Award-winning violinist Yi-Jia Susanne Hou has made it her mission to express the love of life, family, history, culture, and our universe through her music.
"I am in awe of our world and I try to capture that beauty and transcendence in my music," she says.
Though this road has not been easy ("in fact, it was near impossible!"), it has been ever-so rewarding and beautiful for Susanne. This can be heard in some of her latest projects, including The Legend of Butterfly Lovers.
Love in Music
In recent years, Susanne has completed two of the most important projects of her life: "Love Strings" and The Legend of Butterfly Lovers.
"Love Strings" is a documentary and live performance recording of the Beethoven Violin Concerto with the London Symphony Orchestra, bringing together 300 years of history of one very special violin – the 1735 ex-Mary Portman, Fritz Kreisler Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesù – that has touched the lives of some of the greatest and most significant artists over the past 3 centuries.
“As I was playing with this instrument I felt that I could search for his sound, which is still, I’m convinced, imprinted on this violin,” Susanne says in the documentary.
This beautiful project also includes Susanne’s parents, Alec and Yvonne Hou, who are both violinists, and other renowned artists.
More recently, she recorded The Legend of Butterfly Lovers, which is a concerto composed by He Zhanhao and Chen Gang in 1958, which was inspired by a famous Chinese legend, which recounts the tragic story of two lovers. It was recorded with the Royal Philharmonic and the renowned conductor John Nelson.
This was a treasured project for Susanne, as it combined “music from my childhood and culture, realizing the voice of my parents, and sharing the ancient story of love, family, self-identity, and humanity." She has said that it was a recording her father should have made, as he performed this concerto for many, many years and it holds a special place in her family’s life.
This project launched a China-Taiwan tour and a recently global education initiative.
“The Butterfly Lovers concerto, I find, is a very intimate and feminine journey,” Susanne says in an interview.
Paganini for Little Hands
This global education initiative is something Susanne is currently developing as a 24-episode cultural and education series "Paganini for Little Hands". In this project, she is sharing all her experiences of how to get around the violin and the most challenging technical pieces with impossibly small hands. The most surprising challenge of her life was "discovering that my hands would have been considered 'too small' to play the violin!" Susanne says. "And yet, here I am. This is why I wish to share the power of love and work; if I can do this, everyone can!"
Susanne's father, one of the greatest violinist in China, taught her and practiced with her every day since she was 4 years old, allowing everything that seemed impossible to become possible. "I have the shortest pinky finger in the world!" she adds.
The Future of Classical Music
Susanne believes the first step in creating a meaningful future for classical music is to listen to communities to find the unique needs of every region, and then creating awareness to express how essential music and culture is to humanity. Music isn't an "elective", it is a connecting current between everyone.
"I am certain that classical music will survive us, even if we – this generation – aren’t its biggest advocates. It is simply the collection of gems of human creation over time. One day people with discover its greatness with or without us," Susanne says. "However, if we wish to benefit from its greatness and bask in its glorious energy and inspiration, then I think the way is through musical education outreach."
For young artists, they need to be true to themselves and their voice, and know everything is possible as long as they keep working.
"This light and inspiration alone will be able to carry you through the endless hours of work and practice to your own fulfilling path in music and art," she says.
Learn more about violinist Yi-Jia Susanne Hou on her website.