Stella Chen, First Prize at the 2019 Queen Elisabeth International Violin Competition
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Stella Chen is the beaming young musician who has just been awarded the First Prize of the prestigious Queen Elisabeth International Music Competition, violin 2019. She delighted us with her warm sounds, her inner richness and her freshness.
« I never made a plan like « in 2019 I’m going! ». »
ResMusica: You’ve already been awarded prizes from prestigious competitions. Why did you choose to enter the Queen Elisabeth competition?
Stella Chen: I actually haven’t been to that many, I haven’t been to a lot more, I’m a kind of a newbie to competitions. There’s nothing like the Queen Elisabeth and I think I always dreamed I would one day go there. But I never made a plan, like I never said: « in 2019 I’m going ! ». But it just worked out that way and I couldn’t be happier. Like everything was just a dream.
RM: Did you enjoy playing at the competition, did you feel like in a concert or did it feel really different?
SC: I enjoyed each round, each performance actually, but I got more and more like enjoying it but it’s always difficult in a competition. You’re like yes, you feel like stressed… But I tried and got more and more at ease. And audience here is so great and orchestras were so great. Everyone is just amazing collaborators.
RM: You had to adapt to two different orchestras, can you have a word on your work with the orchestras?
SC: It was different experiences with different houses and different sizes, different repertoires… But they were phenomenal musicians and people, so supportive during rehearsals! Just they want to help you in whatever way they can, in such a limited period of time, I’m just so grateful.
« I’m always looking for a warmer sound like more delicate sound.«
RM: How do you nurture a piece you’ve already played so many times?
SC: My history with each piece is different but I never have a problem with freshness. I mean these were just masterworks, the ones that I performed and I just discover more every day. I think there isn’t any danger of it becoming too easy or normal because it’s just extraordinary music and yes, I find new things every day.
RM: You’ve got this really warm and rich sound.
SC: Yes I think ! I mean: each sound is so different and I guess that’s just the sound that speaks to me the most. I’m always looking for a warmer sound like more delicate sound. Just what I do naturally when I try to do other things so.
RM: You’ve carried out so various activities, I don’t know if it’s still the case, the violin must be quite time demanding. You’ve been graduated from a psychology faculty and I read that you were interested in artistic ice skating…
SC: Yes, I love it so much, yes! I think I’m drawn to the outside of like dance, ice-skating. I like to do those things and watch those things.
RM: Was it important for your play or do you consider it as a completely different part of your life?
SC: I wouldn’t say that. I think about it when I play or that there is a direct correlation. I think it’s important for us to just learn about all different kind of things and whatever interests us. It definitely makes me a more grounded person that I would have been If I just were practising all the time and plus that it’ not practical to me to be practising all the time because it is such a strange thing to be doing; That just how it worked out to me, that’s my path, it doesn’t have to be everyone path.
RM: Do you have any precise practice routine?
SC: Not a strict one. I mean, definitely some sort of scales as a warm up. You know some sorts of things to keep me in shape. I like to do the music part !
RM: You will be loaned a Stradivarius, congrats once again but can you have a word on the violin you’re currently playing with?
SC: This is from Juilliard, it’s a Guarneri Del Gesù and it’s been wonderful to me. I learned so much from it. It also naturally have the deepest, richest sound, which is too my personality. So, we worked very well yes. I’m very grateful to have such an instrument because it’s 90-99% of us so it’s so important, it’s so helpful to hear like the magic of the sounds of this instrument.
RM: And do you have any information on the bow you were using?
SC: My bow is a French bow, it’s a Sartory.
RM: Do you have a message to the young violinists at the start of their career or who’d like to join a competition?
SC: The two pieces of advice that I think helped me the most are just be yourself and remember why you’re doing this. Be yourself and keep loving music. I think that’s the best way to stay inspired, positive and creative.
Copyright: Stella Chen © CMIREB ; Concours © Emilie Vanderhulst