Rising star Kevin Chen debuts in Ottawa


Rising star Kevin Chen will make his Ottawa-area debut in the Master Piano Recital Series on September 23 at Southminster United Church.

By Roland Graham

The Master Piano Recital Series (MPRS) opens its 2023-24 season with yet another exciting exclusive presentation. On Saturday, September 23 at 7:30 p.m., 18-year-old, Calgary-based virtuoso Kevin Chen will make his Ottawa debut at Southminster United Church, playing a program of works by Mendelssohn, Chopin, Liszt and Scriabin on a nine-foot Steinway D606 grand piano.

Born in 2005, Kevin Chen started his piano studies at age five. Showing extraordinary ability early on, he’d made his orchestra debut by the time he was seven, playing with the Abbotsford Youth Orchestra, and, by age eight, he’d been named to CBC’s list of Hot Canadian Classical Musicians Under 30.

Virtually a household name in music circles in his hometown, Chen has been in the Calgary news numerous times over the years for noteworthy milestones in his remarkable formation, including most recently for top prizes in some of the world’s most prestigious music competitions.

In March, Chen won first prize in the 17th Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition in Tel Aviv – past winners include luminaries such as Emanuel Ax, Janina Fialkowska, and Daniil Trifonov. Just six months prior, last November, he took the top prize at the International Music Competition in Geneva.

In parallel with his competition victories, Chen has begun to establish himself on the international scene as an orchestral soloist, having appeared with distinguished ensembles including the Edmonton Symphony and Calgary Philharmonic Orchestras, the Hungarian National Orchestra, the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande and the Israel Philharmonic and Jerusalem Symphony Orchestras.

Following that same theme, Chen will appear here in Ottawa next spring with the National Arts Centre Orchestra, playing Camille Saint-Saëns’ Piano Concerto No. 2 under the baton of Alexander Shelley. But you can hear him first in this more intimate and unfiltered setting, playing a wonderful solo program of gems from the classical piano canon, as his official Ottawa-area debut.

Kevin Chen Ottawa Debut Program

Mendelssohn: Prelude and Fugue in B-flat major, Op. 35, No. 6

Mendelssohn, Variations sérieuses, Op. 54

Chopin, 12 Études, Op. 10

Liszt, Années de pèlerinage, 1st year, ‘Les cloches de Genève,’ S. 160, No. 9

Liszt, Années de pèlerinage, 3rd year, ‘Les jeux d’eaux à la Villa d’Este,’ S. 163, No. 4

Liszt, Réminiscences de Norma, S. 394

Scriabin, Sonata No. 7, Op. 64

Known for having a keen eye for talent, the Master Piano Recital Series has presented the regional debuts of other wonderful artists over the years, such as Charles Richard-Hamelin, Sofya Gulyak, Bruce Liu, Simone Dinnerstein and George Li.

The availability of a superb new 9-foot concert Steinway – which several artists have described as the finest piano in Canada – certainly doesn’t hurt the series’ ability to attract top talent. Paying credit where credit is due, Steinway D606 found its permanent home at Southminster United Church in 2020 following a community fundraiser, led by myself, that raised enough money for the church to purchase the piano outright.

Chen’s September recital itself is being made possible by patron generosity. As a local music lover, Marg Campbell, an MPRS founding patron and someone who gives generously to many Ottawa-based classical music organizations, has lent her support to this MPRS exclusive event.

For tickets and information, search “Kevin Chen + Ottawa” on Eventbrite.ca.

Roland Graham is artistic director and founder of the Master Piano Recital Series.

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