Jiebing Chen, erhu
Jiebing Chen has been hailed as one of the foremost erhu virtuosos in the world. Her renown is based on her mastery of the classical Chinese repertory for this two-stringed violin and her award-winning contemporary innovations. Miss Chen was the first to bring the erhu into the symphonic concert hall, performing as soloist with Chinese, American, and European orchestras. Perhaps most compelling of all are her achievements as a cross-cultural performer. Miss Chen has virtually reinvented the erhu for the 21st Century, performing with some of the most notable jazz and world music artists of our time. Her artistry has made her the most recorded erhu artist in the world, with over 20 CD titles available internationally.
Jiebing Chen began performing at age 6 in her native Shanghai. Because she was recognized as a child prodigy, her talent was saved during the Chinese Cultural Revolution when, at age 9, she was taken into the Chinese Navy Orchestra, one of China’s few musical organizations. She found herself playing martial music, as well as performing in the orchestra that accompanied Madame Mao’s “model operas.” As China began to open, Miss Chen studied with China’s most distinguished musicians and graduated with top honors from the Shanghai Conservatory of Music in 1982. That same year, she won first prize in the National Competition of Traditional Instruments in Beijing, the first year that the Ministry of Culture sponsored the competition after the Cultural Revolution. Soon afterward, she made her first major recording, Jiebing Chen Erhu Recital. This was the first solo erhu recording by industry leader China Records. Five years later, Miss Chen was the youngest performer to be named "National First Rank Performing Artist," the highest honor the Chinese Government awards to artists in recognition of their talent and achievements.
As a soloist with the Shanghai Symphony and Chamber Orchestras at the Shanghai Concert Hall, Miss Chen was the first to use the erhu as a solo instrument with Western orchestral accompaniment. Her radio and television broadcasts in China brought Miss Chen enormous popular acclaim and special recognition as one of the few erhu virtuosos in the country. She began to tour Australia, Asia, and Europe as a Chinese cultural exchange artist in "Marvelous Strings." Later she won the All-China "Best Player" award of the Shanghai Spring Festival. Since 1988, Miss Chen has frequently appeared as soloist with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, Shanghai Chamber Orchestra, and Shanghai Opera House.
In 1989 Miss Chen came to the U.S. to study at the State University of New York in Buffalo, earning a Masters in Music Theory. The total freedom that she felt in the U.S. deeply affected her exploration of the possibilities for her instrument and the ways in which it could be integrated into the classical and contemporary repertory for orchestra, along with other music styles, including jazz and Indian classical music.
Among the orchestras with which she has appeared are the Buffalo Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, New Moscow Symphony, Hungarian Symphony, Marin Symphony, Taipei Municipal Chinese Classical Orchestra, Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, New Century Chamber Orchestra, and Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. She has been featured at many Shanghai International Music Festivals and played the contemporary work Double Concerto for Violin and Erhu with the world-renowned violinist Cho-Liang Lin.
Stepping out in a new direction, Miss Chen gave a series of concerts with the Jon Jang Sextet and the Billy Taylor Trio in New York. These successful events led to an acclaimed 1998 concert at the International Jazz Festival in Beijing with the Jon Jang Sextet (James Newton, Jon Jang, Santi Debriano, Billy Hart, and David Murray). With fast-rising recognition and success in jazz and world music, Miss Chen recorded with the well-known American banjo player Bela Fleck, flutist James Newton, and Indian violinist Subramanian. Her CD Tabla Rasa, a collaboration with Bela Fleck and famed mohan vina interpreter Vishwa Bhatt, was nominated for a 1996 Grammy Award for Best World Music album.
In 1999 Miss Chen began a stellar collaboration with pianist and composer Jon Jang and legendary jazz percussionist Max Roach. Dedicated to fresh East-West jazz fusion, their Beijing Trio has toured Europe and the U.S., with dates at jazz festivals in Switzerland, Berlin, Milan, Chicago, Boston, and New York. Downbeat Magazine gave the Beijing Trio five stars.
Miss Chen has also made history as the first erhu player to perform with Indian artists. She appeared in the 4th East West Music and Dance Encounter in Bangalore, India, and has toured India with Vishwa Bhatt, and Vikram Ghosh on tabla.
Jiebing Chen’s career is still unfolding. Her horizons seem limitless. Her virtuosity and approach to the possibilities of her instrument continue to be groundbreaking, inspirational, and delightful.
October 22, 2005