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Violinist Timothy Chooi. Photo Credit: Den Sweeney

Concert Preview: Chooi plays Tchaikovsky at the NAC—10.30.19 and 10.31.19

By Madeline Paiva on October 28, 2019

From October 30 through 31, renowned violinist Timothy Chooi joins the National Arts Centre Orchestra for the program Chooi Plays Tchaikovsky. I spoke with Chooi ahead of his performance.

The program consists of Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain, and both Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35 and Symphony No. 6 in B minor, “Pathetique.” The Orchestra will be lead by Finnish conductor Dalia Stasevska in her North American Debut.

Violinist Timothy Chooi will join the National Arts Centre Orchestra for the program Chooi Plays Tchaikovsky. Photo Credit: Den Sweeney

The program opens with Mussorgsky’s classic Night on Bald Mountain. You may recognize the song from Disney’s Fantasia or even a Halloween Reese’s commercial. The NAC Orchestra has performed the Rimsky-Korsakov version of this piece, but for this program they perform the original score for the first time. We then hear Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35, joined by Timothy Chooi. This romantic piece consists of three movements—Allegro moderato, Canzonetta: Andante, and Finale: Allegro vivacissimo. The program ends with Tchaikovsky’s “Pathetique.” This gut-wrenching, yet romantic piece has four movements—Adagio: Allegro non troppo, Allegro con grazia, Allegro motto vivace, Finale: Adagio lamentoso.

Timothy Chooi has an incredibly impressive history, both in education and performance. The 25-year old violinist began performing with orchestras at the age of 16. He said, “I have had the really special opportunity to play with a lot of orchestras since a very young age which came from a combination of luck and a lot of people believing in me. I’ve played with almost every major orchestra in Canada.”

Chooi didn’t always think he was going to be a musician, especially not from such a young age. “I started playing the violin when I was three years old. It was really young but it was a hobby my parents encouraged me to do along with sports and other activities. I went to regular elementary, middle, and high school and throughout all those years I always kept a very focused mindset on the violin. I had no idea I would go into music.”

“I’m performing the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto which is a really special experience for me. It’s the first piece I learned after winning that competition at 16. I remember it was so hard and I brought it to Ottawa to work on with Pinchas Zukerman [former NACO music director].”—Timothy Chooi

He joins the NACO for a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35, which carries some special significance for him. “I’m performing the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto which is a really special experience for me. It’s the first piece I learned after winning that competition [the Montreal Symphony ManuLife Competition] at 16. I remember it was so hard and I brought it to Ottawa to work on with Pinchas Zukerman [former NACO music director]. We worked for 7 or 8 lessons on just the first page. It was a really slow and insightful way of learning. I didn’t touch it again until I was 23. It’s one of those things that because I learned it in such detail, it felt like I was practicing it without touching it. That’s sort of how I developed with the concerto,” said Chooi. He also said “I didn’t play it again until an orchestra asked me to. I learned it again and it was so much easier than when I learned it at 17. It is something that just clicked with me.”

We finished our conversation exchanging our opinions on why it’s great to hear orchestras, especially if you have never been to one. I asked him what his advice would be for first-time orchestra goers and he said “I think definitely look at the program, the season schedule and choose something that interests you. Maybe you’ll change and have a nice surprise that you loved it. More often than not it’s better to attend something you recognize—‘Oh I knew a little bit about this’ or ‘I’ve heard it in an elevator.’ As a musician, I still look at the brochure and say ‘oh I want to see Shostakovich.’” We spoke a bit further about the accessibility that orchestra now has and he responded that “the NAC is doing a really great job of that.”


Timothy Chooi joins the NAC Orchestra for the program Chooi Plays Tchaikovsky on the Southam Hall stage at the National Arts Centre on October 30th and 31st. The performance runs approximately 2 hours, including intermission. Tickets are available online and range from $31-$114. Half-price student tickets and $15 Live Rush are available for these performances.