Sarah Chang & Theodore Kuchar Talk Music, On And Off Stage
Violinist Sarah Chang and conductor Theodore Kuchar have worked together for years, with performances in Central California with the Fresno Philharmonic, and around the world with other orchestras, most recently on a three week tour of South Africa in 2013. Chang, who is performing in Fresno this weekend to celebrate the orchestra's 60th anniversary joined us in the studio with Maestro Kuchar to talk about her career and her relationship with the maestro.
Sarah Chang describes Bruch's Violin Concerto:
Chang: One of the most beautiful concertos ever written. Beautiful and glorious and it's almost like unapologetically romantic. Maestro and probably attest to this, there's a certain Germanic attitude that you have to have when you play all these great pieces - Bach and Mozart and Beethoven, and all of these great German composers, but Bruch I think you have a little bit more license to be a little bit freer than the other guys. And he's also very surprisingly romantic, if you listen to some of the very lyrical melodies and the almost chamber music-like quality that his concerto has. It's a lot of fun to play, and I think it's one of the most popular pieces in the repertoire for a reason.
Maestro Kuchar on Chang's career achievements:
Kuchar: Our first collaboration I believe was in 1999, and I think that was with the Brahms concerto and I think it was of your earlier encounters with that piece. Already at that point in time, Sarah was a legend. I mean, she's is a legend of our profession. There are very few people of her age, there's nobody of her age who is such a war-torn veteran of the profession and has been such a legend for so long. This kid from her first recording at the age of ten, has gone from being a child prodigy in the eyes of the entire musical world, to having made that great adaptation... to a very seasoned mature veteran of the trade. And very, very few people can make that transition. There are those who are very successful at an early age and evaporate into the clouds as they reach adulthood. And then there are those who in their childhood through the adolescence develop much later than others do, and only find their true meaning in life much, much later. And Sarah is a unique creature, because from the very, very earliest moments to right now, she has remained a fluke, a freak of nature and an icon in what she does.
Sarah Chang on her relationship with Maestro Theodore Kuchar:
Chang: You know what, I trust Maestro. That's really it, I trust him on stage. [handshake] When you're on stage and there's this thing when, usually, to be very, very honest, you fly in for the concert, you're out on the next concert, and then your head is already on the next concert. But with Maestro Kuchar, it's always been just so much fun. Not just the relationship on stage, but also off. We've played practically every concerto under the sun together, and he was very patient with me, through I think what was my first Brahms concerto was with Maestro, and also one of my first Berg concertos was with you as well, and he was very patient with me through that whole process.
Chang on the 2013 South Africa tour with Maestro Kuchar:
Chang: A place like South Africa, number one, I’ve never been to before, last June was my first time. And when the offer came through it was three weeks, that was an awful long time to be away from anywhere, and South Africa is as far away from home as you could possibly get. And I remember this, the first time my management came to be with this and I said no. I’m not going to take three weeks off and go to a place I’ve never been to before with orchestras I’ve never worked with, and take three weeks out of the calendar year to do this. And then they came back and said it’s with Maestro Kuchar, and then I said, oh, well hell yeah! Of course I’m going to do this. Let’s book it right now, right? Literally the conversation went like that, because I think when you think of doing your projects and going to new places and all that stuff, a certain part of you still is a little hesitant, and for me, the fact that you [Kuchar] were going to be there and you were going to conduct every single concert, for me, it was again that trust factor. Thinking, “Oh, I know the concerts are going to go well.”
I think when you have a relationship that lasts over decades, you have a musical chemistry on stage. And then off stage, which I’m very grateful for we get along very well. We talk about everything. We talk about cars, how many accidents I’ve been in and what a lousy driver I am. And both of our personal lives, or you know the dating dilemmas that I go through because I’m a newbie at this and Maestro has a lot more experience that I do. It’s just fun!