• May 31, 2023

Artist Profile: Che-Hung Chen

Artist Profile: Che-Hung Chen

Artist Profile: Che-Hung Chen 495 414 Welcome to Kingston Chamber Music Festival | Kingston Chamber Music Festival

When violist Che-Hung Chen joined The Philadelphia Orchestra at the age of 20, he earned the distinction of being the first Taiwanese citizen to ever do so. How had he found his way to the viola and then to Philadelphia? Simple answer: “It chose me.” Growing up in Taiwan, Chen often attended his older brother’s violin lessons and “fussed around on the side.” The teacher noticed Chen’s interest and talent and offered his mom a BOGO deal: music lessons for both brothers. “It was normal for youngsters to start on violin then make the switch to viola later,” Chen explains. “Our teacher was a violist himself and had studied in the United States, so he and my mom became the major force that put us on this path to eventually study here in the States.”

From orchestras to chamber music

Chen now travels the globe sharing his passion for music. While his primary occupation is playing with The Philadelphia Orchestra, he values the time he gets playing in small ensembles as well. “Being an orchestral musician and playing chamber music on the side whenever possible is always a treat,” Chen says. “After winning the Banff competition with the Daedalus Quartet, I dreamt about being in a professional string quartet and touring the world, but ultimately chose the orchestral path. It wasn’t until I was asked to be a last-minute replacement for a European tour with the Dover Quartet some 20 years later that my dream finally came true, and it was definitely one of the most fulfilling highlights of my entire musical career.”

“Incredible pieces of music”

At the KCMF concerts on July 26th, July 28th, August 4th, and August 6th, Chen will perform a variety of arrangements: from elegant pieces by Jean Francaix and Josef Suk played alongside legendary oboist Richard Woodhams and others, to the rare repertoire of York Bowen’s Fantasie Quartet for four violas and Bohuslav Martinu’s three Madrigals for violin and viola. What is he most excited for? “Honestly, every single work!” he says. “Obviously York Bowen’s Fantasie Quartet for four violas is a rare find, especially in a chamber music festival, but every single piece that I am involved with this summer are all incredible pieces of music, and I get to perform them with friends, colleagues, and families that I have the utmost respect for. It doesn’t get any better than this!”

The arts are expression

Throughout his illustrious career, Chen has come to value music as a universal language. “I once spent a few weeks in Hyogo, Japan, at the invitation of [KCMF founder] David Kim,” Chen says. “I joined him and performed with The Hyogo Performing Arts Orchestra, leading and coaching the viola section. Even though limited English was our only way of verbal communication, we were able to inspire and learn from each other through music alone. It was quite a rewarding experience.” For Chen, this is the power of music in particular and the arts in general: “It gives a chance for every individual to express themselves through the most unique way possible.”

Photo credit: Joe Kuan, Joie Elie Photography