Violinist Ray Chen, mixing virtuosity with humor in seven-second classical music videos

Posted on: October 30, 2015

In Wednesday’s (10/28) New York Times, Xavier Flory profiles 26-year-old violinist Ray Chen. First-prize winner of the Yehudi Menuhin and Queen Elisabeth competitions, Chen is “using new media not only to attract new fans for himself but also to build a younger audience for classical music…. Inspired by the brevity of the videos on Vine, Mr. Chen started creating short comical ones that became hits on Instagram and Facebook.” In a 2014 video, he juxtaposed footage of Jascha Heifetz playing a “fiendish passage of down-bow staccato” with a clip of himself “playing the same passage sitting down, bow propped between his knees and violin held straight in front with both hands.” Chen’s videos “attract not just music nerds—although that group loves them—but also casual browsers…. Selling classical music—where symphonies last 40 minutes and concerts tend to be formal—though seven-second videos may seem misleading, or even contrary to the spirit of the music, which demands time and concentration, but Mr. Chen thinks ‘classical music can always do with a little humor.’ ” Chen is “also accessible on stage, conveying the emotions of Tchaikovsky as much through his facial expressions and swaying body as through his sound.”

Posted October 29, 2015