ray chen

Ray Chen with his Stradivarius: 'You feel like the power of the sound is there when you play it.'

Professional musicians often speak of a “connection” between themselves and their instruments. Classical violinist Ray Chen has a deeper link than most.

The former owner of his 1715 Stradivarius is a 19th-century Hungarian violinist who premiered the piece Chen will perform as guest soloist for the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra on Thursday and Friday nights.

Chen's violin was once the instrument of Joseph Joachim, who premiered German composer Max Bruch’s “Scottish Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra” for the Liverpool Philharmonic Society in 1881 -- with Bruch conducting. 

Even though Joachim didn't acquire this particular violin until several years later, Chen is still in awe at being able to connect with its rich musical history, he said.

The Stradivarius, on indefinite loan to Chen by a Japanese foundation since 2014, “was in the presence of Bruch when the ink was still drying, so to speak. That’s pretty cool,” Chen said. “You feel like the power of the sound is there when you play it. It’s very impactful. It makes you feel more confident when you possess such an instrument.”

Along with “Scottish Fantasy,” the LPO also will perform Joaquín Turina’s “Danzas fantásticas” and Sergei Prokofiev’s “Suite from Romeo and Juliet” at the Orpheum Theater in New Orleans and at First Baptist Church in Covington on successive nights.

LPO music director Carlos Miguel Prieto will conduct both performances.

Chen, who has played violin since the age of 4, has performed this four-movement piece many times in North America, Europe, Asia and his native Australia.

In terms of levels of difficulty, he said, “I would rank it pretty high up there. There are not many pieces I could name that would rank higher. It’s very technically challenging.”

The piece features prominent passages from the harp, an instrument Chen said “has that kind of Celtic feel to it. It has always been a traditional instrument from Scotland and that area.”

“Scottish Fantasy" summons up images of the beautiful, rolling green highlands of Scotland. 

“This is one of those pieces that speaks to everyone,” Chen added. “It depicts the emotions and the images so well. It doesn’t matter how old or young you are or how experienced or inexperienced a concertgoer you are, this is something that everyone can relate to and enjoy. I’m looking forward to bringing it to New Orleans.”

The program lasts about two hours, including a 20-minute intermission. A pre-concert talk starts an hour before show time.  


Bruch's “Scottish Fantasy”

Performed by the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra

Carlos Miguel Prieto conducting.

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday

WHERE: Thursday, Orpheum Theater, 129 Roosevelt Way, New Orleans, and Friday, First Baptist Church of Covington, 16333 La. 1085, Covington

TICKETS: $20-$140 New Orleans; $20-$55 Covington

INFO: (504) 523-6530. lpomusic.com