Artist Spotlight: Gloria Chien

Pianist Gloria Chien makes her SCMS debut during the 2016 Winter Festival. We had a chance to chat with her about the music she will play this winter, why she loves chamber music, and her role at Music@Menlo.

Gloria ChienThis is your first time joining SCMS, have you been to Seattle before? What do you remember about, or are most looking forward to, in the city?

I don’t think I ever have played in Seattle before, so I’m excited to make my Seattle debut with the SCMS! I’m really excited to check out Pike Place market and the great restaurant scene here – any recommendations are welcome!


Can you tell us a little bit about the pieces you’re playing with us this winter?

James picked such great repertoire for me this week: Rachmaninoff Suite No.1 for Two Pianos, Arensky Trio and Schumann Piano Quintet. There is great variety in style and instrumentation in all three pieces.

The Rachmaninoff Suite No.1 (January 29) is composed of four poems/movements dedicated to Tchaikovsky. The first movement is a Barcarolle, the second is a Romance inspired by a love poem of Byron, the third depicts Tears, and the final movement captures the sound of Russian Easter (you’ll hear the ringing of the church bells).

The Arensky Trio (January 31), also dedicated to Tchaikovsky, has the most beautiful elegy in the third movement. This trio is cyclic with the opening first movement material coming back at the end of the fourth movement. It also has the most capriccioso second movement that has brilliant fast passages up and down the piano. It’s great fun to play!

The Schumann’s Piano Quintet (January 30) is one of the most monumental pieces in our repertoire – it is joyful and triumphant!

My favorite moment is the pause right before the final fugue in the last movement – one of the greatest moments in all chamber music for me!

I am most looking forward making music with many new friends! Since this will be my first time here, I have not collaborated with most of the musicians here, and I am very much looking forward to it!


You’re playing a work for two pianos with us. What is it like to collaborate with another pianist like that?

I have always admired Bill and his playing, but have never had the opportunity to meet him. So I am really looking forward to playing together!

Playing two pianos can be such a great experience with the most orchestral sounds coming from the two pianos.

It takes a lot of trust from the two players, sitting across from either other, not being able to see each other’s hands. But when it works, it can bring out magical sounds from the pianos.

Rachmaninoff Suite has so much range in sound, timing, colors. And I am so looking forward to exploring that world with Bill!

Gloria Chien with Anthony McGill (Music@Menlo)

Gloria Chien with Anthony McGill (Music@Menlo)

Can you tell us about your position at Music@Menlo?

I have been the Director of the Chamber Music Institute since 2010. Music@Menlo is an incredible place that changed my life when I was a student there back in 2006. I never knew this world of chamber music excited! It’s three weeks of chamber music with both the festival and institute components. Each summer is devoted to a theme, with lectures, masterclasses, coachings, concerts packed in everyday – it’s a total musical immersion. One always feels stretched in 3 years in those 3 short weeks.

My position mainly works with 30 young musicians ages 9-18. Each week they are grouped into a different group with a different repertoire, with a showcase concert at the end of the week. It is the most rewarding experience seeing these extraordinary young musicians grow within those 3 weeks  – from their ability to play with the others, their own self-confidence, and their love of music – and for them to see what is possible to achieve in those 3 weeks is really empowering for them as well.

I love being there, and treasure every chance I get to work with these young musicians! I also love being part of that community that has an insatiable appetite for learning. It is always a privilege to play for this audience as well! It is a very inspiring place to me!


How does playing chamber music inform other styles of music that you play, and vice versa?

I’m a bit biased, but chamber music is my love! I think it is the most intimate form of making music – and perhaps the most essential. You have to have great ears, great sensibility, great personality to be a great chamber musician. I absolutely love making music with my colleagues and hear what they are saying through their music. I love the magic that happens on stage when things just evolve between the musicians. And I try to convey that even in other forms of playing as well!


If you weren’t a professional musician, what would your job be?

Hm… I’m not quite sure. I love design, I love art, I love beautiful things! I also love to eat great food! Maybe a food-taster? I’m really quite useless away from the piano!


What is your favorite thing to do on a day off?

It’s always a luxury to have a day off! I love spending time at home with my family, or going to the ocean where I find most peace! I hear the coastline along Seattle is gorgeous – I hope to have a chance to explore it very soon!


Join us at the 2016 Winter Festival to hear Gloria, and 18 other world class musicians, perform the finest chamber music repertoire in our series of 6 concerts.