The road one walks as a violin maker is singularly his own, in the same way as his instruments bear a personality and character distinct from all others. This is even more so than others in the music profession, due to the master-apprentice relationship that goes back centuries to at least the time of Amati – the maker that brought us Stradivari, and who continues to inspire the work of Malaysian luthier Tan Chin Seng.

Trained first in Han Zhao Sheng’s workshop as an apprentice in 2010, Chin Seng then learned under maestro Bertrand Yves Delisle, who spends time in Kuala Lumpur every summer. His experiences with maestro Michele Mecatti, Paolo Sorgentone, and Gianluca Montenegro in Florence, Italy, has enabled him to further discover his own style.

Chin Seng’s work typically begins at eight o’clock in the morning, and – in bringing the modern to a time-honoured craft – he can occasionally be in a live Facebook feed bringing a new instrument to life. Wood for these instrument include maple from Italy, Switzerland, and Romania, with spruce from Italy’s Val di Fiemme. In addition to his own craftsmanship, Chin Seng continues the master-apprentice tradition, with students from all walks of life – some in other professions but who have the passion to create an instrument of their own.
“The instruments made by Tan Chin Seng are works of art that come alive,”

says Jonathan Oh, Sutera Ensemble cellist and Curator of the JB Classical Music Festival.

“The cello that was made for me is one of the easiest I have played on – an all-rounded instrument with rich, deep bass coupled with a definite sweetness. It is an instrument of the highest standard that is made by a true visionary.”

His colleague, Sutera Ensemble violist and Co-Curator of the same festival plays on Chin Seng’s first viola. “My decision to obtain this instrument was somewhat by accident – I was showcasing the instrument at a performance, playing half the concert on the viola I had been using for over a decade, and half on Chin Seng’s new instrument. I’d forgotten to switch back to my regular instrument for the final work of the evening – which was the most technically challenging one. I realised with some alarm midway that I’d never seriously rehearsed this piece on this instrument, but it worked out remarkably well. I came to his workshop the next day and told him I was going to acquire it, and it has been a faithful companion ever since – and it’s done well in MPO chamber concerts where I’ve loaned it to a friend. Like the wands in the world of Harry Potter, sometimes the instrument chooses the player. I’m glad it chose me.”

Awards

A trailblazer in violin-making in this region, Chin Seng set a benchmarkwith winning two gold medals in Italy in 2019.

Silver Medal Cello in Malta International Violin-Making Competition 2020.

Gold Medal Violin in ANLAI International Violin-Making Competition 2019, Italy.

Gold Medal Viola in ANLAI International Violin-Making Competition 2019, Italy.

Awarded Cello
Tan Ching Seng

Awarded CelloAwarded Viola
Tan Ching Seng

Awarded Violin
Tan Ching Seng