Violist Beatrice Chen on the Latest Episode of WHYY's "On Stage at Curtis"

The award-winning violist from Chicago performs works by Jessie Montgomery and Debussy

Season 17 of WHYY’s acclaimed On Stage at Curtis series continues with a portrait of violist Beatrice Chen. First prize winner of the 2018 Johansen International Competition for Young String Players and a three-time first prize winner of the American Protégé International Concerto Competition, Ms. Chen recently joined the viola section of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on September 19, 2022, under the baton of legendary conductor Riccardo Muti.

As a child, Ms. Chen began her musical studies by playing the piano. When she discovered her brother was taking cello lessons, she decided to “one up him” and briefly began playing the violin. During her first youth orchestra rehearsal, she accidentally stepped on the instrument and destroyed it. She decided to take up the viola instead and fell in love with the instrument, which led to further orchestral and chamber music performances, each more successful than the last.

While at Curtis, Ms. Chen explored the viola repertoire to its fullest, signed up for recitals to gain additional experience, auditioned for the principal viola position with the Curtis Symphony Orchestra, and worked in the orchestra library, immersing herself in all aspects of the school and what it could offer her as a student.

Audiences have long clamored for music to be more accessible. Ms. Chen discusses how isolation created an opportunity during the pandemic for artists to offer live streams and free concerts for the public. She believes this is important for the future of music and brings classical music lovers from across the globe together. 

Featured performances include Jessie Montgomery’s Rhapsody No. 1 and 2 and Debussy’s Sonata for Flute, Viola, and Harp, which she describes as magically surreal, full of ideas, colors, and textures that blend to create a memorable dreamscape.

Click HERE to watch the On Stage at Curtis episode, or click the video below.

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