A fearless set of hands

Renowned pianist to perform works in Winnipeg never before played live in North America

World-renowned pianist Jenny Lin began her training in Vienna, Austria after her family immigrated there from Taiwan when she was young.

If you know anything about composed music, whether new or classical, odds are you’ve heard of Jenny Lin.

Lin, who is one of the most respected and sought after pianists in the world, began her journey when her parents enrolled her in piano lessons as a young girl in Austria.

The Taiwanese-born pianist was first trained by teacher Noel Flores at the Hochschule für Musik in Vienna, and was later a student under Julian Martin at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore.

Even as she trained in Baltimore, Lin did not have the intention of making piano playing, her hobby, into a full-time career.

She completed a bachelor’s degree in German literature at John Hopkin’s University while in Baltimore, and subsequently returned to Europe.

Moving to Switzerland, Lin continued her training under Dominique Weber in Geneva, and there she began to turn her love of music into a full-time lifestyle. She later worked under piano heavyweights Dmitri Bashkirov and Richard Goode.

“There’s all these stories about piano teacher’s recognizing a [young] student’s potential and hand-picking them to train personally,” Lin explained over the phone from her home in New York last week.

“It’s never been like that at all. It’s never that cliche.”

Much of Lin’s career has been driven by her passion for new music and has been marked by her extensive collaborations with many of the world’s premier modern composers.

Her exhaustive discography boasts 13 albums, with works by modern composers like Valentin Silvestrov and Stefano Gervasoni, who wrote music specifically for Lin to play.

She has performed at Carnagie Hall, the Museum of Modern Art, the Kennedy Centre and the National Gallery of Art.

Lin’s work has often been marked by her willingness to take on a challenge.

With her latest album she took on 24 Preludes and Fugues Op. 87 by Shostakovitch, a gargantuan undertaking for any musician.

It was voted Best of 2009 by the Washington Post, who called it “hands down the finest version of this massive work.”

As Lin comes to Winnipeg this week for the New Music Festival, she will be taking on another epic, frequent collaborator Silvestrov’s crowing achievement Metamusik. It’s a masterpiece so large that it has seldom been attempted anywhere else in the world.

When the curtain rises on Feb. 10, it will be the first time this work has ever been performed in North America – a historical event to say the least.

“It’s exciting that a place like [Winnipeg] exists, with programmers who are willing to take on someone like Silvestrov,” Lin beamed.

As a staunch advocate of new works, Lin could be seen as a sort of crusader for modern music.

But she doesn’t feel that way.

“I think I’m simply waiting for the day when there is no so-called ‘new music’, or when the term ‘new’ is no longer used to describe it. It’s all great music, and I think we’re coming to a point when we can truly recognize that.”

Related Reads