12-07-2009 15:24
Sarah Chang Aims to Cast Off Prodigy Label


Violinist Sarah Change has released a new Brahms album and will make a recital tour across Korea this month with pianist Andrew Von Oeyen. This year marks the 20th anniversary of her debut.
/ Courtesy of EMI Classics
By Lee Hyo-won
Staff Reporter

The world never forgot the sight of an eight-year-old girl playing her quarter-sized violin opposite the New York Philharmonic. Twenty years later, Sarah Chang is still best known as a child prodigy, but after turning 28 on Thursday, she celebrates her 20th anniversary on stage through a rite of passage of sorts Brahms.

``I didn't realize that it's been 20 years since I made my official debut when I was eight. I'm still young and the child prodigy label still sticks around so I don't really feel it. I made my first recording with EMI when I was nine, so it's been almost 20 years with the company as well, and I'm very grateful,'' Chang told reporters in a press conference in Seoul, Monday, looking chic in a black dress.

She would however like to break away from the child prodigy tag.

``I tried for the past 15 years but it still stuck; it's been 20 years and I give up,'' she said. ``It's not a bad label, but, though it may have helped when I was little, I wish to be regarded as an equal among my musical colleagues. One day, I hope to be known as just a good musician.''

The violin virtuoso has been tackling devilishly difficult violin concertos since a tender age, but Maestro Kurt Masur made her wait many years before foraying into Brahms. Even Maestro Ivan Fisher once said during a tour in Korea that he had not yet recorded Brahms because it requires wisdom, something that comes with time and experience.

She said she had given up on begging Masur to play Brahms, but five years ago the conductor sought her out and she has finally recorded Brahms' violin concerto with the Masur-led Dresden Philharmonic (EMI Classics).

She also embarks on a cross-country recital tour featuring Brahms's violin sonatas. It is the Korean-American artist's first recital tour here in a decade.

``I love concertos so I've been biased toward them. Another reason I didn't give as many recitals was because I was looking for a strong partner rather than just an accompanist, and I found Andrew,'' she said referring to pianist Andrew Von Oeyen.

``We've known each other for many, many years as friends and it's a thrill to collaborate as colleagues and chamber music partners,'' said the pianist, who attended the Juilliard School in New York with Chang.

In addition to Brahms' Sonata Movement (Sonatensatz), Op. Posth and Sonata No. 3, they will play ``Fantasy'' by Greek-American composer Christopher Theofanidis, who dedicated the piece to Chang.

``It's a contemporary piece but is very easy and pleasant to hear. The second movement was written after the birth of the composer's first daughter, so it's very lyrical, beautiful and tender, full of fatherly love,'' she said. ``When he was writing the piece for me he said he honestly didn't know the violin very well. I worked with him closely during the creative process and I feel very close to the composition.''

She will kick off the tour Friday at Ansan Culture & Arts Center and continue Saturday at Daejeon Art Center; Dec. 14 at Sungsan Art Hall, Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province; Dec. 17 at Gyeonggi Arts Center, Suwon, Gyeonggi Province; Dec. 19 at Sori Arts Center of Jeollabuk-do, Jeonju, North Jeolla Province; Dec. 21 at Gwangju Culture & Art Center; Dec. 22 at Gumi Art Center; Dec. 24 at Uijeongbu Arts Center, Gyeonggi Province; Dec. 26 at Jeju Culture & Art Center, Jeju Island; and finally Dec. 28 at Seoul Arts Center. Call (02) 541-6237.

Chang said she was excited to spend Christmas here for the first time. She was also looking forward to exploring new parts of Korea with Von Oeyen. The duo will continue their world tour with performances in the United States and Europe.

hyowlee@koreatimes.co.kr