Musica Viva’s final Adelaide concert for the year was heralded by reports that the performers had already wowed the rest of Australia. Whispers of anticipation around the Adelaide Town Hall kept expectations afloat that Musica Viva had saved the best ‘til last.
Chen. Ray Chen.
Presenting like the lead in a movie, the Armani clad, uber-cool-yet-incredibly-warm violin virtuoso with handsome pianist Timothy Young presented a program of pure delight; their partnership revealing extraordinary talent, collaboration, dynamism and charm.
A self-professed foodie, Chen opened with a “green leafy salad” entre of Mozart’s Violin Sonata no 22 in A major, K305, revealing a mastery of phrasing in the first movement, and sweet intensity amidst playful conversations with Young in the second.
The piece later described as the “meat course”, Sergei Prokofiev’s Violin Sonata no 2 in D major, op 94, was served rare, or perhaps I should say, an interpretation like that is rarely served. The first movement was so utterly exquisite as to be almost unbearable; each repetition of the theme and variation impossibly more intense than the last. Later, as carousels of fury gave way to delicate and extreme beauty, Chen revealed a maturity and passion well in excess of his 25 years; his performance unforgettable.
As nice as it had been to get to know Young through the first half, Chen’s post-interval solo of J.S Bach’s Partita no 3 in E major, BWV1006 gave our ears more space to hear the timbre of Chen’s 1715 ‘Joachim’ Stradivarius and the subtleties he so vividly elicited amidst the dances. This parfait course was incomprehensively light, refreshing and moreish.
The next was not a wafer thin dessert course, but a city-sized ice-cream of a course. Glimpses of Chen’s off-stage social media humour were to be seen amongst the Danzas españolas (Habañera – Spanish Dance no 2, and Playera – Spanish Dance no 5), and Zigeunerweisen, op 20 of Pablo de Sarasate. One could be forgiven for thinking that whilst off-stage recalling Young, Chen attached a dozen extra fingers for the pieces. Technical prowess was on show here as Chen matched attitude with purposeful runs and made long pauses feel like a wistful hot afternoon in Seville.
With more Sarasate for encore (Introduction et tarantelle), Chen prompted the audience to “get ready”. He wasn’t kidding. Right in the middle of the piece, his bow died. He and Young exchanged surprised looks. Turning to us he instructed, “Hold that thought”, and ran off stage. Returning moments later with a new bow, they simply picked up where they left off. Later revealing the wedge that holds the hair had popped out and that it had never happened to him before, he went on to proclaim this a “once in a lifetime experience”.
It was not difficult to imagine (with his humorous social media antics) that this was a stunt. If it was, he was too late – the concert had already been a once in a lifetime experience.
Guiding us back down to earth gently following the Spanish intensity, Chen closed with John Williams’ Theme from Schindler’s List. Post concert, the duo (yes, dynamic) warmly greeted a gaggle of star-struck fans, shaking hands, signing CD’s, having photos taken and generally taking Musica Viva’s slogan, Music to Inspire, to entirely new levels.
Ray Chen is not simply a guy who looks good with a coconut (read our interview with the man himself). If Chen continues both his performance trajectory and charm-offensive strategies to bring classical music to younger audiences, hold on to your bow wedges; the forecast is for intense global warming, clearing to an easy good humour, with a high chance of brilliance.
Only two concerts on this national tour remain, neither in South Australia:
- Melbourne – Saturday, 22 November 2014
- Brisbane – Sunday, 23 November 2014
This concert was recorded for broadcast on 5MBS FM
Reviewed by Emily Morris
Venue: Adelaide Town Hall
Season: 20 November 2014 only
Duration: 2 hours
The Feast Festival runs from 15 – 30 November 2014.
- Ray Chen’s website
- Feast Festival
- Musica Viva
- Ray Chen YouTube channel
- Ray Chen on Facebook
- Ray Chen on Soundcloud