A message of hope and honoring of heroes sent via cyberspace
"Astor Piazzolla’s “Libertango” ranks among the Argentine composer’s more frequently performed works, but this time it appeared in a less familiar guise: an arrangement by Jeff Scott of the Imani Winds. Conductor Chen led the Sinfonietta’s wind quintet in an idiomatic reading that captured the rhythmic charm and lyric elegance of Piazzolla’s original.
... The Sinfonietta shed additional light on [Florence] Price’s oeuvre with a string orchestra arrangement of the second movement of her String Quartet in G Major. Conductor Chen’s performance showed that there’s more to Price’s art than just its graceful melodic lines, the conductor bringing forth subtle harmonic underpinnings.
Most of this year’s planned tributes to Beethoven’s 250th birthday have been canceled due to the pandemic, so one welcomed the Sinfonietta’s contribution, which proved characteristically unorthodox. Rather than offer something wholly familiar, Chen led the Sinfonietta strings in Jeffrey L. Briggs' arrangement of two movements from Beethoven’s Piano Sonata Op. 13, “Pathetique.” This may have seemed like a bit of a stunt, in that this music is so inherently pianistic. But there were new pleasures to be drawn from this arrangement. In the adagio cantabile second movement (mistakenly identified onscreen as the third movement), Chen conjured considerable tenderness and introspection. And in the last movement, the conductor took a slower tempo than pianists usually do, giving the music a degree of grandeur it rarely receives.
The concert opened with Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man” and included Valerie Coleman’s arrangement of the South African National Anthem. Both works proved the value of elegantly stated populism and underscored the Sinfonietta’s message of optimism in the face of global adversity."
— Howard Reich,
"The Chicago Sinfonietta, which is 47 percent female, we’re told, plays superbly under Mei-Ann Chen, and the engineering is up to the high standards of the house. This is music well worth getting to know, and more importantly, worthy of repetition, and hence well worth collecting." -David Hurwitz (review excerpt) Read More...
— David Hurwitz,
"Something splattering by Evelyn Glennie and recreation Read More...
First a sparkling fire symphony by Haydn, which demonstrated how much period performance practice is cultivated in the recreation Barock series. Then the large-size sound of the overwhelming musician Wagner, here Wotan's pastose Farewell and Magic Fire Music from the Valkyrie. And after the intermission the orchestra served a thoughtful, paprika seasoned Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 5 - under the baton of the likewise accurate and brilliantly acting First Guest Conductor Mei-Ann Chen. But this was just a warm-up for the spectacular “Water Concerto for water percussion and orchestra” by the Chinese Tan Dun, for which Evelyn Gelennie crept into the rows of the Stefaniensaal like a goblin and made the Waterphon screech with a violin bow. What the magic hands of the 54-year-old Scottish woman and her colleagues Ulrike Stadler and Janos Figula performed in the following 30 minutes with their bells, gongs, bowls, slapstick cups, tubes, flip-flops, etc. in and around four basins of water - “splattering” in both senses of the expression - became an ecstasy of sound, with shimmering to crowing orchestral shouts, a symphony in H2O major with a show factor, but also great depth." (translation)
— Die Kleine Zeitung
"Haydn's 'Fire Symphony' and Wagner's 'Magic Fire Music' on the one hand, and the water concert by the Chinese composer Tan Dun on the other: The recreation orchestra and conductor Mei-Ann Chen paid homage to the elements. As much as the music blazed at first - in the end Tan Dun's spectacular work floated on top.
Plastic basins filled with water, floating bamboo bowls, flip-flops knocking on tubes, the stage bathed in blue light. Welcome to the world of Tan Dun's water concert! There was splashing, plunging, splattering around and diving.
Water at the stage of an orchestra concert? Elsewhere, that would be a matter for the facility manager, but for Tan Dun this is a program: Water is an instrument. The sound range is wide, the three percussionists, especially Evelyn Glennie, knock and beat like there’s no tomorrow. The orchestra tries to keep step behind splash protection walls, rapid glissandi pick up the flow of percussion, then pizzicati drip again on the stage. Tan Dun's concert is a feast for all senses, a playful approach, a welcome anomaly in the concert hall. In the end, they extinguished the fire of the first half, which had flickered so beautifully in Haydn's Symphony No. 59 and Wagner's Valkyrie Fire Magic. 'Walle walle, Wasser fließe…'*: The enthusiasm also captured the audience, who cheered the courage of this performance. " (Translation)
*quote from Goethe’s Ballad DER ZAUBERLEHRLING (Enchanting Apprentice)
"As soon as conductor Mei-Ann Chen entered the stage, a smile spread throughout the orchestra. And of course she is an energizing catalyst on the podium, perfect on Valentines Day." (translation) Gävle Symfoniorkester Feb. 14, 2020 concert
— Camilla Dahl,
"Chen closed the evening with the finale of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, “Resurrection,” which featured sumptuous work from soprano Summer Hassan, mezzo-soprano Leah Dexter and the combined North Central College Concert Choir and the Roosevelt University Conservatory Chorus. ... Chen shaped it to telling effect." Read More...
— Howard Reich,
"Brahm's cherished Haydn variations on a theme by Haydn were performed, a music whose stately final is built as a passagaglia and ended in richly colored music, which the orchestra performed in all its splendor with an energetic Mei-Ann Chen as a driving force.... ...in 20 minutes the 3-piece concert by Thomas Adès becomes magical and the orchestra with Mei-Ann Chen's capacity accompanies that honor." (translation) Read More...
— Bengt Hultman,
"But above all, the conductor Mei-Ann Chen should have all the honor of the overwhelming impression "Terra nostra" made. Along with a slightly reduced, yet sounding HSO, she took the audience by storm. It was a very long time since such a newly written work in this format was received with such great enthusiasm."
With the Helsingborg Concert Choir, the Gothenburg Cathedral Girl Choir and the St. Eriksolisterna. Mei-Ann Chen, conductor. Helsingborg Concert Hall 13/10. Read More...
— Helsingborgs Dagblad
NDR Radio Philharmonic on Gut Varrel Of courage and music
Women and their courage were the focus of the Niedersächsische Musiktage in the barn Varrel. Works by two women were heard, and two other women were actively involved....For there were only a few women in the past centuries who had the courage to assert themselves as composers and other creative artists in the art scene. These included two practically present ones on Thursday evening - and two whose works were heard.
The two composers who belonged to these latter were Anna Thorvaldsdottir (born 1977) and Clara Schumann (1819-1896). Present in special positions were again the other two courageous, namely conductor Mei-Ann Chen on the rostrum of the NDR Radiophilharmonie and the pianist Lise de la Salle. Together with the famous orchestra, a total of three works were intoned.
...The "Hrim" by Icelander Thorvaldsdottir, written in 2009, was the beginning of an unusual kind. ...the ears enjoyed spherical sound-worlds between chirping, whispering and wing-beating, sometimes darker shadows.
...Clara Schumann Piano Concerto No. 1 in A minor op. 7,... ...What followed was simply mind-blowing. ...
...Symphony no. 2 in C major op. 61 by Robert Schumann was like an intoxicating party, sometimes with more gentle nuances. ... a spirited conductor whirled and made for excitement in the well-visited Gutsscheune. Long applause and many cheers rounded off the two-hour concert experience." (Translation)
— Weser-kurier (Germany)
"Chen LED with clear language, rhythm and lovely positive energy. The Orchestra responded to the dance of the conductor with desire and inspiration." (translation) Read More...
— Harri Hautala,
"Mei-Ann Chen leads the Sinfonietta in propulsive performances of all six works. There’s more than enough rhythmic energy to go around but these aren’t simply muscular readings: the Price, Esmail, and Higdon scores are craftily phrased, while the Assad and Montgomery works gambol amiably. In all, then, this is a timely and inviting winner of an album." Read More...
— Jonathan Blumhofer,
"This is the most exciting, high-energy orchestra I've listened to this season, the Bilkent Symphony Orchestra on April 27, 2019. The concert was titled "Spanish Elegance" but two of the composers were French, only one was Spanish. It was a natural result of the mutual/reciprocal artistic engagement between France and Spain.
Taiwanese-American female conductor Mei-Ann Chen (b.1973) is an energetic conductor who cannot stand still, and communicates with the orchestra using big and small hand gestures.
French composer Emmanuel Chabrier's (1941-1894) after his visit to Spain, wrote Espana, a concerto influenced by the Spanish melodies and dances of his travels. The eagerly awaited cellist Andreas Brantelid (D. 1987) came from Spain for Eduard Lalo's (1823-1892) Cello Concerto in D Minor. One of the North's top cellists, In Lalo's concerto, we witnessed a 31-year-old with a great deal of maturity. ... His 1707 "Boni-Gegar" Stradivarius had great influence on his high-tech technique, adding to his great artistry.
In the second half of the concert we heard the first of Joaquin Turina's (1992-1949) two Spanish suites, composed of three dances titled Danzas fantasticas, ollowed by George Bizet's (1838-1875) edited version of Carmen, the most popular opera in the world. The conductor led the orchestra with a snappy mobility, applauding all groups one by one, always applauding to the audience. Honestly, they all deserved applause. "
— Sefik Kahramankaptan,
"As if the Mendelssohn concerto needed more energy last weekend, guest conductor Mei-Ann Chen was on hand to lead that orchestral accompaniment to Shaub’s engaging take. Chen literally radiates energy from the time she walks on stage, that energy becoming precision and passion from the first downbeat. And, importantly, she clearly has a finely tuned sense of what requires prominence and what requires collaboration.
Using various pieces from incidental music that Weber composed for a play based on the Turandot story, Hindemith brightened the colors and expanded the sonic appeal, adding substantial depth and interest. Chen submerged herself in those textures and in that depth—sans score—muscling the sections of orchestral sound about as paint on a palette. The second movement, the Turandot Scherzo, was electric and mindboggling, pulling jazz colors from the KSO brass and winds. Chen brought the Andantino third movement down to lyrical earth and to a degree of strange gentleness, saving up power and sonic strength for the deliciously eccentric, exuberant, and rambunctious finale March that was executed with perfection." Read More...
— Alan Sherrod,
Tonal Evolution: Great New Music That Makes Room for Tunes
"Debates about new music have always focused mainly on styles that have caught listeners off guard. ...But the best of this music is almost always more than a prefix suggests. ...Nor is it about to vanish, as several new releases offering works by composers born in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, make clear. River Oaks Chamber Orchestra (ROCO), a flexible chamber orchestra based in Houston, has devoted its debut recording, Visions Take Flight (Innova, 2 CDs) to six recent neo-Romantic scores. They are all steeped in tonality and built, at least partially, on traditional structural models, but they are also different enough that their composers’ thumbprints shine through."
— Allan Kozinn,
San Francisco Classical Voice
Classical Music CD Review: ROCO’s “Visions Take Flight”
"All of the performances, led with elegant command by Mei-Ann Chen, may as well be considered definitive. ROCO plays with terrific technical command, certainly, but also with a real sense of style and abandon. Just listen to the blazing colors of the Al-Zand, or the biting rhythms of Teen Murti, or the manic glee that marks parts of Jabberwocky and try not to get drawn in.
Actually, don’t do that. Just give in. After all, Visions Take Flight is one of those rarest of accomplishments: a contemporary music album that’s a sheer joy to listen to, from start to finish. Those come along, well, pretty rarely."
— Jonathan Blumhofer,
Visions Take Flight: ROCO Impresses with Debut Album of New Music
"Visions Take Flight begins with Al-Zand’s Visions from Another World (2008), an apt choice to introduce the capabilities of the ensemble. In the playful first and third movements, lively, simple melodies are passed around the instrumental families of the orchestra, which plays with energy and precision under the direction of conductor Mei-Ann Chen. ... there’s more than enough substance to make Visions Take Flight an impressive debut. It is unusual to see an orchestra of any size make its first recorded statement a collection of new music, let alone all self-commissioned works. The performances throughout are full of verve and musicality, and the technical quality of the recordings is excellent."
— Jeffrey Young,
I Care If You Listen
ROCO: Visions Tak Flight CD Review
"There's one reason in particular why Visions Take Flight, the double-CD debut release by ROCO, the Houston-based River Oaks Chamber Orchestra, nabbed the number nine slot in textura's 2018 list of top classical releases. It's not because the performances are stellar, which they are, and not because the ensemble plays magnificently, which it does. No, it's because when ROCO selected works to include on the release, the musicians selected their favourite pieces from the group's repertoire and the five chosen from the then fifty-eight available (the total now seventy-five) constitute an incredible sampling of material by living American composers. It's this that recommends the release most, though the realizations by the ensemble, conducted by Mei-Ann Chen, are as impressive. "
Review of ROCO: Visions Take Flight
"A flexible, large ensemble that plays to the manor born, even when performing recent commissioned pieces, it's modern classical music without artifice when it boils things down to the chops that really matter. Delightfully played, this is a set for moldy figs and newbies to enjoy together without quibble. Well done."
— Chris Spector,
Review: Superstar pianist Lang Lang energizes sold-out Symphony Hall crowd
"Chen and the ASO followed with Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 in G minor, K. 550, the middle child among his three final symphonies, all written within a matter of weeks during the summer of 1788. The Serenade and the Symphony were approached in a rather muscular way, evidenced both by sound and Chen’s conducting gestures. That character was enhanced by the use of a large complement of strings, rather than one more consistent with the 18th century in size. But it was most evident through Chen’s vigorous, robust approach to the music, particularly to shaping phrases. This energy propelled the Symphony No. 40, and Chen’s understanding and handling of the opening bars of the first movement paid ode to the approach taught to many of us by Leonard Bernstein in one of his television broadcasts about the piece."
— Mark Gresham,
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Lang Lang
"The program was a kind of 'Mozart’s Greatest Hits'. Eine kleine Nachtmusik was given a sparkling performance. Sometimes being a guest conductor can ignite a fire in an orchestra and there was no doubt that Ms. Chen lit one here; she infused a new energy into the orchestra’s performance. In the first movement Allegro, the violins were silky and performed with a refined lightness and outstanding ensemble. The basses, too, were energetic, powerful and precise. The languorous Andante was polished and sounded intimate, in spite of the large number of strings employed. Ms. Chen chose a slightly brisk tempo for the Allegretto. By the Allegro finale, Chen had set expectations for tight dynamics and precise entrances, and she delivered.The ASO strings provided a winning execution of this familiar favourite; lean, smooth and with beautifully sculpted dynamics. ... The Allegretto [of Mozart's Piano Concerto no. 24 in C minor] was bold; Chen and Lang were in lockstep in extracting the beauty, creativity and energy of the finale."
— William E. Ford,
Chicago Sinfonietta celebrates the American immigration experience in Boyer’s up
"...the orchestra played with great polish and commitment under Chen who deftly handled the alternating spoken and musical elements with clear stop-and-go cues.... The Danzon No. 2 by Arturo Marquez has become the Mexican composer’s sole repertoire piece to such an extent that one sometimes wonders if there really is a Danzon No. 1. Chen led a worthy performance of this overplayed work, bringing idiomatic lilt to the tango-like opening theme and syncopated bite to the ensuing dances, leading the music in her own Terpsichorean manner."
— Lawrence Johnson,
Santa Rosa Symphony
“Chen is diminutive but powerful, with an exacting style of conducting that commands attention.”
“Chen displayed almost everything you could want from a conductor: musicality, confidence, wonderful technique, and restless enthusiasm.”(Santa Rosa Symphony)
— Steve Osborn,
Santa Rosa Symphony
“Her controlled yet fluid conducting style combined clear cues and beats with sweeping, circular gestures reminiscent of the great maestro Seiji Ozawa.” (Santa Rosa Symphony)
— Diane Peterson,
The Press Democrat (CA)
Conductor Mei-Ann Chen Elicits Impressive Work From Symphony Silicon Valley
“a vivid and energetic conductor”
— David Bratman,
Guest Conductor Mei-Ann Chen Leads a Joyous KSO Through an Inspired and Eclectic
“The evening’s diverse program took yet another turn with the concluding work: Igor Stravinsky’s 1919 Suite from The Firebird, music drawn from the composer’s first ballet collaboration with the Ballet Russes in Paris. It was in this magical, fairy-story work that one recognized Chen’s ability to plumb the depths of an orchestra’s potential and inspire joy and energetic performance from the players.”
— Alan Sherrod,
Malmo Symphony Orchestra
“The performance indeed offered a captivating and inspired interpretation.” (translation)
— Carlhakan Larsen,
"Taiwanese-born conductor Mei-Ann Chen... drew a richly romantic sound from the orchestra. ...The program began with Mozart’s overture to “The Magic Flute” and ended with Schubert’s Fourth Symphony. Chen conducted all of it with weight, precision and an intensity that sometimes became breathless."
— Lawrence Toppman,
Grand Rapids Symphony
"Grand Rapids Symphony's Classical Series concert, which repeats tonight, isn't easily explained. But it was exciting to experience. In part, that's due to the popularity of music by Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein. But mostly it's due to the incomparable Time for Three as guest artists and to the irrepressible Mei-Ann Chen as guest conductor. ... Chen... was a colorful, even flamboyant, conjuror of sounds and crafter of textures. The orchestra clearly was having a good time."
— Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk,
Sarasota Orchestra presents tour de force under guest conductor Chen
"The deeply-resonant opening chords [of Rimski-Korsakov's Scheherazade] contrasting the near transparent pianissimo wind chords that followed stand as a simple testament to the extreme capabilities of these musicians. What seemed simple at first carried through the musical and technical demands of the entire work. The string tone, magnificent in the lush romantic melodies, was coupled with excellent solo turns by all the winds and brass. By the conclusion we were spent by Chen’s exhilarating tempos of the tour de force performance."
— Gayle Williams,
Herald Tribune (Sarasota, FL)
Review of Delights and Dances
"This album contains three twentieth century works for string quartet and orchestra in the baroque concerto grosso tradition: where a smaller ensemble (here the string quartet) is contrasted with a larger ensemble – the orchestra. ...Delights and Dances lives up to its title.... ...Benjamin Lees (1924-2010) Concerto for String Quartet and Orchestra (1964) is a more serious and modern work. ...This is an exhilarating and significant American concerto, and the Harlem Quartet and Chicago Sinfonietta play it for all it’s worth. Chinese composer An-Lun Huang’s Sabei Dance is a crowd-pleasing four-minute work whose oriental lyricism clears the palate and prepares the listener for conductor, composer and arranger Randall Craig Fleischer’s West Side Story Concerto. ...the performance and recording of Fleischer’s arrangement is superb.... ... the whole album is easy to enjoy."
— John Sunier/Robert Moon,