Ceud Mìle Fàilte
Scottish-themed concert, featuring Richard Lin
Sunday, March 8, 5 p.m.
Central Presbyterian Church, 46 Park St.
By GWEN OREL
One of the pieces Montclairites will hear this Sunday in Montclair Orchestra’s Scottish-themed concert, “ceud mìle fàilte” (a hundred thousand welcomes, in Scottish Gaelic) has personal significance for featured violinist Richard Lin.
Lin will perform the piece he performed to win the prestigious International Violin Competition of Indianapolis in 2018, the “Scottish Fantasy, Op. 46,” by Max Bruch, in Montclair on March 8. But it is not only because he played it and won that the piece has special significance for Lin.
The violinist thought he might have to give up his career following a car accident in 2017. He was in the hospital for 10 days, and it took months before he could play at full strength again.
During that time he listened to Bruch’s “Scottish Fantasy.”
“In fifth grade I watched a Chinese movie called ‘Together,’ about a young Chinese boy, in a rural area without enough resources to pursue a career. His father gave up almost everything so he could study with a professor in Beijing. In this movie the ‘Scottish Fantasy’ melody appeared, it was my first encounter with the piece. I asked my dad to buy the music for me. I was not good enough to play the piece in fifth grade. But during the car accident time this piece was one of the works I wanted to pick up and perform.”
In 2018, Lin performed the Bruch in the final round of the prestigious Indianapolis Competition, held every four years.
“In a way you can say [the piece] won me the gold medal. It is a personal, intimate piece for me.”
Sunday will be the first time he has performed the piece since then.
Lin did not always know he wanted to be a professional violinist.
He began playing when he was only 4 years old: his father was a big fan of classical music, though did not play himself. Lin’s younger brother studied piano.
Performing in competitions in third grade was fun for him.
“I would bring it to class and play for my friends,” recalled Lin, who was born in Arizona, brought up in Taiwan, and now lives in New York. “They would envy me. I started to like playing.”
At 15, when Lin participated in a national music competition in Taiwan, he told himself that if he won, he might be good enough to pursue a musical career.
Everything was humming along, but then, when touring China in 2017, playing 23 concerts in 31 days in different cities, he got into a car accident on the highway.
“At first I couldn’t move at all,” Lin said. “The doctor said I had spinal shock. I was hospitalized for two weeks. I could not get out of bed.”
He felt a painful current going from his neck to his fingers that never stopped, he said: “I thought it would last forever and I would never be able to pick up violin again.”
He was unable to play for several months. It was the longest he had ever gone without practicing. And that is when he knew how deeply he wanted to perform and how much he loved playing. Slowly he began to practice again, getting back the callouses on his fingers.
“It was a very interesting feeling. I had all the music in my mind, and knew how to do it, but my fingers didn’t listen. Gradually I had to gain it back, the feeling of different positions. It was harder to get back the hand shape.” He had to be careful of his neck. He did not have surgery: playing the violin creates tension in the neck anyway, he said. He relied on medicine and rest.
In 2018, he won the Indianapolis competition.
“That was a huge turning point for my life,” he said. “It was like a test after my accident to see if I was still good enough to build up a solo career.”
The harmonies of the Bruch, which uses four famous Scottish folk songs, bring him to tears, he said. Lin is excited to work with Montclair Orchestra Music Director David Chan, who is Taiwanese-American. Chan is a big name in Taiwan, Lin said. “He was one of my idols. Not many Taiwanese violinists are so well-known internationally. Also, he was a laureate from the Indianapolis Competition. We have many connections.”
MUSIC OF SCOTLAND
Chan likes to program concerts around themes. He loves Mendelssohn’s 3rd symphony, which is known as the Scottish symphony. He will be conducting it for the first time.
When Indianapolis reached out to him about collaborating with Lin, Chan decided to do an all-Scottish program.
None of the composers are actually Scottish, however. For the Mendelssohn and Bruch, “It’s Scotland as seen through the eyes of German composers,” Chan said.
“An Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise,” by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, is by an Englishman who moved to the Orkney islands and lived there for decades. This is the piece that will have bagpipes in it. They depict the dawn, and the rising of the sun, Chan said.
“An Orkney Wedding” is, in Maxwell’s own words, a reaction to a wedding in the Orkney islands before he moved there, Chan said. “The Mendelssohn is more of an evocation of the landscape of Scotland. There are lakes and castles with fog coming in. One thing to note in the ‘Scottish Fantasy’ is the very prominent role of the harp. That for me combined with use of folk melody and adapting folk melody to violin enhances the folk flavor, bards in a castle telling stories by the fire.”
Like Lin, Chan is excited about the collaboration. Chan won the Indianapolis Competition in 1994. Chan said this competition is one of the major violin competitions in the world. Hundreds of people apply, and it is screened to about 40 participants.
Lin, he said, is “one of the bright young stars of the violin world. It is fun for me to have a chance to collaborate with somebody tracing the same footsteps I took 25 years ago.”