2010 Archives

Violinist thrives on challenges


The following is from the January 10, 2010, edition of The Sarasota (Fla.) Herald-Tribune. Chee-Yun is artist-in-residence and professor of Violin at SMU.


January 11, 2010

By Susan L. Rife

Three "huge works" by Bach, Beethoven and Brahms are on the program for violinist Chee-Yun's Sarasota Concert Association performance Tuesday night at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.

"I know, I'm very ambitious," the performer said cheerfully in a telephone interview a few days before Christmas as she did some last-minute shopping for her family, which lives in New Jersey.

"Why not? Challenge is good and keeps me motivated. Motivation is key. I thrive on stress, I have to admit," she said.

At the top of her challenges list is Bach's Chaconne from Partita for Violin No. 2 in D minor, a notoriously difficult piece written between 1717 and 1723 in memory of the composer's first wife.

"At the time it was written, it was viewed as one of the hardest pieces ever written for the instrument," said Chee-Yun. "It's very challenging technically and emotionally. You have to be a major virtuoso to play the piece."

A native of Korea, Chee-Yun has been performing publicly since the age of 8. She plays regularly with some of the world's most famous orchestras, including the Philadelphia Orchestra, the London Philharmonic and symphony orchestras in Houston, Toronto, Seattle and Pittsburgh. She is artist-in-residence and professor of violin at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

Chee-Yun, who plays a 1708 Stradivarius violin on loan from Samsung, also will perform Beethoven's Kreutzer Sonata and Brahms' Violin Sonata No. 3 in D Minor.

The Beethoven sonata is an "incredible, incredible piece, extremely powerful."

It was composed for violinist George Bridgetower, who performed the premiere of the work in 1803. The piece was completed on the day of its premiere, said Chee-Yun, but the composer and violinist had a falling-out, and Beethoven re-dedicated the work to violinist Rodolphe Kreutzer, who ironically never performed the work, deeming it too difficult to play.

"It reminds you of the Bach Chaconne beginning," said Chee-Yun, "with incredibly difficult chords on solo violin. It's a very intense, passionate exchange between violin and piano. Each movement is like a masterpiece in its own right. They don't at all connect to one another. The second movement is so serene and beautiful, the third movement so joyous and light and so much fun."

The Brahms sonata, she said, is the last of the violin pieces the composer had written.

"It's long, and again, very demanding for both instruments, but extremely powerful and deep. You walk away feeling the depth of Brahms. I'm so grateful being a musician playing this work."

Chee-Yun's thorough understanding of the history of each piece she performs only enhances her performances, she said.

"I feel like I'm an actress, embodying the composer. I want to envision what it was like living in his time," she said. "It's very, very crucial information. There's a lot of preparation that goes into it, and you know what? It's more fun."

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