The Strad Issue: January 2011
Description: A young Australian violinist finds the charm in Stravinsky
Musicians: Ray Chen (violin) Timothy Young (piano)
Composer: Stravinsky

Ray Chen, winner of the Yehudi Menuhin Competition in 2008 and the Queen Elisabeth Competition a year later, finds a gentle, thoughtful side to Stravinsky in this selection of his violin and piano works. His tone is focused and warm in the resonant acoustic of the Iwaki Auditorium in Melbourne, with little of the brittle string-biting that some players bring to this repertoire. Speeds are often on the leisurely side, with the ‘Pergolesi’ Suite, the familiar music of Pulcinella, emerging as a genial affair, the Serenata more a spellbound Largo than a Larghetto, and even the Tarantella having a spacious air.

In the Divertimento, Stravinsky’s reworking of The Fairy’s Kiss, itself a reworking of chunks of Tchaikovsky, his playing is supple, elegant, playful, humorous, occasionally rapturous, with a discursive rhythmic freedom beautifully matched by Timothy Young at the piano. In the spikier writing of the Duo concertante, the only work specifically written for violin and piano, Chen maintains fluid lines and constant tonal beauty. His playing is a delight, full of character and shape, its easy charm supported by formidable technical command, fundamentally lyrical. It is easy to hear why he has won the admiration of Maxim Vengerov.