so moved by the music that I insisted on learning the piece with my teacher at the time! I learnt the notes at that precocious age, but it wasn’t until around 10 years later that I felt ready to start to perform the work in public. It’s the kind of masterpiece for which one must experience the ups and downs of life in order to convey the message through the music. Soon after relearning the work, I went through one of the most challenging moments in my life experiencing a performance-related injury and this piece was pretty much the only work I felt comfortable performing during that time; it really pulled me out of that difficult time. It was also the first work I independently released on recording.

What do you do off stage that provides inspiration on stage?

Simply being open to new experiences in life all feeds into my music! I am a free spirit at heart, both in the way I conduct my life and in how I wish to express myself in my music.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

I often go with my gut feeling of what I fancy learning or performing, and usually programme a combination of pieces that I have played several times in public before with fresh works to keep the fingers and mind ticking!

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

I have been lucky to play in several wonderful concert halls, so it is hard to pick a favourite venue! There is a certain church near my home where I have performed and recorded over the years and feel a special connection to – St. James’s Church in Sussex Gardens, close to London’s Hyde Park.

Some dream halls of mine to perform in someday are London’s Wigmore Hall, New York’s Carnegie Hall and Tokyo’s Suntory Hall.

What do you feel needs to be done to grow classical music’s audiences?

Abandoning pretention surrounding the art form for one! Music, whether classical or any other genre, should be for everybody. Normalising music education in schools, performing outside of the concert hall and making it more accessible to people throughout the world, especially children as they pave the way for the new generations.

Artistically, I believe in finding creative ways through the realm of composition in order to bring a fresh perspective on contemporary classical music. When I write music, I am often coming from a performer’s perspective, observing what is well received by an audience. I combine my Western classical roots with my cultural heritage and am also inspired by a variety of different musical genres and traditions.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

It is hard to pick just one! I think in recent times, the thrill I get from performing my original music onstage is hard to beat!

Performing my piece ¡Brava! with the ambassadors of the Benedetti Foundation  (a musical charity founded by violinist Nicola Benedetti and Laura Gardiner) for hundreds of kids and their parents and involving them in the tango-inspired rhythm and getting them to click along was a very heartwarming experience.

Performing at the Classic FM Live concert at Royal Albert Hall with the Chineke! Orchestra was an unforgettable experience. The sound of canons and confetti falling from the ceiling during our performance of Tchaikovsky’s overture was such a surprise and thrill and the audience were electrifying!

Concerto concerts with my friend and conductor Daniel Hogan are always a special experience – we have been collaborating together for almost 10 years with various orchestras he has founded! He is one of the most genuine and passionate musicians I have ever met and we mutually respect each other. We often talk about future collaborations and intend to record an album together in the near future.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

Expressing my most authentic, honest voice through music to my audience. If the public can relate to the message I wish to express through music, that is my ultimate goal.

What advice would you give to young/aspiring musicians?

If you love music, you must be patient and persist at it. Setbacks can be turned into motivational steps forward, and there will be many of those ahead, so keep going!

Do not let anyone have the power to define who you are or who you aspire to be.

What’s the one thing in the music industry we’re not talking about which you think we should be?

Normalising independent artists in classical music. Somehow it seems to be considered a “lesser” achievement to act as your own label, manager etc and yet in other genres of music, it is far more widespread – why is that?

Surely being able to take charge over your artistic voice and vision is something to be celebrated? I think there should be more encouragement given to those who show more initiative in paving their own way.

What’s next? Where would you like to be in 10 years?

I would like to strike up an ideal balance between my performing life, composing and eventually having a family of my own.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

First of all, I don’t believe in the word “perfect” so this is rather an ideal than a goal I wish to attain. My idea of happiness is balance. Besides my artistic goals, I hope to find a sense of peace in my personal life that complements the lifestyle I lead as a travelling musician. To be understood and feel seen is beautiful and healing. If one day I could meet a partner who I can build a family with whilst staying true to my artistic, free-natured spirit, then I would consider myself infinitely lucky!

What is your most treasured possession?

My violin! Also my cat, but she’d like to think she owns me rather than the other way around! 😉

What is your present state of mind?

Everything in life happens for a reason and works out just as it is meant to. We can only control how we conduct our lives, whatever happens externally from us is beyond our control. Mental and physical health is priority and maintaining boundaries is an important way to preserve that.

Laure Chan performs with pianist Siqian Li at Lancaster Music Festival (14 & 15 October) and at St James’s Sussex Gardens on 20 October in a programme combining music from their classical backgrounds, a shared passion for film music, and Chinese folk traditions from their roots. The programme features iconic music from Grammy award-winning film composers Tan Dun and John Corigliano. Details here

British Franco-Chinese violinist Laure Chan has been described as “a mesmerizing stage presence with the rare ability to draw the attention of the audience into her performance” (Isabelle van Keulen) and “an instinctive musician with a feeling for what is right” (Maxim Vengerov).

She has performed in festivals throughout Europe, Asia and the Americas and has been invited as a recitalist and concerto soloist in prominent venues including London’s Cadogan Hall, Paris Opéra Bastille, Wiener Saal and Florence Opera House. As a soloist, Laure has appeared with orchestras and ensembles including the London Concertante, Kew Sinfonia, Sinfonia Perdita, Orchestra Poliziana di Montepulciano, Camerata Orphica Festival Orchestra, Guildford Symphony Orchestra, Imperial Sinfonietta, RCM Baroque Orchestra, Watford Youth Sinfonia, Richmond Orchestra and Royal Academy Symphony Orchestra amongst others.

Read more