From Taiwan to the World Stage and Silver Screen: Meet Viola Virtuoso Yu-Ting Hsu

Hsu is best known for her powerful performances with the American Contemporary Ballet.

By: Apr. 22, 2024
From Taiwan to the World Stage and Silver Screen: Meet Viola Virtuoso Yu-Ting Hsu
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While the violin is undoubtedly more commonly known among most circles, there is something uniquely special about the viola, as well as the musicians that choose it as their main instrument. With its deep and mellow sound, the viola is capable of conveying darker and more expressive tones that remain out of reach to the violin, something Taiwanese violist Yu-Ting Hsu knows all about.

“I like the deep and nasal sound of this instrument. With its lower two strings, the viola can produce a deep and dark sound similar to the cello, while with its upper two strings, it can create a bright and brilliantly beautiful sound akin to the violin,” explains Yu-Ting Hsu.

“The viola has its own nasal and sometimes tumultuous yet pure sound…. As the viola is becoming increasingly popular these days, we are no longer confined to playing accompaniment roles, but often take on the main melody across all instruments. In fact, many composers nowadays prefer to write melodies for the viola because of its wide range of sound variety.”

Yu-Ting Hsu's journey is a testament to the transformative power of music and its capacity for transcending borders. Born and raised amidst the rich tapestry of Taiwanese culture, Hsu's early passion for the viola ignited a trajectory that would see her rise as a prominent figure in the global music scene. Her story is one of resilience, determination, and an unwavering dedication to her craft, inspiring audiences across various mediums with her virtuosity.

Today, Hsu is best known for her powerful performances with the American Contemporary Ballet, the only ballet company in Los Angeles that performs exclusively to live music, the modern chamber orchestra Delirium Musicum, which won the San Francisco Classical Voice Audience Choice Award last year, the Los Angeles Sinfonietta Orchestra and Symphony at Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Vicente Chamber Orchestra led and founded by Percy Faith Award winning violist Zain Khan, and others.

“Yu-Ting's contribution to our ensemble is simply unparalleled. Her musical prowess is matched only by her unwavering commitment to excellence. As a performer, she radiates confidence and grace, elevating every piece we play to new heights,” says Delirium Musicum member Stella Cho, who is also a founding member of the Sakura Cello quintet.

“Yu-Ting's success stems from her unparalleled work ethic and unwavering dedication. She approaches every rehearsal and performance with a meticulous attention to detail, ensuring that each note is imbued with emotion and meaning. Her ability to seamlessly blend technical proficiency with heartfelt expression makes her a standout musician in our ensemble.”

Since she began playing as a violist with Delirium Musicum over five years ago, Hsu has toured the US several times with the group, played numerous sold out shows at the Soraya Auditorium in Northridge, California, and contributed to the riveting “Treeology” concert series, which sought to bring awareness to  three iconic California trees threatened by wildfires.

She has also been an integral player in concerts showcasing the group’s 2023 album “Seasons” released by Warner Classics and Erato, which serves as a brilliant blend of the well-known Vivaldi compositions intertwined with bold tempos and sprinkles of electronic sound. You can also find Hsu flexing her talent on the viola in the Delirium Musicum music video for Vivaldi’s Summer 1 recomposed by Max Richter.

Former Delirium Musicum cellist Ben Fried says, “Yu-Ting Hsu’s collaborative spirit and unique musical talent make working with her a joy. She has the intelligence, musical instinct, and drive to bring all of her work and the work of her collaborators to a higher professional level than would be possible without her. She is irreplaceable in her abilities to add depth, detail, and artistic truth to the projects that she touches.”

Though Yu-Ting has made impressive contributions to Delirium Musicum over the years, and has been vital to the American Contemporary Ballet’s performances of such beloved pieces as "Astaire," "Concerto Barocco," and "Nutcracker,” her body of work is not confined to orchestras and chamber music. She has also become well known for her flawless contributions to several films, including the dramatic sci-fi film “Perfectly Natural” from Nova Autoria Award winning and Gaudi Award nominated director Victor Alonso-Berbel (“Fist & Steel,” “Voodoo Macbeth”) and Emmy Award winning director Rommel Villa’s drama “Sweet Potatoes,” as well as several tracks from singer songwriter Grace Corsi, such as “Museum of My Love,” “Childhood Regrain” and “Wrapped Up In Silver.”

Hsu says, “When we make music, it's like having a conversation with ourselves. We express our emotions, both good and bad, and find peace within ourselves. For me, music is more like a natural cure medicine.”

Every time Hsu touches her bow to the strings, palpable emotions are expressed. Her love for the viola and her natural stage presence have led her to be invited to perform across the world in countries including Japan, Singapore, China, Vietnam and Israel, in addition to the U.S. and Taiwan.

“I love performing! So, no matter which instrument I play, as I also play piano and sometimes violin, I simply enjoy being on stage—that's what I'm always passionate about,” admits Hsu. 

Looking at Yu-Ting Hsu’s overall journey, it is quite easy to see that she was poised for musical success from an incredibly young age. With Hsu’s mother and two aunts all being music teachers, she was surrounded by music even in the womb.

She recalls, “According to my mom, she noticed my interest in music and my perfect pitch when I was 2 or 3 years old. Whenever she practiced the piano, I was drawn to the sound and wanted to play with her. So, she started playing note recognition games with me and discovered that I could name the notes correctly just by listening to them.”

Hsu began her musical journey on the piano at the age of four before switching over to what would become her life’s work, the viola, at the age of 7. A quick study, the young musician started winning accolades early on. By the age of 12, after winning the prestigious Taiwan Viola Competition, Hsu was playing as a soloist with an orchestra. A huge accomplishment, she would go on to win numerous other competitions, as well as scholarships, including one that paid her way to play with the Asian Youth Orchestra for two months giving performances across numerous Asian countries, a full ride scholarship to USC to complete her master’s and graduate degrees, and others.

Having established a powerful reputation for herself as an adept and intuitive player whose finesse on the viola is relatively unmatched, it’s no wonder that orchestras and artists continue to seek out her talents. In addition to her upcoming shows with Delirium Musicum, and several more with the Vicente Chamber Orchestra, Yu-Ting Hsu has been tapped to join Le Salon de Musiques as a lead violist over the 2024 and  2025 season.

“I’m really excited to join Le Salon de Musiques because it’s a chance to play with amazing musicians, and I just love playing chamber music,” says Hsu. “I’m not sure yet who I’m going to play with, but for sure there are well-known artists from the musician pool in this chamber society, such as Stella Choi, YuEun Gemma Kim, Hwieun Kim, Sun Chang etc., Salon gives us a stage that gathers musicians from all over the world!”


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