Life and career
Fan was born in New York City to parents from Taiwan. He began studying piano seriously at the Juilliard School and has received both a Bachelor of Arts degree from Harvard University and a Master of Music degree in Piano Performance from the Peabody Institute. His performing career began with the New York Philharmonic at the age of 11 after having won the Philharmonic's Young People's Concert Auditions. As a concerto soloist, Fan has performed over 40 different concertos with orchestras worldwide, including the New York Philharmonic, the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, the Odessa Philharmonic, Singapore Symphony Orchestra, Boston Pops Orchestra, and London Sinfonietta, with conductors such as David Zinman, Zubin Mehta, Alan Gilbert, Keith Lockhart and David Robertson. As a recitalist, Joel Fan has performed on numerous stages ranging from the Ravinia Festival in Chicago, Jordan Hall in Boston, Calgary Celebrity Series, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC, to the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. Internationally, Fan has performed recitals on four continents – most recently in tours of China, Cuba and South America.
In January 2006 Fan recorded his first solo album World Keys: Virtuoso Piano Music which was released the following June under Reference Recordings. The album includes pieces from all over the globe by both famous composers such as Prokofiev, Liszt, and Schumann, as well as lesser known ones from countries not usually associated with piano music, for example Halim El-Dabh (Egypt), Qigang Chen (China), Pēteris Vasks (Latvia), and A. Adnan Saygun (Turkey).
Joel Fan’s second album for Reference Recordings, West of the Sun: Music of the Americas featured composers from North and South America like Ginastera, Barber, Gottschalk, Piazzolla, Villa-Lobos, Amy Beach, Margaret Bonds, and William Bolcom.
In 2013, Joel Fan released Revelations, an homage to his mentor and teacher, the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Leon Kirchner. The album features several solo works performed by Fan, including “The Forbidden” – Leon Kirchner’s last major piano composition that was dedicated to Joel Fan. Fan also collaborates with singers Diana Hoagland in several songs, and with the conductor Scott Dunn in a choral setting of Dawn, a poem by Frederico Garcia Lorca.
November 2014, Joel Fan released Dances for Piano and Orchestra with the Northwest Sinfonietta and conductor Christophe Chagnard. Dances for Piano and Orchestra featured works by Gabriel Pierné, Ricardo Castro Herrera, Fryderyk Chopin, Camille Saint-Saëns, Charles Wakefield Cadman, and more.
The Silk Road Project
Fan is a member of Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Project with whom he performed at the BBC Proms for the first time in 2004 alongside Wu Tong, Wu Man and the London Sinfonietta. His other performances with the ensemble range from venues such as Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center and the Concertgebouw to television appearances on Good Morning and David Letterman.
Awards and critical acclaim
Other than winning the Philharmonic’s Young People’s Concert Auditions, Fan has been awarded by several international competitions, notably the D’Anglo Young Artists International Competition and Busoni International Piano Competition. He has also been named a Presidential Scholar by the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer has described him as "a superb musician, able to cross one style into another without any diminution in musical sophistication." The Los Angeles Times says he is a " soaring talent - Fan's facility makes his playing a technical wonder." The Washington Post noted him as "a versatile and sensitive pianist – an impressive talent."