18-year-old pianist opens Carnegie Hall performance with Israeli national anthem

By Luke Tress

(New York Jewish Week) – A rising star in the world of piano opened a performance at New York City’s Carnegie Hall on Thursday evening with Israel’s national anthem as the country wages war against Hamas in Gaza. 

Footage circulating on social media showed Kevin Chen, 18, sitting at the piano bench and, without introduction, beginning to play the melody. After the first few notes, members of the audience joined in singing the anthem, called “Hatikvah,” Hebrew for “the hope.” 

Chen, who is Canadian, won first prize in the prestigious Arthur Rubinstein Piano Master Competition in Tel Aviv earlier this year, which is geared toward young pianists.

He has performed with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, and the Israel Camerata, according to Canada’s National Arts Centre. Chen is also a composer, has performed with a range of other orchestras and won numerous awards.

Since Hamas attacked the south of Israel earlier this month, killing 1,400 and wounding thousands, and in the midst of the ensuing war Israel is fighting against the terror group in Gaza, the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra has held free concerts for refugees from southern Israel and the capital’s residents. The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, which performs in Tel Aviv, has canceled all upcoming events.

The announced program for Chen’s Thursday performance at Carnegie Hall included numbers by Felix Mendelssohn, Frédéric Chopin and Franz Liszt.

Israel’s official account on X shared footage of the performance, thanking Chen and saying he was “paying tribute to the Israeli victims murdered and those who are being held hostage by Hamas.”

“New York stands with Israel, from rallies and vigils to the stage of Carnegie Hall,” the UJA-Federation of New York said.

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