Violinist Yi-Jia Susanne Hou brings the CPO Season to a close writes PETA STEWART.
You’d think three weeks in South Africa would give award-winning violinist Yi-Jia Susanne Hou a few minutes off, but in between concerts and recitals (six in 10 days) all to standing ovations and four days on safari the answer is – no.
Ms Hou is here to bring the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra’s symphony season to a close at the City Hall on Thursday, 12 September, 2019. She will perform Chausson Poème and Saint Saëns Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso. Also on the programme, conducted by the CPO’s principal guest conductor, are two tone poems by Resphigi, The Fountains of Rome and The Pines of Rome.
Arts and culture/music education series
Born in China to violinist parents, she has had music around her all her life. “My mother was practicing and performing while pregnant with me and my father was my first violin teacher.” She has endless appreciation for what he did for her, honouring his teaching in a new education initiative she is currently filming, an arts and culture/music education series over 24 episodes.
“My left hand pinky finger is 4.8cm long. It does not pass the first knuckle line of the finger next to it. When I was three, I wanted to play the violin, but my hands were so small that even a 1/16 size violin was too big for me, so my father carved my very first tiny violin out of a Canadian Maple Tree fire-log… it took him a whole year (felt like a lifetime to me!) but I finally played my first note at age four!
“Today I fly all over the world as a professional touring solo concert violinist… so as you can imagine, I need my left hand to be extremely versatile and strong. Every day I demand of my little hands to make all kinds of leaps, stretches and contortions just to reach all the notes. To give you an idea of how (nearly) impossible this career choice was for me… in China, I would not have passed selection for the Shanghai Conservatory to even begin studying the violin – the size of my hands would been a handicap. I didn’t know that then.”
“Instead, my father (who was one of the top violinists in all of China) trained me with incredible discipline, developing and stretching my hands every day since I was 4 years old. He practised with me, never letting me give up, always believed in me and helped me work through all the near-impossible challenges I faced along my long journey to today.”
They left China when she was three, and she was soon on the relentless path to that of a top violinist – “absolutely phenomenal” in the words of Yehudi Menuhin.
“I nearly quit one day when I was 14, while preparing for a junior international violin competition. All my friends were at parties and I was at home practicing 4 to 6 hours a day, but after just one day away from my violin I realized that it was an integral part of me, of every breath, of every fibre of my being… and I have never taken another day off.”
She is happy to be back with the CPO, having played the Butterfly Lovers’ Concerto with them a couple of years ago. “I love the beautiful energy and passion of CPO and the warmth and openness of the audiences here in South Africa. I feel a very special, deep energy here in this country – perhaps energized by its exquisite nature and nourishing earth with a strong, bold, open and beautiful culture.”
Music is the key
She and Bernhard Gueller go back a long way together, professionally, for they performed together on many occasions in Canada.
“I learn so much from Maestro Gueller every time we work together, or even when we have a conversation! He is a profound artist and soul and I am so grateful for the experiences we have shared. I believe we have performed over 10 times together now and every time we do… I feel a deeper understanding of our musical language and I truly cherish this ‘freedom with integrity’ on stage…”
Ms Hou says she has been shaped by so many people. “I would not be the same person or musician without this unique combination of extraordinary teachers and mentors that have shaped, inspired and cultivated every facet of my artistic soul. I am so grateful to them all… and this gives me so much more to share every day. I love sharing the beauty this world has to offer… music, art, movement, nature, chocolate, champagne, hiking, snowflakes… those all offer so much beauty. “
What she wants for the future is to continue to grow in music and life… and share all that beauty with as many as possible in order to inspire a more fulfilled, exceptional, well-rounded and balanced next generation. “Music is the key.”
She leaves for Canada, or is it France, where she also has a home, but, as she says, “ with 300 plus days of travel home is academic!’
Read more about Violinist Yi-Jia Susanne Hou here http://www.susannehou.com/
Who: Violinist Yi-Jia Susanne Hou with the CPO
What: Cape Town Philharmonic Symphony Season
Where: Cape Town City Hall
When: 12 September 2019 at 8pm
Info, book: www.cpo.org.za/ Artscape Dial-a-Seat 021 421 7695 / https://www.cpo.org.za/new/respighis-rome-2/