Li-Kuo Chang has been assistant principal viola of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra since 1988, appointed by Sir Georg Solti, and acting principal viola since 2017, appointed by Riccardo Muti. As a soloist, Chang has performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on several occasions, most recently with Pinchas Zukerman in Bach’s Sixth Brandenburg Concerto. As a chamber musician, Chang has collaborated with many renowned artists such as Daniel Barenboim, Yo-Yo Ma, Pinchas Zukerman, Christoph Eschenbach, Nicolaj Szeps-Znaider, Julia Fischer, Alisa Weilerstein and Kirill Gerstein, to name just a few, and in concerts at the Lucerne, Jerusalem and Ravinia festivals as well as at Symphony Center in Chicago, the Staatsoper Berlin and many concert halls in Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and China. By invitation of Daniel Barenboim, Chang was the guest principal viola for the Staatsoper Berlin and Staatskapelle Berlin from 2000 to 2007 on several of their European and Asian tours, one of which included performances Wagner’s complete Der Ring des Nibelungen in Japan.
As an educator, Chang has been on the artist-faculty at several music schools for more than 30 years, including the Chicago College of the Performing Arts, the Bienen School of Music at Northwestern University, the Peabody Institute, as well as at the Affinis Summer Festival in Japan. He given master classes at Indiana University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Kansas, University of Nebraska, Shanghai Conservatory of Music, Hong Kong Academy for the Performing Arts, as well as twice at Carnegie Hall in New York. Many of his students have won auditions, including principal positions, at orchestras such as the CSO, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Philharmonia Orchestra of London, Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra and the orchestras of St. Louis, Detroit and Singapore, among others.
Chang started his early music training on piano under the guidance of his mother, a pianist and graduate of the Royal Academy of Music in London and professor at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. After hearing a performance of the legendary violinist David Oistrakh, Chang switched his studies to violin and, at the age of 11, made his solo debut at the Shanghai Spring Music Festival. Chang became a violist when he formed his own string quartet as a student at the high school of the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. In 1978, he became the first violist to win the Chinese Young Artist Competition in Shanghai and came to the U.S. with full scholarships offered by the Julliard School, New England Conservatory and Eastman School. He pursued his formal viola studies with Francis Tursi at the Eastman School, with Milton Thomas and Donald McInnes at the Music Academy of the West as a young artist fellow, and privately with Paul Doktor and William Magers. He also played for William Primrose in his master class.
Chang has owned and performed on a rare 1768 Parma period G. B. Guadagnini viola, known as the ex-Vieuxtemps, for more than twenty years. He currently plays on a 1774 Turin period G. B. Guadagnini viola owned by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
Chang lives with his wife Maggie and his son Daniel in Chicago’s East Lakeview.