Renowned pianist Kevin Chen, celebrated for his triumphs in prestigious international competitions, including the Arthur Rubinstein Piano Master Competition and the Concours de Genève, is set to captivate Dubai on December 10 at the Dubai Opera. As part of the VIP Classical initiative by SAMIT Event Group, Chen’s solo recital promises a splendid musical journey.
In a conversation with City Times, the pianist reflects on the impact of his recent successes in international competitions, acknowledging their role in gaining recognition and expanding his audience. Excerpts from the interview:
You’ve achieved remarkable success in several international competitions, including the recent 2023 Arthur Rubinstein Piano Master Competition. How has this recognition influenced your approach to music and your career as a pianist?
Competitions are a great tool to help an artist get noticed and recognised in the musical world. I feel very fortunate to have these opportunities to be discovered by wider audiences and to share music with the public. It is also an immense motivating factor to feel how strong the connection can be with the community as a result. However, I believe my approach to music remains somewhat separate from competition: I have always wanted to make music for the sake of sharing its wonder with listeners, and a supportive audience makes it possible to keep this approach.
Performing at prestigious venues like Carnegie Hall and St John’s Smith Square must have been an incredible experience. Can you share some memorable moments from these performances and the impact they’ve had on your artistic journey?
Of course, these are undoubtedly milestones in my journey, which I feel so honoured to have. In the grandeur of such venues, the ambience of the space somehow allowed for a profound connection that captured the magical feeling of collective energy among the audience. I was so excited to see familiar faces in the audience as well. These moments on stage, when the atmosphere feels so warmly welcoming, really propel my enthusiasm and inspire innovation—whether it be subtle nuances in familiar works or in the form of new creative interpretations.
The upcoming concert in Dubai is part of the VIP Classical initiative organised by SAMIT Event Group. How do you approach creating a solo recital that caters to diverse audiences, especially those attending a performance for the first time?
Classical music might be perceived as rather esoteric, requiring some extent of previous understanding in order to enjoy. So especially for first-time concertgoers, it requires selecting a repertoire that balances familiarity and novelty, offering pieces that span various eras, genres, and emotional landscapes. This way, the compilation of pieces flows through a journey of different styles, where each piece complements each other, which can be easier to appeal to a wide audience. As well, it can be helpful to perform within frameworks that encourage making classical music more accessible, such as the VIP Classical initiative organised by the SAMIT Event Group.
As a young Canadian artist making waves in the music world, what message or emotions do you aim to convey through your music, especially in a diverse cultural setting like Dubai?
Something I observe about music is that everyone understands it and assigns their own meaning to it according to their own experiences. Unlike words, which have a predefined meaning, music is a language without a language barrier: it can reach and resonate with most audiences even without communicating a concrete meaning. Just like Dubai, Canadian society is also distinctly multicultural, which I believe is very fitting to witness the transcendence of music.
Finally, what are your future aspirations and upcoming projects? Are there specific composers or works you are particularly excited about exploring on your musical journey?
Looking ahead, I don’t have a specific “ultimate goal,” as I prefer to take my journey more gradually. At the moment, I’m mainly focusing on enjoying myself, always excited to learn new works from the infinitely vast repertoire or maybe experiment with incorporating elements of other art forms into performances in the future. I will probably take upcoming projects step by step and hope that as I continue, the pleasure I derive from them can enrich the lives of others with beauty and a sense of shared humanity.
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