Pi-hsien Chen,  陳必先 pianist

Pi-hsien Chen was born in Taipei in 1950. When she was nine, she left Taiwan and one year later entered the University of Music in Cologne, Germany. She grew up in the home of her teacher, Hans-Otto Schmidt-Neuhaus, who was also the teacher of Karlheinz Stockhausen, Christoph Eschenbach, and Péter Eötvös. She later studied with Hans Leygraf and also with Wilhelm Kempff, Claudio Arrau, Geza Anda, and Tatjana Nikolajewa.

In 1972, her carrier as pianist began when she won the First Prize at the International ARD Competition in Munich. Her special interest in Schoenberg and Bach also enabled her to win the Arnold Schoenberg Competition in Rotterdam and the Bach Competition in Washington, D.C.

She has performed in most of the major concert halls and with many of the world’s major orchestras, particularly almost every orchestra within the German radio system. Among the orchestras with whom she has appeared are the Royal Philharmonic, the London Symphony, the BBC Orchestra, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, the Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam, the Zurich Chamber Orchestra and Tonhalle Orchestra, as well as the NHK Orchestra in Tokyo. She has also been a partner in the Asko Ensemble in Amsterdam, Ensemble Modern in Frankfurt, and Ensemble Intercontemporain in Paris.

She has appeared in the festivals in Lucerne, Schwetzingen, Hong Kong, and Osaka, as well as the Berliner Festspiele, the Wien Modern festival, the Festival d’Autumne in Paris, the Strasbourg Festival, the South Bank Festival in London, the Huddersfield Festival, the BBC Proms, the Ruhr Piano Festival, and the festival in Roque d'Antéron. She represented German music at EXPO 2000 in Hanover, appearing with Alfons Kontarsky. She has been a frequent guest at the Donaueschingen Festival, and was one of six piano soloists in the world premiere of Georg Friedrich Haas's limited approximations in 2010.

Her dedication to new piano music evolved out of her collaboration with composers such as John Cage, Elliott Carter, Pierre Boulez, Karlheinz Stockhausen, György Kurtág, John Patrick Thomas, and Péter Eötvös, to whom she was married. An IRCAM documentary film by Walter Schels shows Boulez assisting Pi-hsien Chen as she prepares for the world premiere of his Douze Notations. In "Black and White", a documentary film about Elliott Carter, Pi-hsien Chen is the pianist in his Double Concerto for Harpsichord & Piano and Two Chamber Orchestras.

She was a professor specializing in contemporary piano music at the Universities of Music in Cologne and Freiburg. She has taught and performed at the "International Summer Courses” in Darmstadt, the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, and the Chinese Foundation for Performing Arts Summer Music Festival in Boston. The documentary film "Himmel voller Geigen" (shown on the German/French arts channel ARTE in 2014) examines Pi-hsien Chen’s role as a pioneer in Taiwan's musical life.

Her recordings include:

J.S.Bach Goldberg Variations (Naxos), Six Partitas (JazzWerkstatt)
  "The Art of the Fugue" (Feldgen)
Jean Barraqué Sonata (Telos)
John Patrick Thomas "Lost Landscapes" (Emrick Music)
W.A. Mozart Complete Sonatas and other Variations and Piano Pieces (6 CDs for Sunrise)
A. Schoenberg Complete Piano Music (Hat[now]Art)
O. Messiaen "Harawi" with Sigune von Osten, soprano (JazzWerkstatt)
Pierre Boulez Complete Sonatas and Notations (Hat[now]Art)
Pierre Boulez
John Cage
Structures I & II and
"Music For Piano" with Ian Pace

John Cage
Domenico Scarlatti

"Music of Changes" and
Nine Sonatas of Scarlatti 
Klavierstücke I-Vl and
Sonatas Op. 101 and Op. 111 
Xiaoyong Chen "Invisible Landscapes" (Radio Bremen)
York Hoeller Piano Works   (EDA)
Lei Liang "Tremors of a Memory Chord" (Naxos)

A newly released box set with live recordings of five recitals in Cologne’s Kolumba Museum (February-July 2017)



"Chen creates a masterful "Art of the Fugue". (Richard Buell, Boston Globe)

"...Ms Chen's recording of Jean Barraqué's Sonata is remarkable. She takes a sparkling, crystalline view of the music in a way that brings it near the music of Barraqué's principal French contemporary, Pierre Boulez...." (Paul Griffiths, The New York Times)

"...Pi-hsien Chen's opening to Beethoven's Bagatelles announced that the audience would be treated to musical universes that were clear and clean, contained and carefully considered and phrased…. In the carefully curated and bigger-scope-than-normal Scarlatti sonatas, Chen wielded a rich palette while expressing an enlightening variety of characters, lines, and moods within each sonata (which makes me think her Mozart might be special)...." www.classical-scene.com, 2004

"...Pi-hsien Chen interleaves the four books of the Music of Changes with nine Scarlatti keyboard sonatas.... The juxtaposition works wonderfully with the irregular multilayered sound masses of Cage's pieces. What links them here, though, is the sense of buoyancy and alertness that characterises all of Chen's playing... " (Andrew

Clements, The Guardian, U.K.)

“Pi-hsien Chen's playing was strikingly colorful and exciting, and the duo with Nicholas Kitchen played Mozart's Sonata with real Mozartian elegance....”  www.classical-scene.com 2016

“... Beethoven’s late works, with their startling degree of subjectivity, form a fascinating contrast to Stockhausen’s impersonal, coolly constructed world. One reason this functions without problem is because Pi-hsien Chen possesses a remarkable ability to inhabit both of these worlds. Unexpected contrasts take place; above all, the transition from Op. 101 to Klavierstück V is sensational. Everything fits, even better than in Pollini’s version….” (Max Nyffeler, NMZ, Schott Phono)


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Foundation for Chinese Performing Arts

Foundation for Chinese Performing Arts
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