Meet Ima Hogg Competition Semi-finalist Luke Hsu! This talented violinist is currently a candidate for the prestigious AD program at the Royal Academy of Music in London, studying with Rodney Friend. We recently got a chance to ask Luke a few questions about himself and his musical life.
Houston Symphony: Where did you grow up and how did that community affect whom you have become?
Luke Hsu: I grew up in the Houston area, and I feel like it had a huge impact on my musical upbringing. There are few metropolitan areas in the US that can boast a professional full time symphony orchestra, opera company, ballet company, and theater company, and Houston has all of the above plus much more!
HS: Are there other musical people in your family? What have you learned from them?
LH: My mother is a musician. She plays both the violin and piano, but mainly the violin. She’s also quite the teacher for violin these days.
HS: At what age did you begin playing your instrument and what memories do you have of your first rehearsals or performances?
LH: I started the violin when I was 4, and honestly I don’t remember much of it (other than it being frustratingly difficult to play) until I was 10, when I played the Bach G minor solo sonata for Fredell Lack.
HS: What has been the most exciting event for you in your musical career?
LH: I think the most exciting thing was playing the Nielsen Violin Concerto with a world-class Danish orchestra. Having Nielsen’s own violin on stage was a reminder that his unique poetic spirit lies in the violin.
HS: Do you have any pre-performance habits or rituals?
LH: I eat very cleanly; I barely practice; and I nap or sleep quite often.
HS: Who are some of your most profound influences and what is the impact they have had on you?
LH: My teachers are my biggest influence. Cho-Liang Lin, my teacher during my time at Rice, taught me the fine details in music, respect for the score, and a sound that could both breathe colors and captivate the listener. His extremely fiery spirit, which I absolutely love, and his demanding demeanor both serve the purpose of the music. Donald Weilerstein, my teacher at the New England Conservatory, has taught me awareness of my intentions physically, musically, and spiritually, the stylistic concerns that dictate decision making, and the overall spirit of an artist who sings and listens with an absolutely critical ear. His spirit is calm, but his inner spirit is extremely hot, bubbling with the love for music. But the reason why I chose music as my career was because of Fredell Lack, my teacher during my adolescent years. She taught me how to love music and see the importance beyond playing everything in tune or technically perfect. Music is no game to her, it was her life.
HS: Who is the most famous person you have met or worked with?
LH: Famous is all relative, but I’ve had a fair share of working with Itzhak Perlman at the Perlman Music Program. My group spent a whole week learning the second Mendelssohn viola quintet with him as our coach every day. I’ve also worked a bit with Christian Tetzlaff—once in a masterclass at NEC, but also later. I love his carefree attitude.
HS: What are the “top five” pieces or songs on your playlist or iPod?
LH: Bach C Major Solo Violin Sonata-Isabella Faust; Mozart Complete Sonatas for Piano and Violin-Anne Sophie Mutter and Lambert Orkis; Beethoven Complete Sonatas for Piano and Violin-Anne Sophie Mutter and Lambert Orkis; Brahms Violin Concerto with David Oistrakh and Otto Klemperer, Radio France Orchestra; Webern Op. 7 with Gidon Kremer and Oleg Maisenberg.
HS: Do you have a favorite TV show?
LH: The X Factor.
HS: Do you have a favorite sports team?
LH: I have no choice—I live a block from Fenway Park, so the Red Sox.
HS: Do you have a favorite food?
LH: Greek food—I love the yogurt!
HS: Do you have a favorite city or travel destination?
LH: San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico.
HS: Do you have any hobbies or interests outside of music?
LH: Fitness, food, traveling, experiencing new things.
See Luke Hsu perform for FREE at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music on Thursday, June 2. And don’t forget to get tickets to the Finals Concert!