a portrait of shuann sitting on the floor near her historical piano
Shuann Chai is a versatile pianist who performs on a wide range of early to modern pianos.
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Shuann Chai proves to be a master interpreter who puts her playing and the fortepiano one hundred percent in the service of Schubert and opens up new interpretative and sonic perspectives for us all. Highly recommended!

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For Shuann, music is a personal means of communication. She sees performance as an opportunity to connect with an audience, as well as a chance to bring the emotional content of music from the past to listeners in the present.
“A performance is like a snapshot of where you are that day. It’s something that evolves over time.”

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For this recording, Shuann dives into Schubert’s Impromptus and early fugues and doing so, she creates her own Schubert.
The last decades there's this approach to Schubert that you don't do anything that's not in the score. I always felt that there was an element of narration missing, an element of storytelling, and a deep and very subjective emotion. So then you have to stick your neck out and interpret and do things that are not on the page to create your own Schubert.

fun facts

Studied the viola as a secondary instrument and still has a soft spot for the sound of an open C string

Most picturesque concert hall she ever played in? Troldsalen in Bergen, Norway: the lakeside cottage where Grieg wrote much of his music is visible from the stage...

Loves studying languages and recently earned her A2 certificate in Japanese

Started piano lesson at age 5 at the local YWCA

As a child, she collected vintage postage stamps, shark teeth, and fossils

Alongside her piano studies, she graduated from Oberlin College with a degree in biology

She was born in Gainsville, Florida, (USA) where her dad was a NASA Scientist

Lives in The Hague,
the Netherlands

She grew up helping in her mom's Chinese restaurant and is still an avid cook of all cuisines

While performing, Shuann is a real storyteller. This comes from an enduring interest in narrative and its context, and in bringing the music to life.
“What draws me into a piece of music is the stories the music can tell. What can we learn about the composer? About their time, their emotions? And what’s happening in this piece, is there action, or romance, or suspense…? If I find an emotional connection to the music, others can connect with it too.”

bio at a glance

Upcoming Recordings
Cobra Records, January 2024
Schubert Impromptus
Sony Records Japan, April 2024
Boxed set of Brahms Piano Trios, Cello Sonatas, and Violin Sonatas
with Shunske Sato, violin and Hidemi Suzuki, cello
Cobra Records, release date TBA
Boxed set of Beethoven violin sonatas
with Shunske Sato, violin
Selected
Recent Performances

De Doelen Rotterdam • Stadsgehoorzaal Leiden • Orlando Festival (NL) • Utrecht Early Music Festival • Suntory Hall Blue Rose (Tokyo) • Izumi Hall (Osaka) • Fukinoto Hall (Sapporo) • Ferdinandeum Museum (Innsbruck) • National Concert Hall of Taipei • Les Musicales de Normandie (France) • Gloppen Musikkfest (Norway)

Recent Collaborations

Hidemi Suzuki (cello) • Shunske Sato (violin) • Steuart Pincombe (cello) • Mattijs van de Woerd (baritone) • Noa Frenkel (alto) • the Dudok String Quartet

Selected
Masterclasses and Workshops

Temple University • University of California at Davis • CodArts Rotterdam • Conservatorium of Amsterdam • Conservatorium of Maastricht • Gulanyu Piano Academy of Xiamen (China) • Central Conservatory of Beijing

Shuann curated her own fortepiano Festival in Zaandijk

Engaging and creative, she initiated a number of multimedia projects. Working with other musicians, dancers, puppets, images, or texts, she is constantly searching for ways to share her passion for music, from the baroque to newly written compositions.
“In projects that combine music with something else, it is important to me that the musicians are a dynamic, interactive part of the show and not just accompanying from the side wings of the stage.”

Music & more

Amadeus
An Opera2Day/National Theater co-production

Pre-recorded piano performance for the character of Mozart, coached actors in onstage piano-playing

Where are we going? And what are we doing?
A Korzo/Cadance co-production

Modern dance, music of John Cage

Fairy Tales & Nightmares
A Korzo/Stichting Ciaconna co-production

Modern dance, music of Prokofiev, and life-size puppet by Duda Paiva

Beethoven in his own words

The complete Beethoven Sonatas performed with excerpts from his letters and some of his songs

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Allowing her playing to speak for itself, Chai took to the stage in a truly humble yet fresh way. Her touch on the keys gave an impression not only of clear artistic ownership of the repertoire but also a sensitive grasp on the resonance of the strings in the instrument.

Bachtrack

“I think of pianos as an extensive family tree, without a stark ‘historical/modern’ division, and I feel it is my task to get to know the piano that is in front of me. It plays a role in every interpretation, because each piano has its own character, its own voice.”
view her collection
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Johann Andreas Stein
Augsburg, 1785
copy by Philip Belt
Michael Rosenberger
Vienna, 1820
on loan from the NMF
Collard & Collard
London, 1840
Steinway & Sons
New York, Model D 371
Erard
Paris 1862
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Calendar

Friday
May 24
2024
Duo Recital with Shunske Sato
Music from WWI: Ravel, Debussy, Elgar, Hindemith
Aalmarktzaal, Leiden
Tickets →
Wednesday
Jul 10
2024
Duo Recital with Shunske Sato
Elgar & Debussy
Nicolaaskerk, Vlieland
Tickets →
Thursday
Oct 10
2024
Duo Recital in Tokorozawa
Brahms: complete violin sonatas & works by C. Schumann & J. Joachim

Shunske Sato, violin

Shuann Chai, piano

TOKOROZAWA CIVIC CULTURAL CENTER MUSE
Tickets →
Friday
Oct 11
2024
Duo Recital in Tokyo
Brahms: complete violin sonatas & works by C. Schumann & J. Joachim

Shunske Sato, violin

Shuann Chai, piano

HAMARIKYU ASAHI HALL
Tickets →
Saturday
Oct 19
2024
Nagoya: Chamber Music by Brahms
Brahms: Sonatas

Shunske Sato, violin

Hidemi Suzuki, cello

Shuann Chai, piano

MUNETSUGU HALL, NAGOYA
Tickets →
Sunday
Oct 27
2024
Private Recital
Beethoven Violin Sonatas

Shunske Sato, violin

Shuann Chai, piano

Amsterdam
Tickets →
Thursday
Oct 31
2024
Beethoven Complete Violin Sonatas
Beethoven: Complete Violin Sonatas, part I

Shunske Sato, violin

Shuann Chai, piano

PHIL, Haarlem
Tickets →
Sunday
Nov 10
2024
Beethoven Marathon
Beethoven: Complete Violin Sonatas

Shunske Sato, violin

Shuann Chai, piano

Nieuwe Kerk/Amare, The Hague
Tickets →
Tuesday
Nov 12
2024
Beethoven Violin Sonatas
Beethoven: Violin Sonatas

Shunske Sato, violin

Shuann Chai, piano

Aegtenkapel, Amersfoort
Tickets →
Saturday
Nov 16
2024
Beethoven Violin Sonatas
Beethoven: Sonatas & Variations

Shunske Sato, violin

Shuann Chai, piano

Greifenberger Institut für Musikinstrumentenkunde
Tickets →
Sunday
Nov 17
2024
Beethoven Violin Sonatas
Beethoven: Violin Sonatas No. 6 & 9

Shunske Sato, violin

Shuann Chai, piano

KOM-Kulturwerkstatt, München
Tickets →
Sunday
Dec 1
2024
Duo Recital
Bach, Rachmaninoff, Bartók, Rimsky-Korsakoff, Poulenc, Schumann

Shunske Sato, violin

Shuann Chai, piano

Hertz, TivoliVredenburg, Utrecht
Tickets →
Saturday
Dec 7
2024
Mozart Piano Concerto
Mozart: Piano Concert in D Minor, K 466

Collegium Musicum Traiectum

Shuann Chai, solo piano

Geertekerk, Utrecht
Tickets →
Sunday
Dec 8
2024
Mozart Piano Concerto
Mozart: Piano Concert in D Minor, K 466

Collegium Musicum Traiectum

Shuann Chai, solo piano

Nieuwe Badkapel, The Hague
Tickets →
Saturday
Jan 4
2025
Duo Recital
Prokofiev

Shunske Sato, violin

Shuann Chai, piano

Aalmarktzaal, Leiden
Tickets →
Thursday
Jan 16
2025
Beethoven Complete Violin Sonatas
Beethoven: Complete Violin Sonatas, part II

Shunske Sato, violin

Shuann Chai, piano

PHIL, Haarlem
Tickets →
Friday
Jan 17
2025
Beethoven Marathon I
Beethoven: Complete Violin Sonatas, part I

Shunske Sato, violin

Shuann Chai, piano

Willem Twee, Den Bosch
Tickets →
Saturday
Jan 18
2025
Beethoven Marathon II
Beethoven: Complete Violin Sonatas, part II

Shunske Sato, violin

Shuann Chai, piano

Willem Twee, Den Bosch
Tickets →
Saturday
Feb 22
2025
Beethoven Violin Sonatas
Beethoven Violin Sonatas

Shunske Sato, violin

Shuann Chai, piano

Salvia Hall, Yokohama
Tickets →
Sunday
Mar 30
2025
Duo Recital
Mozart, Schubert, Beethoven

Shunske Sato, violin

Shuann Chai, piano

Muzenforum Concerten, Bloemendaal
Tickets →

Interview

Podcast Piano Whisperer
The life of a concert pianist
listen to the podcast
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portrait of Shuann at the piano
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Stimulating... Chai has a keen sense for the colouristic possibilities of her instrument

BBC Music Magazine

albums

Extemporize

Schubert Impromptus & Fugues

Cobra Records (January 2024)

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Kühl, nicht Lau

works by Kühlau & Beethoven with flutist Tami Krausz

Ramée Records (2020)

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Beethoven Sonatas

Pathétique, Moonlight, Appassionata

Postern Park Digital (2011)

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Scent of Pink

song cycle by René Samson with alto Noa Frenkel

Concertzender live recording (2019)

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Shuann loves teaching.
“It is so humbling when someone plays for you and entrusts themselves to your musicianship in such a way. I think of teaching as a dynamic interface where my aesthetic and their intentions meet. The energy and enthusiasm of young musicians is so moving, and I absolutely love being a part of that process.”
If she is not playing, practicing, or teaching, chances are you will find Shuann cooking, reading a book, being with her daughter or enjoying friends and family.

Contact

Personal assistant &
artist manager
Marloes Biermans