Your new disc Four Worlds features a lot of Rachmaninov. What is it about his music that speaks to you?
Rachmaninov’s music is diverse and requires very fine artistic insights to investigate its deepest beauty. I don’t think Rachmaninov’s piano compositions are simply virtuosic show pieces. Musically, his work often displays a kind of ‘tragic beauty’ and inspires the listener’s imagination. When I perform the Serenade in B Flat Minor, for example, I imagine that a dancer on stage tries to display the loneliness and gloominess of the music.
Moye Chen. Photo courtesy of Universal Music
Are there any pianists who have particularly inspired your approach to his music?
The recordings played by Rachmaninov himself are rarities – even today Rachmaninov’s interpretations are still attractive and advanced. In addition to his own recordings, my favourite Rachmaninov specialist is Mikhail Pletnev, his renditions of Rachmaninov are creative, unique but convincing, and the tempi he uses in Rachmaninov’s music are really ideal. Michelangeli recorded a fabulous Fourth Concerto. It’s the best recording of this concerto for my taste (Rachmaninov’s Concerto No 4 is probably my favourite piano concerto) even though he didn’t play Rachmaninov very frequently.
Alongside the Rachmaninov are works by Horowitz. Best known as a pianist, do you think he has been unfairly neglected as a composer?
Horowitz is probably the typical pianist-composer, and I guess he considered himself as a pianist first. I assume his composition of these piano works and transcriptions were for his own playing on stage. Horowitz is the all-round musician, perhaps we couldn’t (and do not necessarily) define him as a pianist or composer.
The disc also includes music by Gershwin, Grainger, Sousa, Strauss and Bizet. What is it about these other works that appealed to you?
They are all quite pianistic. The three pianist-composers are all wonderful arrangers, and they beautified the original works. These transcriptions are technically demanding, but they all sound very impressive. I very much enjoyed playing them.
What can we expect from you next? Are there more plans to record?
Yes, I certainly hope to work again with our wonderful team at Universal Music Australia. We have in mind to record some of the larger piano masterpieces of Schubert and Liszt – which would be a musical contrast to Four Worlds.
Moye Chen’s Four Worlds is out now on Deutsche Grammophon