Ray Chen, Ion Marin, 6.30 pm
Ray Chen is the quintessential young artist of the 21st century. Through his extensive activities on social media he is in regular contact with millions of listeners and classical music lovers from all corners of the globe who admire his brilliant performances, watch his master classes and enjoy his witty sketches and instructive videos. The Sydney Morning Herald summed him up perfectly: “Ray Chen is a paradox: the epitome of cool, yet a man with a zany, anarchic and public sense of humour, combined in a world-class violin virtuoso with a technique of fire and ice.” Thanks to these endeavours the Taiwanese-born 31-year-old is one of the few figures on the classical music scene who could be described as an international celebrity.
In 2017 he was included in the Asian edition of Forbes magazine as one of the elite “30 Under 30” in the Entertainment & Sports category, he appeared in the TV comedy-drama Mozart in the Jungle, he has been working with the Giorgio Armani fashion house for a number of years, and he was profiled in the Italian edition of Vogue. He has performed at highly prestigious events with huge media coverage such as the celebrations for Bastille Day, when he played to a crowd of 800,000 in 2015, the gala concert organised for the Nobel Prize award ceremony (2012) and the famous BBC Proms music festival.
A graduate of the Curtis Institute and winner of one of the most challenging competitions in existence, the Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels (2009), Chen regularly sells out concert halls all over the world and captivates his audiences not only with his remarkable charisma but chiefly through his superb, distinctive performances on the 1715 “Joachim” Stradivarius which once belonged to the celebrated Hungarian violinist Joseph Joachim. One of the most important violinists of the 19th century, Joachim inspired a whole series of composers, including Johannes Brahms, who wrote his Violin Concerto in D major Op. 77 for him.
Ray Chen will perform for the Prague Spring public in the famous Spanish Symphony by French composer Édouard Lalo, written for the violinist Pablo Sarasate, who premiered the work in Paris in February 1875. The five-movement opus, one of the most extensive and most difficult compositions in the violin repertoire, is inspired by Sarasate’s native Spain, its lovely melodies and elemental rhythms, which provided a novel and exotic experience for the audiences of the day, undoubtedly one of the reasons why the piece became such a phenomenon shortly after its premiere.
Chen will be accompanied by the Prague Symphony Orchestra under Ion Marin, one of the few contemporary conductors who have succeeded in reaching the absolute pinnacle both in the realm of opera and symphonic music. A familiar sight at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, Italy’s La Scala and the Bavarian State Opera, he also appears regularly with leading orchestras in Europe, such as the Berlin Philharmonic, St Petersburg Philharmonic, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, London Symphony Orchestra and the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia. At the start of the 2014/2015 season he was appointed Principal Guest Conductor of the Hamburg Symphony, orchestra-in-residence at the iconic Elbphilharmonie.
Marin has worked with a series of big names on the concert platform, among them Maxim Vengerov, Gidon Kremer, Hélène Grimaud and Martha Argerich, with whom he performed Maurice Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G major at the Berlin Philharmonie in 2007. The Berliner Morgenpost wrote at the time: “No-one could have missed it. In her interpretation the work acquired the form of a musical monument of intimate character: simply unforgettable. Ion Marin stood by her side on the Berlin Philharmonic podium, conveying a sense of conviction and understanding.”
Ion Marin’s recording catalogue includes more than forty titles for which he received the Diapason d’Or, Germany’s Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik and three Grammy nominations. He won the prestigious Echo Klassik Award in 2012. That same year he established Cantus Mundi in his native Romania, a project focusing on the musical education and integration of socially disadvantaged and disabled children.
Marin’s country of birth is also reflected in the concert programme, which opens with George Enescu’s Romanian Rhapsody No. 1, the piece Marin presented in Prague to great acclaim back in 2010, when he performed it with the Czech Philharmonic. This work, full of dance stylisations and folkloric melodies, is one of Enescu’s most popular compositions, which could also be said of another piece on the programme, Stravinsky’s The Firebird. The ballet inspired by the Russian fairy tale about the Firebird and the evil Koshchei is a wonderful example of the composer’s admiration for the music of Rimsky-Korsakov and his interest in the varied colours of French Impressionism.
There’s yet another dimension to the evening’s programme, as Ion Marin tells us. “The programme has its inspiration in one of the important characteristics of Czech musical heritage, namely the transfiguration of folkloric sources,” he states. “From Lalo’s wealth of themes that later inspired Tchaikovsky to write his violin concerto, to Enescu’s innovative blending of urban folklore in a symphonic masterpiece, popular melodies enter the concert hall in all their beauty. Stravinsky’s Firebird in the original version explores in an audacious way the harmonic and rhythmic vibrancy of Russian folklore, opening the gates to modernity,” he explains. “As usual, the choice of programme combines musical research with the emotional richness that the artists wish to share with the public. Together with Ray Chen, we look forward to this musical voyage,” Marin concludes.