The Strad Issue: January 2011
Musicians: Ray Chen (violin) Noreen Polera (piano)
Composer: Tartini, Bach, Wieniawski, Franck

Success in the 2009 Queen Elisabeth Competition has brought the Taiwanese-born violinist Ray Chen an exclusive recording contract with Sony. It is pleasing to find that his debut release is not simply a showcase of his remarkable virtuosity, though he certainly does not disappoint as he parades many of his technical credentials in Wieniawski’s Variations on an Original Theme.

The warmth, delicacy and radiant poetry that he brings to César Franck’s Sonata points us to a very special musician, one who is not yet 22. Every single bar shows affection – the passionate moments generate a free approach to tempos that some may question, but they breathe new life into a familiar score. At the appropriate moments Noreen Polera takes over the forward thrust of the work: her playing is excellent throughout, with the duo working in totally accord.

The disc includes a charming reading of Wieniawski’s Légende, and there are no pretensions of Baroque rectitude in Chen’s big and bold view of Bach’s Chaconne. I enjoyed listening to the whole disc so much that I can forgive his expressive license in Kreisler’s arrangement of the Tartini sonata. Very well-balanced sound quality.