Violinist likely to spark her own fireworks at the Bowl

Sarah Chang, the globe-trotting, 24-year-old master violinist, one of classical music’s hot tickets, made her impressive Hollywood Bowl debut at age 11 -- with three years of professional concerts in the U.S., Europe and Asia already under her belt.

She returns to the Bowl on Tuesday to perform Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto No. 1 with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted by Leonard Slatkin.

“What I love about the piece,” she said by phone from New York, “is that it’s deep and dramatic, it’s disturbing, it has exciting virtuosic fireworks and then repressed melancholy sections -- I love how it explores every human emotion.”

Playing at the Bowl is always a high for her too, Chang said. She was “totally psyched” the first time, and whenever she returns, “the sheer excitement of being there never goes away.”


Born in Philadelphia to Korean parents, Chang began piano lessons at 3 1/2 and was studying violin at 4. By age 8, she was performing with major orchestras.

She fell in love with the violin for its lyrical quality and its physicality, Chang said.

“You can hold it, it’s almost a part of you, and to me, the most beautiful sound is the singer’s voice, and I think the violin is one instrument closest to that.”

The youngest musician to receive the prestigious Avery Fisher Award for instrumentalists (in 1999) and the youngest to receive the Hollywood Bowl’s Hall of Fame award (in 2004), Chang is proud of her accomplishments but intent on growing as a musician.


“I started so insanely young that I was the youngest this and that for a very, very long time. But ultimately every musician’s goal is to be regarded as a great musician.

“There’s always something to learn, and with every orchestra, every conductor comes a new wave of fresh new ideas and new ways to interpret.”

Chang attributes her success to the stability provided by her parents and other “very, very good people looking after me and caring for me” as she has matured and to genuinely loving what she does.

“That’s the one thing that nobody can really teach.”


-- Lynne Heffley