Eugenia Cheng

Eugenia Cheng, headshot


Tribute to Christine Pembridge

Future plans

Forthcoming performances

Recent performances

Some sample audio/video tracks




Here is a video of me performing the Ballade no. 3 by Chopin
at the concert in memory of my piano teacher, Christine Pembridge
on March 12th 2012.

For more video and audio extracts click here.

Chopin Ballade no. 3


Eugenia Cheng is a pianist and mathematician based in Chicago.   As a pianist she specialises in Lieder and art song; as a mathematician in higher-dimensional category theory.

Eugenia was born in the UK where she performed extensively before moving to Chicago in 2004.  She was awarded the Sheila Mossman Memorial Award from the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, and was the first recipient of the Brighton and Hove Arts Council Award for the Musician of the Year.  In Chicago she gave a recital in the PianoforteChicago recital series, she performed
Schwanengesang and Winterreise with Paul Geiger at Schubertiade Chicago in 2005 and 2006 respectively, and Die Schöne Müllerin with Ryan de Ryke at Schubertiade Chicago 2007; she performed Lieder with tenor Nicholas Harkness in the Noontime Recital Series at the University of Chicago, the Salon Series at the Tower Club, and the Maxwell Recital Series, gave recitals for the Auxiliary Board Chapter of the Lyric Opera; she also performed La Traviata at the Oak Park Village Players. 

Eugenia moved back to the UK to take up a position at the University of Sheffield. While there she performed Lieder in the recital series at the University of Sheffield, Sheffield Cathedral, and Schott's in London.  She also did a recital tour of Winterreise with baritone Ryan de Ryke and "La Belle Musique" with soprano Nathalie Colas, and
continued to perform at the annual Schubertiade in Chicago, collaborating with various singers including Oliver Camacho, Nathalie Colas and Ryan de Ryke.  She moved back to Chicago in 2013 to take up a position teaching mathematics at the University of Chicago.
Eugenia has a YouTube channel where she posts videos of herself playing Lieder piano parts, so that singers can sing along.  Click below to visit:
KaraokeLiederPianist on YouTube
Other Karaoke Lieder tracks including the complete Die Schöne Müllerin can be found on Eugenia's SoundCloud channel:

eugenia-cheng-1 on SoundCloud

Eugenia studied with Christine Pembridge and Ronald Smith in the UK, and has been coached in masterclass by Piers Lane, Bernard Roberts, Robert Tear and Ian Bostridge.  She holds three degrees from the University of Cambridge.

Eugenia loves working with singers and is available to collaborate with singers in the Chicago area, either for concerts or just for the love of exploring music.  She founded the Liederstube, an intimate oasis for art song in the Fine Arts Building.

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A personal tribute to
Christine Pembridge 1926

I studied the piano with Christine Pembridge in Brighton from the beginning, aged 5, until I left school at 18. The influence she had on my life is immense, profound, immeasurable and irreplaceable. Christine did not just teach me about playing the piano: she taught me about all aspects of music and indeed life. The skills she taught me are not only about playing the piano, but all aspects of music, performance of all kinds, teaching, communication, leadership and love. The principles she instilled in me are ones that I call on every day of my life, and have been a direct part of everything successful I have ever done.

One of Christine's great principles was that the role of a teacher should be to make themselves redundant, that is, the aim should be for the student to become independent of the teacher. The best way of doing that is to teach someone how to teach, because then they can teach themselves as well as others. Although I am mainly a teacher of mathematics, I still apply that principle; it is my guide for how to be a good teacher.

One way in which Christine taught us this was to hold masterclasses for all her pupils before competitions, in which we all gathered in her music room and performed our pieces to each other. Afterwards, everyone was required to give constructive criticism in turn, without repeating any criticism that had already been given. Even the smallest pupils did this, from the age of 5 up to 18. We learnt to listen attentively and critically. It was an exacting but edifying experience. Now performance criticism comes very easily to me, and I always prepare for concerts by recording myself and listening critically. Moreover, I am not daunted by performance of any kind, whether it's a piano concerto or a maths lecture to an audience of some of the fiercest mathematicians on earth, or - perhaps worse - an audience of sceptical teenagers. 

Last, but certainly not least, these masterclasses created a feeling of strong camaraderie among Christine's pupils.  She had no children herself, and often said that we, her pupils, were her children. In that sense, her pupils were all brothers and sisters. There are certainly "family" traits among us, and I can feel these even when I meet pupils of hers from different generations with whom I have no directly shared experience.  This is how deep her teaching runs.

It is impossible to sum up in words everything that Christine meant and continues to mean to me. As a small expression of this, I organised, along with several other pupils, a concert in her memory in March 2012. 13 of her pupils played, ranging from the age of 9 to 73, to an audience of several hundred. 

Probably the greatest thing I can do in her memory is to continue playing music and passing on as much of her teaching as I can. The last time I saw her, I didn't know it would be the last time, but in retrospect I realised that she knew; I suppose those close to death have a clearer vision of these things. We listened to a recording of me performing the Ballade no. 3 by Chopin, which she chose out of all the recordings I had brought with me to the hospice. As she walked me out, she said "Thank you for putting that lovely tune back in my head!" and then she said "You'll be playing the piano for the rest of your life, won't you." I thought it was an extraordinary question as the answer was so obviously yes, but then I thought about how few people actually continue performing on the piano when it isn't their full time job. Christine was always very tickled by and proud of the fact that I was a mathematician and a pianist. I still marvel at the fact that my continuing to play the piano was something that could give her such joy all the way to her death. But that's how she was - when her performing career was cut short, she was utterly dedicated to her pupils.

She kissed me goodbye with so much love; I have never seen so much love inscribed on anyone's face.   

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Future plans

Forthcoming performances

Recent performances

1.10pm - 1.55pm
Admission free
Songs by Fauré, Poulenc and Wolf
Mai, Lydia, Au Bord de l'Eau, Adieu, Les berceaux, Après un rêve, Clair de Lune

Poulenc: Le Bestiaire
Le dromadaire, La chèvre du Thibet, La sauterelle, Le dauphin, L'écrevisse, La Carpe

Wolf: from the Mörike Lieder
Um Mitternacht, Denk es, o Seele, Auf ein altes Bild, Verborgenheit, Lebe wohl

For more information click here.

This new production starred soprano Christine Steyer in the title role as Violetta, tenor Franco Martorana as Alfredo, baritone Paul Geiger as Germont, and pianist Eugenia Cheng. Their credits include roles with Lyric Opera of Chicago, Des Moines Opera, San Francisco Opera, Opera Theater of Humbach, Germany and Chicago Opera Theater.

For more information please visit the Village Players website.
For a review of this production, click here.

PianoforteChicago Piano Recital series

Chopin Ballade no. 3
Ravel Sonatine
Janacek Sonata


Chopin Ballade no. 4
Debussy preludes
- Danseuses de Delphes
- Général Lavine - excentric
- Des pas sur la neige
- La Puerta del Vino
- La fille aux cheveux de lin
- La sérénade interrompue
- Bruyères
- Feux d'artifice

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See above for video of Chopin Ballade no. 3

Here is a video of me performing "Nachtstück" by Schubert
with mezzo-soprano Sophia Cheung
at the concert in memory of our piano teacher, Christine Pembridge
on March 12th 2012.


for excerpts of "La Belle Musique" with soprano Nathalie Colas
click here 

from Winterreise (Schubert)
Ryan de Ryke - baritone
Eugenia Cheng - piano
recorded live at Oetrange, Luxembourg
April 9th 2011

Gute Nacht
Die Krähe

from Schubertiade 2011 at PianoforteChicago
Nathalie Colas - soprano
Oliver Camacho - tenor
Eugenia Cheng - piano

Duet - Mignon und der Harfner
Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt

Gretchen am Spinnrade

from a solo recital in the PianoforteChicago series
May 20th 2006
Eugenia Cheng - piano

Ravel Sonatine, first movement

Ravel Sonatine, second movement

Ravel Sonatine, third movement

Feux d'artifice (Debussy)

and finally...

A video of me singing the famous "Queen of the Night" aria from Die Zauberflöte
by request, in a train station (Gare Montparnasse, Paris)
with a Streetpiano, July 2012
accompanied by Martin Kilbinger

1. We are sight-reading!
2. Yes I am reading off a netbook, Martin off a Kindle.
3. It's close to midnight and we've been hanging around streetpianos and singing since about noon!
4. You can hear the lady announcing the arrival of the TGV.
5. It's filmed on an iphone by the passerby who made the request.

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An intimate oasis for art song.

Studio 727
The Fine Arts Building
410 S Michigan Avenue


To visit my mathematical home page, click here.

To visit my Lieder channel on YouTube, click here.
To visit my SoundCloud channel click here.

To visit my mathematics channel on YouTube, click here.

My favourite piano for public performance is the Fazioli.

My main headshot is by nestingNYC.

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eugenia "at"

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Page last updated: 17th October 2014, 23:57