What’s your name?
My name is Hsin-Yun Huang. Believe it or not when I was a student in England, I actually had an English name Wendy. But soon I was at the mercy of mean teenage kids and had “wimpy” as a nickname throughout those years. When I came to America, I decided I just wanted my real name even though it is a bit of a headache.
Where are you from?
I was born in Taipei, Taiwan. Had a father who was passionate about classical music but did not want me to be a musician. But each step of the way, I met amazing teachers at different times and somehow I was on this path. When I got into the Yehudi Menuhin School at age 14, it was a turning point for me. My parents could not accompany me to go abroad and it was the most serious decision I had to make. I knew always I wanted to be a musician but that was the time when I became determined. So from age 14-18 I was in England. Then I came to Curtis for a Bachelor’s degree; three years later went to Juilliard for Master’s.
How did you come to the viola?
I had no idea what a viola was!!! Taiwan 40 years ago was a very different place. I was a serious pianist from the age of 6 on. In fact I continued taking lessons throughout my Menuhin School days. I went to a specialized music school in elementary school — this model of school exists in many Asian countries. When I was 10, everyone was required to take a second instrument. So all the pianists picked the violin and all the violinists picked the piano. I thought that was terribly boring. So I went to the orchestra office to ask if there was an instrument that no one played. They told me they needed oboists and violists. We didn’t know what a viola was, my father thought that a girl playing the oboe doesn’t look so good. So we chose the viola…..
Are you a Juilliard student? Were you? Or do you now work as part of the studio?
I am privileged to be working among all these wonderful violists. I am the H in ACHT.
Tell us about one of your favorite performances?
A highlight from last year was a Lied Abend at the Marlboro Music Festival. I am a huge huge lover of vocal music. Of all the high quality concerts, the Lied Abend is one that I look forward to the most. On that concert, there were songs I never knew by Faure, Schoenberg and Britten. It was memorable. I love being taken places I don’t expect.
If you could perform any viola piece, what would it be?
I’ll play Sinfonia Concertante any day. and it is hard….
If you could play any non-viola piece, what would it be?
It would have to be the Beethoven Violin Concerto. But I think I don’t want to play the violin part, I’d want to conduct it. Also would love to conduct the Rite of Spring.
Who made your viola and how did you get to be the one playing it?
I am lucky to have a viola by Paolo Testore. Funny thing is that the years I spent in England since I did not have a viola of my own, I was allowed to borrow a viola from Yehudi Menuhin himself. He had a Testore. Then when I came to the US, (still didn’t have a viola) I was borrowing an instrument from Michael Tree. This viola belonged to a presenter in Geneva who presented me and my quartet a few times. He is an avid amateur violist. When he was ready to let go of his instrument, he just called and said I was the one who should play it. At that point in my life, I was used to a bigger instrument and did not like the sound of this smaller viola which was mostly closed as he did not play it very much. But since he was a friend, he said I could keep it for a while to get used to it. By the end of my trying it for 3 months, all that old connection with Testore came back to me and it was exhilarating playing it. Then figuring out how to pay for it was another challenge. But it all worked out in the end. I think I believe in karma.
Do you have any secret skills?
I wish ….
You are forced by the United States Government to not practice for a day. What do you do with yourself?
cooking and eating. spending time with family and friends. catching up on reading.
Do you have a website?
Yes, it is www.hsinyun.com . New version should be up by February 2013
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