Violinist Sarah Chang
Recently, I had the opportunity to ask violin virtuoso Sarah Chang some questions about her up-coming performances of Barber’s Violin Concerto with the Houston Symphony this weekend.
Calvin Dotsey: When did you first learn and perform this concerto?
Sarah Chang: I adore the Barber Concerto! I learned it only 2 years ago, and absolutely fell in love with it. It’s a relatively new friend, but it has quickly found a special place in my heart!
CD: How has your interpretation of this concerto changed since then?
SC: I learn something new about the work every day I play it. I love the near-perfect balance Barber captured between the beautiful lyricism in the first two movements and the technical monstrosity he created in the third movement.
CD: Has research into Barber’s life influenced your interpretation of this piece?
SC: It absolutely has. With every work I perform, I try to read up on the composer and soak up as much knowledge as I possibly can. Getting inside the composer’s head and trying to understand not only his biographical background but also his personal state of being helps mold my interpretation of his work.
Sarah Chang performs Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto with the Houston Symphony this weekend.
CD: Have you met any musicians who knew or worked with Samuel Barber? If so, did your interactions with them influence the way you play Barber’s music?
SC: I personally do not know anyone who had interactions with Barber. However, I have heard wonderful stories of his time at Curtis [Institute of Music], which is not far from where I grew up (I’m a Philadelphia girl), so I feel a connection there.
CD: This piece is being programmed with two other American works. How does this concerto’s “American-ness” influence your preparation and performance?
SC: There is something truly special and heroic about anything and everything that is American. American music, American movies, American sports…We aren’t afraid to show love and to put our hearts on our sleeves!
CD: I’ve read that spontaneity is one of the qualities you most value in performance. How do you balance the need to create spontaneity in the moment with the need to communicate the larger structure of a piece?
SC: I believe in intense preparation before a concert, but once you step onstage, it’s all about spontaneity and sharing that electric moment with the audience. I think the overall line and structure of a piece is paramount, but you need to give yourself as much freedom as the composer will allow and some liberties to take risks on the spot to make magic happen onstage.
CD: A number of our audience members will undoubtedly be amateur violinists (including myself), so here are a few questions specifically relating to violin playing. In your opinion, what is the most challenging aspect of performing Barber’s Violin Concerto and why?
SC: Ensemble in the third movement. There’s so much going on, you’re flying all over the fingerboard, and it’s incredibly technical for everyone onstage, not just the soloist. So, everyone has to juggle their parts as well as keeping their eyes and ears open the entire time.
CD: How do you practice? Describe your usual practice routine.
SC: I practice my basics every day. Doesn’t matter if I practice 20 minutes or 6 hours a day, I always do my scales, arpeggios and basic fundamental exercises.
Sarah Chang and her new puppy, Chewie!
CD: What do you like to do when you’re not playing music?
SC: I love movies. I’m such a movie nut! I also love fashion, and I recently got a puppy who is, unapologetically, the center of my universe!
CD: You always perform in the most beautiful dresses. How would you describe your sense of style?
SC: Thank you! I adore fashion. I also think the whole concert experience is something very old-school Hollywood and special. I always think of the composer first and which piece I’m playing. Then I choose the color and the style of my evening gown to fit a specific composer. I believe that the concert-going experience is visual as well as auditory. The music comes first, but I also want my fashion choices to compliment the composer’s music, not distract from it.
Love Sarah’s dresses? Check back later this week to find out how to dress like a virtuoso from some of Houston’s trendiest fashion bloggers. Don’t miss Sarah Chang with the Houston Symphony!
Sarah Chang Plus Copland
October 2, 4, 5, 2014
Cristian Macelaru, conductor
Sarah Chang, violin
Buy tickets now!