Han Chen

A fearless performer with seemingly limitless imagination and possessed with uncanny energy, pianist Han Chen plays scores old and new with rare rigor and insight. Attending “Infinite Staircase,” Mr. Chen’s recent traversal of the 18 Ligeti Etudes and 18 accompanying world premieres, George Grella titled his review:  Han Chen’s remarkable playing equal to the genius of Ligeti’s Etudes and went on to exclaim:

…he was astonishing, with some of the finest pianism one has ever witnessed. Beyond sheer dexterity, this was tremendously musical playing, with every phrase clear and pointed in a certain direction, fluid control of dynamics and form, a combination of articulation and force that was hard to believe. One had the feeling that Chen was deep inside the work, opening up every detail of Ligeti’s musical personality. His energy and stamina within each Étude and through the whole concert were extraordinary. — New York Classical Review, September 25, 2023

Reviewing this event in I Care If You Listen, Lana Norris summarized it as a “marathon of canonical music and new works that displayed exquisite programming, stupendous technique, and forward-thinking expansion of classical music’s best traditions.” September 28, 2023

Gold Medalist at the 2013 China International Piano Competition and a prizewinner at the 2018 Honens International Piano Competition, Mr. Chen has also been praised by Gramophone as “impressively com-manding and authoritative” and further cited by The New York Times for his “graceful touch,” “rhythmic precision” and “hypnotic charm.”

Mr. Chen’s musical vision is manifest in his four solo Naxos CDs focusing on Franz Liszt, Anton Rubinstein, Thomas Adès, and György Ligeti’s Complete Piano Études. Reviewing the Ligeti recording in the August 2023 issue of Gramophone, Jed Distler wrote:

[He is] one of the few pianists who handles both gnarly contemporary scores and over-the-top Romantic showpieces with equal authority and style…he surmounts the sophisticated rhythmic challenges of Ligeti’s Études to a T, while infusing them with plenty of tonal allure and personality. Chen aims for clarity and balance over sheer speed, yielding steadier results and more cogent interplay between the hands. Within the gorgeous expanding and contracting textures of ‘Cordes à vide,’ Han makes expressive points through voicing and hand balance alone…[and exhibits] meticulous and consistent détaché/sostenuto differentiation throughout ‘Fanfares.’ He patiently spins out the shifting rhythmic patterns of ‘Entrelacs’ as if the keyboard were an expansive and seamless canvas.

Mr. Chen is equally a powerful performer of the classic piano repertoire. Reviewing Mr. Chen performing Beethoven’s Sonata No. 29 Op. 106 Hammerklavier, Lee Eiseman of The Boston Music Intelligencer had this to say:

Oxygenated by powerful intellectual bellows and endowed with muscular forearms, Chen didn’t just hammer Beethoven’s formidably relentless and ever-modern challenge to pianists and listeners; with fire and tempering plunges he alternately annealed, welded, sintered, and sensitively stretched the well-wrought iron into impressive curls and shapely forms. His carefully plotted interpretations conveyed nuance and compelling gesture through very well-graduated colorations and dynamics from white hot to warmly glowing. No two repeated chords sounded the same. Chen’s Beethoven seemed to anticipate Berg and Ligeti on this night. (August 19, 2023)

He has appeared as soloist with the Calgary Philharmonic, Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, Lexington Philharmonic, Hong Kong Philharmonic, National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra, China Symphony Orchestra, and Xiamen Philharmonic. In December 2022 he made his Lincoln Center debut with Riverside Symphony at Alice Tully Hall performing Mozart’s early masterwork, the Piano Concerto No. 9, le Jeunehomme. Mr. Chen has performed as solo recitalist internationally. In demand as a chamber musician, he is a core member of Ensemble Échappé while regularly collaborating with The Metropolis Ensemble. In 2021, Chen launched Migration Music, an ongoing series of performances and interviews with immigrant composers.

Han Chen has studied with Yoheved Kaplinsky, Wha Kyung Byun, and Ursula Oppens at The Juilliard School, New England Conservatory, and CUNY Graduate Center.

Han Chen Photo

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(Watch the full concert recap on Metropolis Ensemble’s Youtube Channel)