Q&A: Concert pianist Rachel Cheung talks about her current tour | Life & Arts

Friends of Chamber Music welcomes concert pianist Rachel Cheung to perform at Texas A&M’s Annenberg Presidential Conference Center on April 29 at 7 p.m.

Coming from Hong Kong, Cheung won the Audience Award at the 2017 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition and shared his touring experience so far, what it’s like to share music with audiences and information about the pieces she performs.

LE BATTALLON: When did you realize you wanted to be a concert pianist?

I started when I was four years old. I think I made it my goal to be a concert pianist when I was 11 when I won my first International Pianist Prize in Ukraine. It was the beginning, because in this competition and in Ukraine, I got a taste of what it was like to play on an international stage and I really enjoyed it. I realized that I really wanted to share the music with the audience and it was a dream come true to perform on stage.

How would you describe your performances on tour so far?

This tour was actually my first since 2020, due to COVID[-19] and travel restrictions where everything has been shut down. It was really amazing and it’s really great to be back. I travel to many US states and play up to 10 gigs. Life has never been so exciting, I really look forward to every concert.

What songs do you play during your concerts and how did you choose them?

For my concert with Friends of Chamber Music, my recital will open with a pair of pieces by Haydn. The first is “Fantasia in C major”. It’s a very pleasing opening because the piece is not performed very often. It’s very lively and there’s the typical humor of Haydn’s music.

The second piece is Haydn’s very famous ‘Variations in F Minor’, which contains some of the most tragic moments in Haydn’s music, but at the same time there is plenty of light and a few lively moments. There are difficult and tragic moments which I think are very touching.

Then I play Beethoven’s “Sonata Opus 110 in A-flat major”. It is the middle sonata of his last trilogy. This is the very last sonata Beethoven wrote and it has quite a symbolic meaning as it really tells about Beethoven’s vision of his later life. He has a very particular composition technique compared to his previous years and periods. This sonata, divided into four movements, must be played as a whole, consecutively, without interruption. It has the build up from start to finish and it works as a whole that way in four moves, all together. I think it feels like a life journey from beginning to end. It has very poetic and very lyrical moments and it gives the sense of love to the world.

In the second part, I will play two composers. The first is Ravel, a 20th century French composer, and I will be playing his colorful sets of piano music called “Ma mère l’Oye”. It is divided into five movements, and it is extremely picturesque. You’ve got a lot of images in this set, and it’s very imaginative to play and listen to.

The last piece is Chopin, a very famous Polish composer, and I play his “Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise Brillante”. It’s a very good piece to finish because it’s like a marching band so it plays with a lot of grandeur. At the beginning of the music, it is very calm and peaceful in “Andante Spianato”. I think the whole program I have chosen for the recital with Friends of Chamber Music is very eclectic and I think it will be very enjoyable to play and also to listen to.

What are you most excited for the Aggie community to see in your performance?

I just want to share music. Music communicates with everyone – it connects with everyone without actually speaking, and it’s such a universal language and it shares the language of love. I hope everyone will enjoy coming to the concert or listening to music, and I hope they will relax and enjoy my performance.

Corina C. Butler