5 minutes with ASO’s Artist in Association Emily Sun

29 Aug 2023
  • Meet the Artists
  • Musician Spotlight
by Nicola Cann
5 minutes with ASO’s Artist in Association Emily Sun

We spoke to ASO’s Artist in Association Emily Sun in the lead up to her recital at Elder hall this September

Do you come from a musical family? What sparked your passion for music and in particular the violin?

My father, Daniel Yi Sun, was a prominent composer and lecturer of the Central Conservatory of Music, Beijing – he was the first generation to enter the Conservatory as a student after the fall of the Cultural Revolution in China, and his classmates included luminaries such as Tan Dun and Chen Yi.  Before he became a composer, he was originally a violinist – during the Cultural Revolution when Western music was banned, the only way my father could practise Tchaikovsky and Beethoven would be to hike to the top of a deserted mountain where no one could hear him play – otherwise he would be charged as a traitor and thrown in jail! I grew up around music; my sister played the cello and I wanted one too, so I was given a tiny violin.

Who inspires you?

I am inspired by the musicians I am lucky enough to collaborate with! The joys of performing are only possible and amplified by the collective unity of artists and musicians coming together to create a unique and fleeting moment in performance – which can’t ever be replicated the same way again. It means that a turn of phrase on a Friday night on stage will be ever so slightly different on the Saturday night, driven by the inspiration of your colleagues on stage. This spontaneity of music making is what inspires me and I am lucky to perform with wonderful musicians!

Musicians often describe their instruments as becoming an extension of yourself, do you agree or disagree and why?

I absolutely agree! Without the instrument, as violinists, we don’t have a voice. The sound we create is our only form of communication we have with our audiences during performance. Physically, the sensation of the violin tucked so closely under our chin and the contact of fingers on the bow, it must feel as close to an extension of our body as possible – an invisible line between the soul and hands.

Tell us about your violin

I play on a 1760 Nicolò Gagliano, generously loaned to me by Beares International Violin Society in London. It is a fine example of the Neapolitan tradition and Nicolo’s craftsmanship, which were often mistaken for work by Stradivari. The higher registers soar with brilliant clarity, and the lower strings have a dark and rich timbre. I previously played for many years a beautiful Australian violin, made by A E Smith. 

During your recital you will be joined on stage during your recital concert with pianist Andrea Lam to perform Sibelius Selection from Six Pieces, have you performed with Andrea before? What do you love about Sibelius’s music?

Andrea and I have worked and performed very closely for the past couple of years, culminating in the release of our ARIA nominated album ‘Nocturnes’ on ABC Classics. In this recital, we will be performing works inspired by nature and the composers who drew inspiration from the natural beauty surrounding them. Sibelius had an incredible ability to represent nature through his musical language and each of these Six Pieces depicts a completely different landscape through sound.  

Your recital also features the Australian premiere of Fazil Say’s Violin Sonata No. 2 Kaz Dağlari. What can audiences expect of this and Greig’s Violin Sonata No.3?

Fazil Say’s Violin Sonata No. 2, ‘KazDağları’ was written in response to the massacre of nature in gold mining activies in Mount Ida, Turkey that led to be widespread deforestation. The first movement is titled Decimation of Nature, the second Wounded Bird, and the third movement Rite of Hope which Fazil Say says ‘each movement represents the situations created by the destruction of ecosystems. The music conveys the messages of uprising against those who have desecrated the land, and solidarity with those who stand with nature’. As with the Sibelius, Grieg was another composer who depicted nature through his music, and we are reminded of the beauty and boundlessness of our natural world.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Thank you to the ASO for gifting me with this privilege to perform alongside you all in 2023. As an Australian, to have this connection with one of the finest orchestras in the country is a deeply moving and emotional tie to my home. To our audiences – I hope that you will come and enjoy our music with us, we will pour our hearts and soul into every note to create moments which we hope you won’t forget!

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