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孜怡與新亞室內樂其他成員在今年五月十三於紐約林肯中心Merkin Hall演出,獲得觀眾熱烈回響,同場音樂會並錄製現場專輯。照片提供: 陳孜怡。

Pianist Tzu-yi Chen's musical philosophy and life

Written by: Yu-Chen Tsai

Translated by: Patrick McCurry, Michelle Eng and Tzu-yi Chen

During her February this year "228 Memorial Concert" at Taiwanese Presbyterian Church in D.C., the

notes of the Firebird Suite circled at the fingertips with pianist Tzu-yi Chen’s virtuoso touch, just like the

plot described by the Russian composer Stravinsky. A full-house audience at Washington, D.C.’s

Taiwanese Presbyterian Church completely followed the composer’s storyline. Their heartbeats were

dancing with the wizard and got lost with the melody of the beautiful lullaby. Until the last chord ended

with the bright glissando flying like the firebird to the sky, the whole audience was astonished with a few

seconds silence, and rejoiced with thunderous applause.

Tzu-yi's music draws your emotions and grabs your attention as she tells you many stories behind each

sound she makes. I wonder why there is such a difference between "When you play the notes right" and

"When your music actually touches people.” Guided by my curiosity, I very fortunately caught an

opportunity to interview her and get some answers from a great pianist!

After graduating from the Affiliated Senior High School of National Taiwan Normal University, she was

admitted with unanimous jury votes to study at the prestigious National Paris Conservatory of Music in

France, regarded as a Master’s-level study in French government.

That's right! It is the music school where famous Japanese TV drama and Live-action movie “Nodame

Cantabile” took place a few years ago.

Tzu-yi was laughing that the movie’s storyline was completely inspired and created by students’ lives and

surroundings at the Paris Conservatory, how the conductor Shinichi Chiaki and the pianist Megumi Noda

fell in love with each other, and at their adventures and journeys accompanied by music.

In contrast to the words "romantic" and “spontaneous," which for me easily associate with the country of

France, the French classical music education is surprisingly very academic, and famous for its strictness.

Before entering the conservatory, Tzu-yi had already won various national and international competitions.

However, her Parisian master asked her to forget the pursuit of fame and applause and to take more time

understanding the European cultural background, getting into the essence of finding the different sounds

and different styles of each composer she played, redefining the space and time of the written notes and

the history placed behind each piece of written music, and based on all of those elements, find that it is

possible to distinguish the subtle differences and be able to play the notes with sense, spirit, and great


This is like the process of reassembling an Empire building, undoubtedly a painful experience for an

Asian foreign student. Unlike pianists from many other parts of the world who place “amazing fingers” as

their top training goal, European education places a great importance on the music itself and sees it as

cultural heritage instead of producing another star pianist. When I talked with Tzu-yi, I remarked that

music is in her life so deeply that all composers are like her real friends. She can chat about anything in

their life stories, such as Franz Liszt, who was famous as a rock star in the world and favored by women,

and who went back and forth four times to monastery life, studying for the priesthood to seek a quiet and

peaceful mind, or Frédéric Chopin, who created nuances with his unique soft-finger touches noted by the

concert reviewers of his time, or Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninov, who lived in foreign countries

but whose heart was in his motherland Russia.

When pianists play their works, they have to project the souls of different composers as if they were

speaking with them. When talking about those composers, it is as if Tzu-yi had known each of them for

many years. I began to understand why her music sounds so much deeper and sincere than many

others. There is a difference when someone puts her life and soul into every piece she plays.

Tzu-yi recalled the struggles of studying abroad. She often prepared for an entire week before class, but

got only strict criticism. In addition to a broad cultural understanding, she has extensive knowledge of

various artistic forms, books, movies, paintings, museums, sculptures, meditation, all to immerse her into

a sound-imagination world and to fully release the emotions during a performance (which reminds me of

an actor too deep in the script who sometimes can hardly pull himself out of the role he plays).

Tzu-yi said that there are times, seeing the music with its human emotions, desires, and devils, that it is

often not comfortable. But she must be honest to face her inner anxiety. Although born in a Christian

home, she was baptized a few years ago and returned to God's embrace. Religion provides her with the

power of stability, so that she will not be confused when she throws herself into the ocean of imagination.

At such a young age, it took a great deal of effort living alone in France, Germany, the United States, and

traveling to the rest of the world. This kind of experience had a profound impact on Ms. Chen. She often

engages in a deep and profound dialogue with herself, touching very difficult topics such as love and

doubt, truth and fiction, anxiety, fear, and other emotions. She is one of the very rare Taiwanese girls I

have met who went alone to the cinema, to the forest, and dared to walk, crossing those Parisian streets

from the Opera theatre back home when it was almost three o’clock in the morning.

However, at the same time, she is very warm and hospitable. She recalled her school years, her mother

always filling up the dining table before she came back home. The warmth of the family cultivated her

taste, and the travels around the world have added more flavors to her cooking menu. The last time I was

fortunate enough to be invited to taste the dishes Tzu-yi made—Russian herring salad, Spanish paella,

crepes—all were so delicious and amazing. I can see that what makes her successful in her career is her

self-discipline and high standard for herself, and her love for her friends and openness to new friendships

helped her to quickly establish herself in a foreign country.

However, like all immigrants who have a hard-working life, the road is groped and formed step by step.

“Did you ever think of going back to Taiwan and live there?” I asked, just as many of us have seriously

thought about going back to Taiwan because of family or work.

“When God closes a door, he opens another window for you,” she answered. “The difficulty is that living

in foreign countries, everything has to be done by myself. Even hosting a concert, I often have to think of

every detail from the program printing, recording and stage management, to the piano tuner.” But she

paused a moment, and said ”Why do humans have to discover the moon and explore outer space, when

they are ultimately well enough living in the earth?” For her it is the same question as “Why do I have to

continue to learn new pieces, even if I have played piano for so many years?” It is simply because she

does not want to stop at the same point in life, so she bravely walks into the unknown." Life is not always

smooth and peaceful, but music is the best friend, accompanying her through all the high and low points

of her life.

In talking about classical music education to the next generation, Tzu-yi suggests not being afraid to bring

kids to the concert hall, listening to classical music radio stations while driving, and creating opportunities

for music to be part of every day, so that in family life, children are accompanied by music as a habit. "In

any good live performance, the audience's feeling and perception are elevated and sublimated to a high

level." The American school system has many opportunities for music exposure, such as school orchestra

and marching band. Parents' efforts can cultivate children’s interest. However, to become a professional it

takes a different level of commitment. Many other activities must be given up in order to be highly

focused. It takes a lot of time to practice before a child can progress from short, boring pieces to highly

challenging repertoire and being able to excel in playing.

Despite her busy concert traveling schedules and her dedicated piano practicing time, Tzu-Yi teaches at

the Levine School of Music and maintains a home private studio. How can an Asian artist find his/her way

in a western society? Tzu-yi said, "We must collaborate across nations, across genders and cultures,

across media. Any combination of music, social topics, painting, dance, and other different art forms will

show the flexibility of music, and we will be able to see common values." Many cultures co-exist in

America. There are many opportunities to reach out to different people. Asian musicians gather together

to create platforms such as The New Asia Chamber Music Society (NACMS) in NY joined by Tzu-yi.

NACMS connects outstanding rising Asian musicians and helps them to create their own stage. In

addition to promoting classical music, it reaches out to a wider audience, enabling people to appreciate

Asian cultures by producing high-quality concerts performed by top Asian musicians. NACMS will release

its first piano quartet album in November of this year. Another non-profit organization in NY which also

recruited Tzu-yi for its artist roster is Muse Connect. It is one of the rare music-charity organizations

established in New York. Tzu-yi will perform at its opening Gala concert in October of this year. This

organization will support emerging talents of the music world by holding top-quality concerts crossing

cultural boundaries.

I feel so proud to see the excellent Taiwanese talents shining on various stages in the world. Tzu-yi

actively performs on many events held by Taiwanese communities.

(Here are some photos to share with you.)

On August 26, 2018, there will be a piano recital with top-notch, difficult repertoire, as interpreted by Tzu-

yi Chen, at the National Cathedral School, so don't miss it. Located in the Greater Washington area, we

[in the Taiwanese community] are fortunate enough to have such a top pianist on our side. We should

warmly support her, enjoy her music, and enrich our hearts.

P.S. Listen to Tzu-yi on the Internet.

P.P.S. Read more about Tzu-Yi's story in Chinese: andhttps://www.muzik-


撰文: 蔡佑晨















來,分享幾個作曲家的小故事: 數次成為神職人員又離開,在當時猶如搖滾巨星般深獲女性青睞的

李斯特; 體弱多病,多愁善感的鋼琴詩人蕭邦,其特有的柔軟指法; 或是身在異鄉卻心繫祖國的俄

















真實與虛假,面對焦慮不安或是害怕等種種情緒。一個人進電影院;一個人在森林散步; 深夜十點



















目前在Levine Music任教的孜怡,有著繁重的教學日常生活。在德國國立Karlsruhe音樂大學拿





孜怡投入的新亞室內樂音樂協會New Asia Chamber Music Society,就是希望能串聯優秀的亞洲

年輕藝術家,共同創造自己的舞台, 成立宗旨除了推廣古典音樂外,更希望觀眾能經由這些優秀

的亞裔音樂家的演出來欣賞亞洲文化。該組織即將於今年十一月首發鋼琴四重奏專輯。 同年孜怡

也接受今年初在紐約成立的音樂慈善組織MuseConnect的邀請, 參與十月即將到來的首場慶祝音樂

會, 該音樂慈善團體提供這個平台給樂壇新起之秀, 來舉辦高水準融合東西方文化的音樂會。






PS. 上網聽孜怡。

PS 2. 更多孜怡的故事: 以及 https://www.muzik-

 Taiwanese American Association Great Washington Chapter (TAAGWC) is a 501 (c) 6 non-profit organization.                        PO BOX 4888  Rockville, MD 20850

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