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?
Beethoven. I remember falling into a black hole with his Third Piano Concerto, particularly the second movement. And Leon Fleisher. I wouldn’t be a pianist today if we hadn’t crossed paths. I met him when I was a young teenager and my life was changed forever in the way I perceive and experience the world. The way the heart beats for the soul is how I feel music is for the universe.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
Carving out a career path uniquely aligns with who I am and what my values are. I don’t believe in competitions for artists; however I do believe they can offer meaningful learning opportunities for students. Fundamentally, I believe in infinite possibilities. This has been the greatest challenge and core of my life’s work, the idea that the distance between two notes has endless options, forming varied moods and experiences. Why subscribe to professional, artistic constructs that limit us? There’s no reason to compare, in lieu I prefer to channel my energy in cultivating authenticity, originality, growth, joy, abundance and community. Much of this has been allowing myself to become free from the conditioning of the masses, trusting myself in what truly resonates with me. And being able to generate and sustain work that magnifies, harmonizes my vision.
Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?
Performances – Brahms’ First Piano Concerto with Leon Fleisher directing the National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra on his 85th birthday world tour; Grieg’s Piano Concerto with the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra; Schumann’s Piano Concerto with Eliahu Inbal and the Taipei Symphony Orchestra; and a Royal Celebration Concert with the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra honouring His Majesty, King Bhumibol’s 86th Birthday. I experienced the “beyond” through these earthly events.
Recordings – my first solo album of Schubert and Schumann Sonatas. I feel this really captured my “soul” at that time of life. And my Mozart and Mendelssohn Concerti album with Camerata RCO – Musicians of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra captured my “spirit.”
Which particular works/composers do you think you perform best?
My interests have transitioned from virtuosic, romantic works in my younger years to now classical repertoire – especially Mozart – and the romantic. I’m drawn to sounds and lyricism. There’s something intrinsically fascinating with how sounds communicate so simply yet profoundly. From a baby’s cry to Debussy’s La Mer, sound is a space of the magic, the mystery.
I’m also fascinated by structures and patterns. I find myself blossoming when there is a combination of the abstract and the tangible, anything that stimulates my mind and heart in harmony with one another.
What do you do off stage that provides inspiration on stage?
I thrive on a rich, nourishing life and when I’m feeling my best emotionally, physically and mentally, music flows through me naturally. I just need to be “present” in the moment. I also need a lot of time to be alone, to reflect, to process – silence is essential for my creativity. Silence is where music comes from.
I have a lot of interests that feed into the richness of my life. I love the feeling of expansion. I’ve always pondered on the possibilities between the music I’m playing and the garments I’m wearing – forming harmonies between sound and visual communication. During the pandemic I have really explored this through developing my own couture dress designs for specific works. My first design was for Schumann’s piano concerto.
Another pursuit offstage has been working with my father, who is a surgeon, in humanitarian projects combining the healing power of music and medicine across the world. A few years ago we travelled to India where I collaborated with the Mehli Mehta Music Foundation to work with the local young artists in masterclasses and raised money in a charity recital benefiting the surgical camp my father was leading. He and his team of international surgeons performed 42 surgeries in 3 days helping the underprivileged and children. They have since performed more than 100 charity surgeries in India for those in need. It is truly so rewarding. Essentially, all life experiences culminate into artistry.
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
I follow my inner calling and intrigue, and form an artistic perspective (what am I going for? What do I wish to convey? And why?) in consideration of what I’ve been asked to perform.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
Every concert is memorable. Most recently, my concerts with musicians of the Danish National Symphony Orchestra have been a most memorable highlight of my life. Coming out of two plus years of delay due to the pandemic, the musical and personal gratification for me is above cloud nine.
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
Freedom. The freedom to express, to choose, ultimately, to create without limit.
What advice would you give to young/aspiring musicians?
Find yourself, attune to your inner voice, get out of your comfort zone, fearlessly express yourself, most importantly, love, enjoy life and enrich those around you.
What do you feel needs to be done to grow classical music’s audiences?
Reimagine how classical music can be experienced. How can this art form serve our communities, becoming more integrated than ever – breaking boundaries and forging new concepts? And on a practical standpoint, I think musicians now more than ever need to be educated with an understanding in financial operations, business skills and to be equipped with an entrepreneurial outlook.
What’s the one thing in the music industry we’re not talking about which you think we should be?
A holistic approach to creating life and success as artists. A large part of my growth has been appreciating and learning to give life to an art form which is deeply rooted in traditions. From a young age, we had been told to obey, respect, look up to idealizations and follow this tradition. The list of “shoulds” is endless. I believe the greatest gift anyone has is the essence within all of us. And I believe that is the work we have in our lifetime – to realize our essence to its full potential and serve our communities, our planet Earth. Moreover, it is nearly impossible to sustain a life long’s work as artists if we are not whole, happy humans. We are all in an evolution, to honour, respect individuality and our distinctive blueprint is necessary for this process to unfold. And we especially need to provide this sense of warmth and safety to young people, encouraging and celebrating our true selves like stars casting light to one another in the galaxy. We all shine brighter together.
What’s next? Where would you like to be in 10 years?
Artistically speaking: Concerts. Cadenzas. Designing. Flourishing in all those areas and I’d love to have a festival/series as an artistic home/host to my creative vision.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
A balance of professional achievements, artistic breakthroughs and, very importantly, personal fulfillment.
What is your most treasured possession?
What is your present state of mind?
Lauded as “a thoughtful, lyrical and accomplished artist” (The New York Times), the Taiwanese-American pianist Weiyin Chen stands out for her dazzling technique, above all for the sheer musicality and maturity of her playing. Her gift for getting to the musical “heart” of the scores she plays has drawn the attention and praise of such master musicians as the renowned conductor-pianist Leon Fleisher and pianists Richard Goode and Claude Frank, all of whom she studied with extensively, among a legion of other eminent figures. Ms. Chen is a “thinking pianist” who has a rare ability to look beyond the notes on the page to divine a score’s musical essence.
Photo credit: Lisa-Marie Mazzucco