Chelsea Guo makes piano sing for Grand Piano Series
Updated: Nov 18, 2021
by Sue Wade
Bonita Springs, Florida – November 10, 2021
Now-20-year-old Chelsea Guo challenged herself, at 17, to sing Schubert’s art song “Gretchen am Spinnrade” while simultaneously playing its wildly difficult Liszt piano transcription. The YouTube performance that the perfectionistic young performer later called unsuccessful nevertheless became an online sensation.
During pandemic quarantine, she applied her talents to arranging and doing audio and video production for a 29-voice-and-face presentation of “Blessing” by the Juilliard School's Christian Fellowship.
Guo again demurred, saying, “Oh, I’m not trained in those things. It was really just a fun project to take a breather from practice, work and being in quarantine.”
But one suspects Chelsea Guo is capable of virtuosity in anything that she decides to take seriously.
As young as two years old, little Chelsea watched her mother playing piano in church and, before turning five, asked to begin piano lessons.
“I sang for fun with my friends and in church,” she remembered. “But I never really took it seriously as a career path, which I did with piano at around 11 or 12 years old, when I started Juilliard Pre-College.
“My teacher was always a big advocate for us having a second instrument, to benefit our piano playing. I decided that voice would be best for me, so I wouldn’t have to buy another instrument.”
Today, her dual artistry and love of Chopin are both showcased in a 2021 debut recording on the Orchid Classics label. “Chelsea Guo: Chopin in My Voice” includes beloved Chopin piano repertoire along with two of Chopin’s 17 art songs, which she discovered aren’t often talked about—even though Chopin admired opera singers and loved vocal music, especially Italian bel canto.
“The piano and the vocal repertoires are so vast,” she said. “And there are so many interconnections between art songs and opera, and the music the same composers created for the piano. There are so many opportunities that I’m just starting to explore.”
After taking a top prize in 2020’s Chopin National Competition in Miami, Guo returns to Florida with piano recitals for the Chopin Foundation of the United States, the Miami International Piano Festival and the Grand Piano Series.
In her Grand Piano Series performances Guo will present all-piano works, but her passion for vocal music nonetheless influences her piano recital repertoire. The first piece in her program, for instance, is Mendelssohn’s appropriately titled “Songs Without Words.”
As Grand Piano Series musical director Milana Strezeva put it, “The piano is often seen as a percussion instrument, but in the right pianist’s hands, it can sing and become truly magical.”
Guo’s solo piano performances have taken her to Carnegie Hall and London’s Wigmore Hall, as well as prominent venues throughout the United States and around the world. A guest artist of the Leeds Inaugural Piano Festival, she was also featured in Europe in solo recitals presented by the Mozarteum Summer Series in Salzburg, and in China, in a six-concert tour under the auspices of the Shenzhen Piano Music Festival.
Her orchestral appearances have included the Fort Worth Symphony, under the baton of Maestro Barry Douglas, and the Torun Symphony Orchestra in Poland. Guo was also honored to be a Young Scholar of the Lang Lang Foundation, a young artist of the Artemisia Akademie at Yale and a recipie