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Austin Critics' Table

Bion Tsang has been nominated again for "Instrumentalist of the Year" by the Austin Critics' Table for his performances of the Dvorak Cello Concerto with conductor Peter Bay and the Austin Symphony Orchestra. The Critics’ Table, a group of arts critics from the Austin American-Statesman and the Austin Chronicle, annually recognizes outstanding achievement in the arts. Winners will be announced on June 4. For a complete list of nominees, visit More info...

Violins in suburbia

The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra is going the extra mile - literally - to bring music to its audiences.

Star Tribune Mineapolis, MN May 16, 2011

The coffee was on and clusters of patrons waited quietly with their hands folded -- a full half-hour early. Yes, this clearly was a Lutheran church, not a concert hall.

But on this night, Trinity Lutheran in downtown Stillwater had traded its ecclesiastical purpose for a date with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. Conductor Roberto Abbado would lead the group through Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich and Prokofiev, with guest cellist Bion Tsang.

Small-town charm and informality aside, once these patrons gathered in the square sanctuary with its timbered apse and exposed-brick walls, the SPCO delivered a committed reading of the Russian masters. As Tsang speared the highest notes of Tchaikovsky's "Variations on a Rococo Theme," the aesthetic beauty of live performance came into full relief with a pure sound, the animated personality of musicians engaged in high art and the community of a full audience.

Each venue takes on the characteristics of its distinctive neighborhood. Stillwater has a Scandinavian, small-town feel. The following night, 50 miles across town in the high-powered western suburbs, Wayzata Community Church exhaled New England elegance. A fortress of Congregationalism, the church has a tidy library, colonial furniture and parquet floors in the airy foyer. This venue, with 670 seats, sold 92 percent for four concerts last season.

David and Terri Wood have been driving the 10 minutes from their Maple Plain home ever since the Wayzata concerts began four years ago. They've been to the Ordway, but how can you beat this?

Richard Oberg and Susan Doyle are regulars, too, with seats right up front, not far from Bob and Mary Jo Newman of Greenwood. Bob appreciates being able to stretch his long legs on the aisle. Retirees Charlie and Marlys Rosengren of Plymouth pointed out that the SPCO "fits our budget a little better." Dave Wagy of Shorewood used to have season tickets for the Minnesota Orchestra, but "it was tough to get there after work on Friday nights."

As was the case in Stillwater, this is a sophisticated audience. They listen intensely, collective murmurs releasing the palpable tension when Tsang again dispatches the "Rococo." When the cellist leaves the stage, beads of sweat are visible on his forehead as he passes just a few feet from the Woods and the Newmans. The intimacy is a rare opportunity for music patrons.

By Graydon Royce

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Austin Monthly

Bion Tsang profiled in Austin Monthly magazine.

Austin Monthly Austin, TX January 2011

Master Class


At an age when most kids learn to ride bikes, Bion Tsang picked up a cello. He was only 7 years old, but it didn't take long for him and his teachers to discover his incredible talent with the instrument. Tsang entered Juilliard at the ripe age of 8 and remained there for nine years. After attending Harvard University, where he studied musicology and composition, Tsang realized he was meant to perform music rather than write it. "When I perform, I want to capture the essence of music and evoke a response from the audience," he says. "Classical music isn't always pretty; sometimes it's angry, nasty and dramatic."

In 2002, Tsang made the move from New York City to Austin to become the professor of cello at the Butler School of Music at UT. He now teaches his students to "make a musical instrument illustrate what is in your mind, heart and soul." That's something that the professor can speak of with firsthand knowledge, as it earned him a 2010 Grammy nomination for Best Classical Crossover album for his work with Austin's choral group Conspirare. "The award ended up going to Yo-Yo Ma, but just being nominated for something so prestigious was a great honor in itself," he says.

When he's not instructing younger generations in classical music or playing frequent on-campus concerts, Tsang travels the world to perform everywhere from Chicago to Hong Kong and beyond. "I want my students to see the fruits of our labors through performance," he explains, though he's quick to add that teaching comes first. "The biggest reward is to see my students grow in their love for the music and to watch their development."

By Heather Calvillo

Available in hard print in Vol. 18, No. 1 (January 2011, Talk: Creative, pp. 40-41)

Bion Tsang and the HiFiMAN HE-6

Bion Tsang's latest CD as reference for Playback Magazine November 17, 2010

Chris Martens of Playback magazine uses Bion Tsang's latest CD, Bion Tsang and Anton Nel: Live in Concert, as his classical music recording reference to review the $1199 HiFiMAN HE-6 Planar Magnetic Headphone in his article, "Stretching the Peformance Envelope." Here's what he had to say:

"Finally, let’s look at a fine classical music recording for a great example of two more of the HE-6’s most musically satisfying qualities; namely, its timbral purity and remarkable ability to convey the acoustics of the recording venue. The recording I’ll cite here features cellist Bion Tsang and pianist Anton Nel performing Brahms’ 'Four Hungarian Dances for Violoncello and Piano,' Live in Concert [Artek, CD], as recorded at New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall in Boston.

"Right from the opening measures of the Hungarian Dances you can hear in an instant that the cello and piano are being played on an open stage in a concert hall, and with an audience presence. The HE-6’s deftly reproduce the resonances of the instruments’ voices reflecting off the stage surface, the reverb characteristics of the hall, and—between the four dances—the subtle sounds of both the performers and of audience members shifting in their seats. These are the kinds of low-level sonic details that all top-tier headphones can handle well to some degree, but that few can pull off with such enchanting realism.

"But the best part comes when the HiFiMAN ‘phones reveal the blinding virtuosity of Tsang’s cello performance and the wonderfully controlled, perfectly paced lyricism of Nel’s piano work. The HE-6’s give you an amazingly up close, personal, and believable view of the performance, so that you can almost sense the intensity of Tsang’s concentration during the more challenging cello passages, or the way the players listen intently to each other and then make minor adjustments in pace and timing so as to stay exactly in sync with one another. Through the HE-6’s you aren’t 'just listening to music' (as in hearing the general shape and flow of the notes); rather, you’re allowed to go deeper and to hear the performance—complete with all of the deep back-and-forth communication that word implies."

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Austin City Limits Goes Classical

Bion Tsang and Anton Nel on KLRU's In Context

AustinPost Austin, TX August 25, 2010

By DiandreW

Who said that KLRU studio 6A soundstage was all about rock and pop music? Well maybe everyone did. But the story of two men will inform you otherwise.

KLRU studios have been taping “Austin City Limits” for 34 years, and during this time, almost all walks of musicians have played on the set, all but one type.

Meet pianist Anton Nel and cellist Bion Tsang, the first duo of classical musicians to grace the set of “Austin City Limits” at KLRU Studio 6A in February 2010. Both are respected artists internationally, and are faculty members at the Butler School of Music at the University of Texas. They a taped thirty minute special for PBS’ Lone Star Emmy Award winning arts series “In Context.”

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