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Musical World

Han-Na Chang

  • Cellist
  • Conductor


Han-Na Chang Awards / reviews

Han-Na Chang received awards including:

  • Both the First Prize and Contemporary Music Prize at the Fifth Rostropovich International Cello Competition (1994)
  • Young Artist of the Year prize at the ECHO Classical Music Awards in Germany (1997)
  • Best Concerto Album of the Year from Caecilia Award (Holland) (2003)
  • Best Concerto Album of the Year from Cannes Classical Award (France) (2003)
  • Best Concerto Album of the Year from ECHO Classical Award (Germany) (2003)
  • Best Concerto Album of the Year from Gramophone magazine (UK) (2003)
  • Named Classical Super-star of Tomorrow by the Gramophone Magazine (UK) (2006)

Press Reviews


Vivaldi: Cello Concertos with London Chamber Orchestra; Christopher Warren-Green, conductor (EMI)

Vivaldi, for Han-Na Chang, represents the ''liveliness of harmony and rhythm. …It is in the colours and forms that he creates''. This disc of Vivaldi's cello concertos is Chang's first foray into recording Baroque repertoire, and she plays with all the intensity that it is a characteristic of her recordings of nineteenth and twentieth century music.
Vivaldi's cello concertos date from the early 1700s through to the late 1730s. The recipients were the female orphans of the Ospedale della Pieta where he taught the violin and directed the orchestra, as well as for colleagues and patrons. The cello was very much in its early days as a solo instrument, more accustomed to providing the bass line than to taking centre stage; this might explain why none of these concertos were published in Vivaldi's lifetime, surviving only in manuscript form. Vivaldi clearly spotted the instrument's massive solo potential though; you don't write thirty concertos for an instrument you've written off as a dud, even if you do have an orphanage of girls clamouring for music. In these works, you hear him exploring the cellos emotional range to the full, for instance in the E flat major concerto RV408, where a deeply sorrowful middle-movement Largo is forgotten in the spirited brightness of the final movement's Allegro. The possibilities inherent in the soloist/tutti relationship are also explored over the years, progressing from the soloist's light continuo accompaniment in earlier concertos, to its greater dialogue with the orchestra in the later works. One thing Vivaldi didn't explore as much were the cello's different registers; the tessitura of these concertos is mostly low.Han-Na Chang was a pupil of Rostropovich, and his influence is apparent in her expressive powers, her warm tone, and in her playing's occasional sense of abandon, kept in check by a strong sense of rhythmic discipline. These qualities have the effect of making Vivaldi's music often feel more Romantic (note the capital letter there, I don't mean mushy) than Baroque in style, but I don't say that as a criticism; this is a performance oozing soul and individuality. 
Charlotte Gardner, BBC Music Review, October 2008

Shostakovich: Cello Concerto No. 1 and Cello Sonata with London Symphony Orchestra; Antonio Pappano, piano/conductor (EMI)

Few performers have charted its once unnoticed depths with the skills of Han-Na Chang. This is an emotionally draining performance. An exceptionally manic first movement (gritty in sound, aggressive in the way it treats the contrapuntal conversations as a series of angry disputes) is dramatically countered by a desolate reading of the Largo that emphasizes the lamentation of its Jewish inflexions and builds to fierce cries against the weight of oppression, And the concentrated readings of the cadenza (Chang desperately flinging the closing material at us) and the finale build to staggering effect. One of the most striking aspects of Chang’s virtuosity is her ability to shade a phrase without losing her stride. All in all, a memorable release.
International Record Review, April 2006

Chang brings clear-sighted belief to everything she touches. Her range is generous indeed, from barely –audible ghostly voices to high octane drama…superlative partnership with Pappano.
BBC Music Magazine, May 2006

She plays with such conviction that you feel she too could have been the inspiration for great composers. Chang combines raw emotion with a structural grip that, in its way, is even more remarkable in one so young. Winner of the fifth Rostropovich International Cello Competition at the age of 11 and still in her early twenties, she is none the less a phenomenon.
The Gramophone, March 2006

Han-Na has developed from a promising teenager into a mature artist who must surely be accounted one of the finest exponents of her instrument in the worlds... her tone is big and incisive in the sardonic outer movements, richly expressive and poetic in the central moderato. The Sonata holds no terrors for Chang's phenomenal technique.
Sunday Times, 26 February 2006

This studio recording of Shostakovich's First Cello Concerto evokes all the intensity and adrenaline of her public performance with the LSO under Pappano last summer. Chang speaks the music even more expressively than Rostropovich, its dedicatee.  
Andrew Clark, Financial times, 26 February 2006

I can't remember if the last Mozart year (the 200th anniversary of his death, which the music community survived despite its being more robust back then) was a double one, giving some other composer the chance to at least bask in the reflected light. This one is also the Shostakovich Year — more cheerfully, celebrating both composers' births — and at least so far, things are looking good for the late Slavic centenarian.
I don't know of plans to perform all of Shostakovich's music, as there are for Mozart's. But the London Symphony Orchestra, ensemble extraordinaire, is performing all the symphonies, and it's the orchestra on the first great release of the celebratory year: Shostakovich's Cello Concerto No. 1, with cellist Han-Na Chang, who rounds out the EMI disc with an equally stunning account of the Cello Sonata with LSO conductor Antonio Pappano at the piano. Even Dmitri might smile.
It was Prokofiev's Sinfonie concertante for cello, which Chang played the spots off with the same colleagues a couple years back (EMI), that gave Shostakovich the impulse to write his Cello Concerto in E-flat, Op. 107, in 1959, hot off the triumph of his great 10th Symphony. Its four-movement structure mimics that of the First Violin Concerto, as does the work's essential gravity — set off, of course, by his usual sardonic outbursts (here, virtually all of the outer movements) and the bravura finales for the soloist. It was all written for Mstislav Rostropov ich, of course, and his recordings of both pieces remain the standard. But despite a spate of good recordings since, this one is now first choice for both works.
The sound is better, for starters, and Chang gives as deep and satisfying an interpretation of both works, lacking only something a 23-year-old could never have: that personal knowledge of Shostakovich that gives Slava's recordings their "authority." What makes her accounts so gripping is the almost unnerving way she plays both pieces as if in one breath. They make frequent character turns without signaling, but Chang can move from the long-breathed legato line to sudden frenetic outburst without audible gear-changes. There's plenty of playing to marvel at — in the Sonata, the second movement's whispered arpeggios and the last's moto perpetuo — but what lingers in the memory is always the less flashy but almost harrowingly soulful music. She plumbs it like a deep-sea diver, tracing its contours with astonishing grace and an almost superhuman ability to "stay down there" until she has brought everything to the surface.
The concerto, a relatively late work, is the more remarkable of the two pieces, and the London Symphony's contribution to it makes you want to commute to London for their complete Shostakovich cycle. They get the bite of a Shostakovich score. Then, in the solo third movement, Cadenza, Chang makes you forget they exist, as she forages through the netherregions of the human soul.
The Sonata, which began the remarkable series of chamberworks that emerged despite depression and repression, appeared a historical instant before the proclamation of Socialist Realism that sent a generation of the last century's greatest composers underground. Its historical and musical importance shines forth in the no-holds-barred reading Chang and Pappano give it.
Bay Area Reporter, February 2006

Mozart isn't the only composer with a big anniversary in 2006, as top artists have also started marking -- on a bit smaller scale -- this year's centennial of Dmitri Shostakovich's birth (which falls on Sept. 25).
From Rostropovich to Mischa Maisky, there have been bold, larger-than-life Russian exponents of Shostakovich's cello works. But young Han-Na Chang's disc of the Cello Sonata and First Cello Concerto has interpretive subtleties and a sheer beauty of tone that should win over any listener.
With its tuneful folk accents, Shostakovich's 1934 Cello Sonata would seem to be a politically correct response to Soviet calls for "social realism" acceptable to the masses. But it's more complicated than that, with a Largo that's deeply pensive, almost bitter. Chang solos with poetry and passion, and Antonio Pappano voices the dark piano background ideally.
The First Cello Concerto is a work from the post-Stalin years, when Shostakovich could give freer rein to his tragic impulse. Chang makes a smaller sound than Rostropovich in this demanding score, but she plays with precision and a flair of her own, plus an affecting timbre in the long solo cadenza. Pappano and the London Symphony Orchestra are excellent partners, recorded with cut-glass clarity in the grotesqueries of the finale.
Star-Ledger Review, February 2006