Chen’s playing ‘devours’ the keyboard |

Chen’s playing ‘devours’ the keyboard

Autumn Phillips
What: Holiday Concert with pianist Wendy Chen When: Reception at 6:30 p.m. Concert begins at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday Where: Sheraton Steamboat Resort Hotel Grand Ballroom Tickets: $45; available at All That Jazz or at the Strings in the Mountains office Call: 879-5056 ext. 100.

Wendy Chen took a risk at age 15 and let the curtain close on her. She was being held up as a piano prodigy. She had a full schedule of concerts, and everyone’s eyes were on her.

Walking away from success seemed like career suicide, but on the advice of her teacher, Leon Fleisher, she did it.

Instead of letting the world watch her grow up on stage, possibly getting tired of her when she started to look like an adult, she practiced and studied and tried to come into her own behind closed doors.

When she agreed to leave the stage for a while, Fleisher made Chen call all the concert promoters to cancel her performances.

“I was a shy teenager, and they would yell at me,” Chen said. “They said, quote, ‘You won’t be young and cute forever.’ In this world where you are only as good as your last performance, I risked closing a lot of open doors.”

Chen worked on her craft and reappeared on stage at 25.

Again, on the advice of her teacher, she re-entered the classical music world by entering competitions.

“I went for it,” she said. “I entered everything I could think of to take the focus off of one huge thing.”

Chen won the 1997 Young Concert Artists International Auditions and was awarded the Bruce Hungerford Prize. Her career was relaunched.

Wednesday’s concert will be Chen’s third time on stage in Steamboat Springs. She played with violinist Chee Chee-Yun and returned this summer as part of a chamber music concert during Strings in the Mountains’ summer concert series.

This will be her first solo concert.

Chen’s talent is her range of emotion at the keyboard.

In press material, David Pocock, executive director of the American Pianists Association, was quoted as saying, “(Chen) has the fastest fingers of any pianist I know. In an age when so many can play fast, she can play even faster. She devours the keyboard.”

“I get comments that I play like a man,” Chen said. “Being a woman, you show up, and sometimes they don’t expect much of you, but you don’t have to be 300 pounds to play the piano. I derive my strength from my whole body, and I have the stamina to keep that up for an entire concert.”

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