Violin virtuoso loves performing on the stage

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Violin virtuoso loves performing on the stage

U.S.-born Sarah Chang, a violin prodigy who started playing at the age of 4 and debuted with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra at 9-years old, will visit Seoul this month to perform with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Kurt Masur. The JoongAng Daily interviewed Ms. Chang, 24, in New York by phone on Tuesday. The Seoul concert series runs from Oct. 18 to 20.

Q.You’ve traveled to a lot of nations for your performances. Do you think there are borders in music?
A.I play mostly European music, but I don’t think I play differently for different audiences. I play the music in my own personal style. You’re playing the interpretation you feel.
That’s why I like Russian repertoires, especially Shostakovich’s. His music is very dramatic, emotional, deep, powerful and exciting. I think that suits my personality. If you listen to his entire piece, you go through every single sense you can experience: sadness, frustration, beautiful melodies, unbelievably exciting and incredible watercolors.

It seems that you’ve been playing pieces by Shostakovich often this year, and will play one again in Korea. Do you have a special reason for that?
I only learned his violin concerto last year. I did it all by myself. With Tchaikovsky or Brahms, I learned them from my teacher [Dorothy Delay] when I was at the Julliard School. But as she passed away three years ago, I truly had to learn this on my own. I read nearly every book about his music and listened to old recordings. It is the first music I have learned on my own. Also, next year is the 100th anniversary of Shostakovich’s birth.

How did you interpret Shostakovich’s music?
Shostakovich was a brilliant man. But under the Stalin regime, every single piece of music he composed had to be approved and he was threatened or could have even been killed if the regime didn’t like it. He must have had to be afraid, and very careful. In his music, so much frustration and anger is felt. Understanding such circumstances helps me understand his music. When I interpret other romantic music, I put myself into the composers’ shoes. But it’s almost impossible to put myself into Shostakovich’s, because I’ve never been in such a situation. I was always encouraged and supported. I have been taught to express myself freely, be very open.

You’ve now played the violin for about 20 years. Have you thought of early retirement?
No. I love being on the stage. There’s nothing like performing on stage. The excitement thrills me. The good thing about being a musician is that you can play as long as you want. I’d love to play until I’m in my 60s or 70s, if I can, not at this pace though. Currently, every fourth day, I’m in a new city. I was in Berlin last month, now I’m in New York, will fly to Beijing and Korea, and come back to the States.

You’re a musical superstar. Who do you hang out with?
I have two very different groups to hang out: Musicians and non-musicians. Musician friends can understand me very well, while friends not in the business help me get away from music for a while.
I love shopping, mostly for dresses and shoes. For shoes, I like Prada and Manolo Blahnik. Manolo Blahnik shoe heels are a bit high so they’re not for playing on the stage but they’re good for wearing to parties.

You’re already considered something of a maestro. What’s your ambition?
So much more. Besides performing and recording, there are so many pieces to learn and there are so many composers I want to play with.

by Park Sung-ha

The orchestral performance will be held in the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts on Oct. 18 and Oct. 20 at 7:30 p.m., and on Oct. 19 at 7:30 p.m. at Seongnam Arts Center. The program includes Beethoven’s Prometheus Overture, Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto No.1 and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No.4. Ticket costs vary from 50,000 won ($50) to 200,000 won. For more information, call (02) 751-9607~9610.
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