[ in the press ]

Pianist credits video gaming for giving him good ear

chen-cliburnAlberquerque Journal | By Kathaleen Roberts

The first American to reach the Van Cliburn Piano Competition finals in 16 years, Sean Chen is bringing the Romantics to Los Alamos next weekend.[…]

The 27-year-old pianist grew up near Los Angeles, where he first put fingertips to keys at the age of 2. He began piano lessons at 5, winning prizes at the California International Young Artist Competition, the Los Angeles Music Center’s Spotlight Award and scholarships while he was still in high school.

Neither of his parents were professional musicians. But he says he developed a good ear by watching movies and playing video games. MORE

Published September 21, 2015
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[ alumni ]

Sean Chen awarded fellowship for career development from Leonore Annenberg Fund

chen_sean2Pianist Sean Chen ’14AD is among five emerging artists who will receive grants from the Leonore Annenberg Fellowship Fund for the Performing and Visual Arts. The fund awards $50,000 a year for up to two years to artists who have demonstrated great talent and are on the cusp of a professional breakthrough.

In addition to Chen, the third-place finisher in the 2013 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, the awards will go to Julia Bullock, a soprano who won the 2014 Naumburg International Vocal Competition and the 2012 Young Concert Artists International Auditions; Caitlin Cherry, a visual artist whose work was on view in a solo show at the Brooklyn Museum in 2013; McKenzie Chinn, an actress, writer and filmmaker who has appeared in productions at the Goodman Theater and the Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago; and Joseph Gorak, a soloist with American Ballet Theater. Sean Chen will receive a two-year award of $100,000. Each of the four other recipients will receive one-year awards of $50,000.

Including the current group, the Leonore Annenberg Fellowship Fund has paid or pledged more than $5 million over the last eight years in career-development grants to artists to create work, receive training, travel to performances, develop studios, buy materials, pay for living expenses and health care, pay down student debt, or otherwise develop their talents to their fullest. The arts fellows, selected in consultation with partner organizations, work under the guidance of mentors chosen by the partners and the Leonore Annenberg Fund. MORE

Published April 7, 2015
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[ in the press ]

Sean Chen offers an alternative perspective on Scriabin and Ravel

By Stephen Smoliar

At the end of last year, I wrote at some length about a Warner Classics album of pianist HJ Lim on which compositions by Maurice Ravel and Alexander Scriabin were juxtaposed. Exactly a week ago the Steinway & Sons label released a similar album combining works by these two composers, this time performed by the young American pianist Sean Chen, whose academic credentials include Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Juilliard and an Artist Diploma from the Yale School of Music. Chen’s recording has a title, La Valse; and it seems to have been recorded right around the time Lim’s album was released in September of last year. The booklet notes by Damian Fowler give no indication of whether Chen was aware of Lim’s activities when he prepared the program for his own recording.

What are we to make of these two parallel efforts? One possibility is that we now have a new generation of performers who are far more imaginative than their predecessors in preparing programs. They are willing to take chances in juxtaposing compositions that, on the surface, seem thoroughly incompatible. These are risky exercises; but, when they “work,” they can be delightfully stimulating to the attentive listener. To chose an even more provocative example, when the Russian violinist Alina Ibragimova came to San Francisco (my home town) in February, the “spinal cord” for her program consisted of two Mozart sonatas (K. 301 in G major and K. 304 in E minor, both only two movements long) and Ludwig van Beethoven’s Opus 47 (“Kreutzer”) sonata in A major. However, between the two Mozart sonatas she performed John Cage’s “Six Melodies for Violin and Keyboard;” and Mozart and Beethoven were separated by Anton Webern’s Opus 7 set of four pieces. This created a situation in which Cage influenced how we were listening to Mozart, while the Webern selection inserted a “Second Viennese School” voice between two of the “First Viennese School” composers. There result turned out to be as stimulating and engaging as it was provocative.


Published April 1, 2014
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New Music New Haven concert Mar. 6 features Theofanidis, Laderman, Marshall

Ezra Laderman

Ezra Laderman

The Yale School of Music presents a New Music New Haven concert on Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 8 pm. The concert features music by three faculty composers — Ezra Laderman, Ingram Marshall, and Christopher Theofanidis — alongside new works by graduate students in the school’s composition program.

Pianist Sean Chen ’14AD, the Crystal Medal winner in the 2013 Cliburn Competition, will play Birichino, commissioned for the Cliburn from YSM faculty composer Christopher Theofanidis.

Two other featured performers are YSM faculty: Benjamin Verdery will play Ingram Marshall’s Soe-Pa for amplified classical guitar with digital delays and electronics. Ezra Ladermans’s June 29th for solo flute, performed by Ransom Wilson, will close the concert. MORE

Published February 27, 2014
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[ in the press ]

Sean Chen: American Pianists Association Winner

sean-chen2__largeIllinois Public Media
Special Series: American Pianists Association
Classical Fellowship Awards Winner: Sean Chen

Chen won the year-long competition where five talented young musicians vied for a prize valued at more than $100,000, one of the most lucrative awards available to an American pianist. The finals took place from April 15-April 20 last year in Indianapolis, home of the APA.

The finalists, Sean Chen, Sara Daneshpour, Claire Huangci, Andrew Staupe and Eric Zuber, participated in a plethora of public, adjudicated concerts: solo recitals; chamber music with the Linden String Quartet; APA-commissioned premieres of new music by five prominent women composers (Lisa Bielawa, Margaret Brouwer, Gabriela Lena Frank, Missy Mazzoli and Sarah Kirkland Snider); a song recital with soprano Jessica Rivera; and concerto performances with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra under Gerard Schwarz . On April 20, Chen was named the APA’s 2013 Christel DeHaan Classical Fellow.

During the two-year fellowship, Chen will perform recitals and concertos with orchestras around the United States, and make a solo recording for the Steinway label, distributed by ArkivMusic. Chen, who grew up in Oak Park, Calif., is a Juilliard graduate currently pursuing his Artist Diploma at the Yale School of Music.


Published February 26, 2014
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CD review: Sean Chen, piano, Crystal Award winner of Cliburn Competition

chen-sean-cdAudiophile Audition
Reviewed by Gary Lemco

To call Van Cliburn Competition winner Sean Chen’s performances of Brahms, Beethoven, and Bartok “crystalline” does more than make a pun, as you can hear for yourself.

Brahms: Variations on an Original Theme, Op. 21, No. 1; Beethoven: Sonata No. 29 in B-flat Major, Op. 106, “Hammerklavier”; Bartók: Three Etudes, Op. 18. Harmonia mundi HMU 907607, 70:17, ****

Recorded in concert 24 May 9 June 2013 at Bass Performance Hall, Fort Worth, Texas, this composite recital by Sean Chen celebrates his participation at the Fourteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. Chen has chosen three works from distinct musical periods and aesthetics that realize aspects of his own consummate musicianship, the variation principle tying the works together. MORE

Published January 7, 2014
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[ in the press ]

Killeen Daily Herald: Cliburn finalist to perform at Temple CAC

chen-cliburnThe Killeen Daily Herald
By Steve Pettit

In 1978, the great Texas pianist Van Cliburn traveled to Temple for a noteworthy occasion. The Cultural Activities Center, at considerable cost, purchased the sine qua non of every serious classical music venue: a 9-foot Steinway “D” grand piano, and Cliburn, always gracious to a fault, agreed to personally dedicate the instrument.

It’s particularly fitting, then, that the same piano will be played by American-born Sean Chen, 24, Saturday at the CAC. Chen was a finalist in the 2013 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition — the first American to win the Silver Medal since 1997.

Presented jointly with the Temple Symphony Orchestra, the recital is part of the Central Texas Orchestral Society’s series at CAC.


Published October 25, 2013
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[ Convocation 2013 ]

Video Highlights from Convocation 2013

Published September 13, 2013
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[ events ]

Convocation welcomes new students, honors guests


From L to R: Robert Blocker, Stephen Adams, Denise Adams, Peter Salovey

At the School of Music’s annual Convocation on September 9, Dean Robert Blocker announced that the music complex centered around the renovated and expanded Hendrie Hall will be known as the Adams Center for Musical Arts when it opens in 2016. Stephen ’59BA and Denise Adams, benefactors of the School, were present to receive a framed architectural rendering of the future music center.

Convocation opens the academic year with the matriculation of the new students. Peter Salovey, in his first year as Yale’s president, installed the incoming class.

Peter Gelb, General Manager of the Metropolitan Opera, received the Samuel Simons Sanford Award, the School of Music’s most prestigious honor.  MORE

Published September 11, 2013
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Review: Sean Chen gives powerful performance with Fort Worth Symphony

By Punch Shaw
Special to DFW.com

FORT WORTH | He seemed to remember the piece just fine.

Pianist Sean Chen, the Crystal Award (third-place) winner in the 14th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, returned to Bass Hall on Sunday to close the Fort Worth Symphony’s three-concert Russian Festival with a performance of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3, the same concerto he performed in the Cliburn finals 11 weeks ago.

Maybe it was that previous experience, but the 24-year-old pianist, who grew up in California and lives in New Haven, Conn., where he is studying at Yale, certainly seemed at ease and in charge as he hung onto the knuckle-busting concerto like a veteran bronc rider who refuses to be thrown.

One of the things that separates Chen from other fellow virtuosos is his unadorned technique and matter-of-fact stage presence. He may have seemed so supremely in control Sunday because he largely eschews the showiness we often see with Cliburn competitors trying to make an impression.

Chen was smooth and confident from the concerto’s opening to its close. His abundant talent shone through, especially, in the work’s first-movement cadenza (solo), in which his playing made the statement that he understood this massive concerto and that he intended to own it.

As he moved through the concerto’s three movements, he met every challenge Rachmaninoff could throw at him and still had plenty of energy left to do justice to the piece’s keyboard-pounding finale. Chen was so dominant that the orchestra was almost was reduced to the role of bystander. But music director Miguel Harth-Bedoya and company certainly gave Chen the support he needed.

Chen followed his concerto with one of the most interesting encores Bass Hall has ever seen. After acknowledging an extended round of applause from the audience of about 1,500, Chen turned to two violinists and two cellists in the symphony and asked each of them to play a note of their choice. He then returned to his piano bench and did about three minutes of improvisation on those four notes.

It was an incredibly cool thing to do.


Published August 26, 2013
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