Han-Na Chang

Han-Na Chang

Conductor • Cello

• Born 1982

Biography

The Korean-born conductor Han-Na Chang started her career as a cellist. She serves as chief conductor of the Trondheim Symphony in Norway.

A native of Suwon in South Korea's Gyeonggi-do province, Chang was born December 23, 1982. She took up the piano at age three but switched to cello when she was six. Her family moved to the U.S. in 1993, partly so that she could enroll at the Juilliard School in New York in its pre-college division. Her teacher there was Aldo Parisot; she also took private lessons from Mischa Maisky in Italy. The following year, she entered the Rostropovich International Cello Competition in Paris, with an eye toward meeting Mstislav Rostropovich, who maintained a hands-on connection with his namesake event. She won first prize and a special contemporary music prize, and earned raves from Rostropovich, who invited her to perform and record with him. Her 1995 debut on EMI, with Rostropovich conducting the London Symphony Orchestra, featured works by Tchaikovsky and Saint-Saëns, and was one of the year's best-sellers. Chang continued to record successfully for EMI, and to study with Rostropovich. She also found time to complete a general program at Harvard University, majoring in philosophy. After finishing school, however, Chang began to become interested in conducting. She studied with American conductor James DePreist, who had taught conducting at Juilliard. Chang made her debut as a conductor in Korea in 2007, and two years later she founded the Absolute Classic Festival in her home province of Gyeonggi. She has continued to serve as the festival's artistic director.

Chang's conducting career proceeded and eventually largely displaced her cello work. In 2012, she conducted Britain's Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and Philharmonia Orchestra, and that year she made a guest appearance with the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra. She was hired as the orchestra's music director later that year. In 2014, Chang suddenly resigned her post after a BBC Proms concert in London, citing "persistent administrative difficulties and irreconcilable artistic differences with the management." The reasons have not been made public, but Chang has stated that "the woman conductor issue" was not a major problem for her in Qatar. She had already been principal guest conductor with the Trondheim Symphony Orchestra and was quickly named that group's chief conductor in September 2014; her contract was extended through 2023.

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