After a life-changing event at age 13, pianist Rachel Cheung said she cherishes every note she plays on stage. At only 26 years old, she has accomplished much in her musical career, and finds her happiness on the piano bench. This December she performs on the prestigious Portland Piano International series.
What is your most cherished accomplishment?
Winning the Audience Award as a finalist at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in 2017.
How has your experience in life shaped your artistry?
I cherish being alive and to be granted the ability to make music even more after what I had experienced earlier in my life. The most remarkable and life-changing event happened when I was only 13 years old. I had unfortunately contracted meningitis in Moscow where I was supposed to perform with an orchestra. The concert was cancelled and I was in hospital for over a month. After this incident, I understood how precious and fragile life could be and that I must treasure everything I have and every note I play on the stage.
To which destination would you travel just for fun? Why?
I would love to travel to the Scandinavian cities for fun. I am always fascinated by their culture, and the serenity in the woods. I would love to catch the Northern lights, as well!
How has a daily routine shaped who you’ve become?
I am a rather disciplined person, I made my own timetable for studies and practice when I was a child. For me I find a well-planned routine quite crucial in training a professional musician, because practice is about perseverance and discipline.
What do you do off the stage that provides inspiration on stage?
I love reading, any genres such as dystopian fictions, poems, memoirs and biographies. I understand humanity a little more by immersing in the worlds created in my mind when I read, and they also become my inspirations when I play.
Where do you derive happiness?
I derive happiness from making music and experiencing life through music.
Where do you want to be in five or 10 years from now?
I hope I could continue to pursue my concert career and reaching new artistic levels with growing passion and dedication in 10 years from now.
What cause do you support and why?
I am one of the founders of the Chamber Music Society of Yale Club Hong Kong, and we perform in hospitals, community centers, elderly homes, and we also play to raise funds for charities. I think music has the magical ability to cure and heal.
What projects (concerts, albums, tours, collaborations) are you working on right now?
I am preparing for the upcoming recital tours in the United States (one of the stops being Portland Piano International) and Germany, and I am excited to present works that are challenging but very close to my heart, including the Chopin 24 Preludes and Schubert’s monumental B-flat Major Sonata D960. I am also looking forward to collaborating with the Hong Kong Philharmonic next year. I will be conducting/playing Beethoven 4th concerto in March, and I am also honored to perform Ravel Concerto with the Music Director Jaap van Zweden.
What was the inspiration behind your latest project? Why did you pursue it? Why should people care?
I like to tell stories of life in music that I perform, and I find Schubert’s B-flat Major Sonata particularly profound and deep in this direction. The sonata is a portrait of the composer’s vision in life and death that resonates with Chopin’s 24 Preludes, which I feel is also a significant account of the cycle of life.
What’s the one thing you want people to remember about your artistry?
I wish that people who hear me play could also share my reverence for music and the pursuit of truth.
Why do you perform on stage?
I perform on the stage because I believe it’s a form of communal sharing. It’s a gesture of giving and telling stories of humanity.
Where do you come up with your best ideas that you might end up applying to a score?
The best ideas always appear on the score, written by the composer, and by exploring with opened mind and ears. One would find inspirations hidden within the music, as well.
What is your favorite album ever released?
Schubert Cello Quintet in C Major by the Melos Quartet and Rostropovich.
Name three musicians who have inspired your own artistry.
Business of Music
What is your #1 piece of advice to artists who are starting their careers as professional musicians?
Always play with sincerity, and put music before yourself, even through the uncountable obstacles ahead in the long journey.
What steps need to be taken in many parts of the world to offer high quality music education to children?
It would be very helpful if more professional musicians would be willing to share their experiences with children. Nothing is more effective and beneficial to the students than hearing live performances or communicating with musicians directly.
To learn more, visit Rachel Cheung’s website.