Professor to perform classics on campus

Chien, who has been a music professor at Allegheny for 30 years, started playing piano when he was seven years old. He was once performed in New York City’s Carnegie Hall. CODY MILLER/THE CAMPUS

When Professor Alec Chien takes the stage this Saturday for the first of his eight-part concert series featuring the works of Franz Schubert and Frederic Chopin, the classic composers’ music will come to life.
Chien, who has been a music professor here at Allegheny for three decades, will perform two concerts each year between now and 2015. This weekend’s concert will begin at 7:30 p.m.
“The program will be a thank you to Allegheny for its kind treatment of the faculty,” Chien said.
Because Chien played two all-Chopin recitals his first year here at the college, he felt as though performing the composer’s classics once again would be a fitting tribute as he reflects on his 30 years on campus. Chopin was a Polish composer during the Romantic era who was often referred to as the “poet of the piano.”
As for performing pieces by Schubert, who was a Viennese pianist, also during the Romantic period in music, Chien’s reason was more personal.
“My dad always had classical music on in the house,” said Chien. “He just passed away last fall. He loved Schubert and that was good motivation to do this concert.”
In the series, Chien will play some of Schubert and Chopin’s most famous pieces, including
the former’s nine sonatas, Moment Musicaux and Wanderer Fantasy as well as Chopin’s four scherzi, Bercuse and Barcarolle.
In addition to these musicians, Chien explained that one of his favorite composers is Ludwig van Beethoven. In 2008, he completed a concert series in which he performed Beethoven’s 32 sonatas.
Chien explained what he believes is the most crowd-pleasing number to play.
“I enjoy whatever I’m playing at that moment,” he explained. “But the biggest audience-killer, sweat-it-out, put-your-eggs-in a basket piece, is Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No.3.”
Chien’s interest in music began when he was just seven years old. Because he had two older sisters who played piano. Chien quickly became interested in playing the instrument himself.
After years of playing, Chien eventually received his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate of musical arts degrees from the Juilliard School of Music. Following his educational achievements, the professor was recognized by a major piano manufacturer, Steinway.
In 1988, the company asked Chien to perform at their gala concert in Carnegie Hall in New York City to celebrate the unveiling of its 500,000th piano. The piano also made a visit to Allegheny in recent years in time for Chien to finish his concert series on Beethoven.
Students know and appreciate Chien’s musical talent.
“He puts a lot of enthusiasm into his music which brings the music to life,” said Kyle Cruse, ’13, Cruse has been one of Chien’s music students since his senior year of high school.
“The level of accuracy and precision is baffling,” said Cruse. “He’s the reason I came to Allegheny.”
Other students, like Alex Berry, ’12, took note of Chien’s musical dedication on stage.
“He’s very dynamic,” said Berry. “He has a lot of energy, but he can also be very solemn when he needs to be.”
Now an experienced pianist and teacher, Chien shared what he believes it takes to be a successful musician.
“As a teacher I’ve taught many people,” he explained. “Some were very talented but bad workers, others had a great work ethic but not very gifted. It’s mostly the second group that succeeds.”