Han-Na Chang is one of the most distinctive and successful of the numerous young, attractive string players on the classical music scenes. She is no relation to Sarah Chang, an equally precocious violinist, also of Korean descent but born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Han-Na Chang began studying music at the age of three with piano lessons and started in on cello when she was six. Her family took her to New York when she was ten to study at the Juilliard School with Aldo Parisot.
The next year she applied for entrance in the prestigious Mstislav Rostropovich Cello Competition in Paris in October 1994. What she had in mind was that this would be a chance for her to get heard by Rostropovich, the eminent Russian cellist and conductor. What she accomplished was winning the whole show, taking First Prize and the Contemporary Music Prize with the votes of all eleven jurors including Rostropovich, who has since declared, "I did not play as well as her at that age. The maturity and emotion are extraordinary. If you closed your eyes you would imagine that you were listening to a 25-year-old. I've never heard anything like it."
Rostropovich invited her to join him in the studio of his record company, EMI, to record her debut disc. It was a collection of some of the best-known cello and orchestra works in the repertory, including Tchaikovsky's Rococo Variations, Saint-Saëns' Cello Concerto No. 1, Bruch's Kol Nidrei, and Fauré's Elegie. With her charm, obvious musical talent, fine support from Rostropovich and EMI's worldwide marketing effort, the disc became one of the most popular classical releases of 1995. She has since gone on at a deliberate pace, evidently wary of rushing her development. Her second release, in 1998, was of the two Joseph Haydn concertos (Giuseppe Sinopoli conducting the Dresden Staatskapelle) and, in 2000, a collection of short cello and orchestra piece including The Swan, for which the album is named, with Leonard Slatkin conducting the Philharmonia. All these releases have been best sellers. Nevertheless she continued her cello studies, including master classes with Rostropovich and Mischa Maisky.
She made her stage debut five months after her triumph at the Rostropovich Competition in her native Seoul in a concert with Sinopoli and the Dresden orchestra, and her Carnegie Hall debut was with Charles Dutoit and the Montréal Symphony in October 1996. She has appeared with Mariss Jansons and the Pittsburgh Symphony, Jesús López-Cobos and the Cincinnati Symphony, with Leonard Slatkin's National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, the Bavarian Radio Orchestra, the NHK Symphony in Tokyo, the Santa Cecilia Orchestra in Rome, the Hong Kong Philharmonic, and the Orchestre National de France, and has returned to Seoul to play with Zubin Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic, and numerous other orchestras.
In the summer of 2000, she debuted at the Hollywood Bowl and then traveled to Sydney to perform with Slatkin in the cultural festivities connected with the Olympic Games there. She frequently performs recitals in major venues, has begun to appear at summer festivals, and plays chamber music, including appearance with such artists as Maisky, Gidon Kremer, and Dmitry Sitkovetsky. She has appeared on television events. Among them were the 1998 Easter Day Concert of the Bavarian Radio Orchestra under Lorin Maazel, the Kennedy Center 25th Anniversary Gala, and the 1997 Victoire de la Musique Awards, which was carried on a Europe-wide network. In 1997, she received the ECHO Classical Music Awards held in Germany.
In September 2000, Han-Na Chang began her senior year at Rockland County Day School in Congers, New York.