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Li-Kuo Chang: “The Viola Is More Complicated to Being Played Well Than the Violin in Many Ways, Simply Because the Viola Is Not a Well-Proportioned Instrument”


Li-Kuo Chang’s musical journey, as detailed in this interview, is a testament to his enduring passion for and dedication to music. Initiated into the world of classical music at a young age through piano, his switch to the violin, and later to the viola during China’s tumultuous Cultural Revolution, marked pivotal moments in his musical evolution. Despite the challenges of the time, Chang’s perseverance led him to become a distinguished violist.

Chang’s transition from China to the United States further shaped his trajectory, as he seized opportunities to study and play with renowned musicians. His experiences encompass collaborations with celebrated conductors such as Daniel Barenboim, Bernard Haitink, and Riccardo Muti. Each maestro, deeply rooted in the Central European tradition, brought unique perspectives, enriching Chang’s understanding of the Austro-German core symphonic repertoire. From the epic intensity of Solti to Barenboim’s emotional expressiveness, Haitink’s dignified approach, and Muti’s operatic finesse, Chang highlights the distinct qualities of each conductor.

Beyond orchestral experiences, Chang’s chamber music collaborations with luminaries like Barenboim, Christoph Eschenbach, Yo-Yo Ma, and Pinchas Zukerman have left an indelible mark. The guidance and influence of these musicians, particularly Zukerman, have significantly shaped Chang’s artistic journey. He underscores the importance of studying their playing styles and draws attention to the complexity of mastering the viola, a unique instrument with its challenges and nuances.

Aspiring violists, Chang suggests, should look to the exemplary playing of Pinchas Zukerman and study the vibrato technique of David Oistrakh on the viola. Chang emphasizes the intricacies of producing a pleasing sound on the viola, acknowledging its disproportionate size compared to its register. His insightful advice encourages aspiring violists to remain sensitive to the nuanced interplay of pressure, contact point, and bow speed. Throughout the interview, Li-Kuo Chang’s narrative unfolds as a rich tapestry of resilience, learning, and unwavering passion for music.

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ISSN: 2792-8349

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International Journal of Music