The American pianist, Gloria Cheng, earned her B.A. in Economics from Stanford University, and graduate degrees in Music from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and the University of Southern California. In addition to solfège and piano studies in Paris and Barcelona, her primary teachers were Isabelle Sant'Ambrogio, Aube Tzerko, and John Perry. She is on the faculty at UCLA.
Gloria Cheng is widely recognized as a charismatic and eloquent performer of contemporary music. She has dozens of premieres and dedications to her credit from composers who include John Adams, Pierre Boulez, Terry Riley, and Esa-Pekka Salonen, and has collaborated with many of the leading composers of our time: Thomas Adès, Henry Brant, Earle Brown, Elliott Carter, George Crumb, John Harbison, William Kraft, György Ligeti, Witold Lutoslawski, Steve Reich, and Steven Stucky.
Gloria Cheng's playing is regularly praised for its unassuming virtuosity and depth, and her recitals and recordings are noted for exploring significant interconnections between composers. As the New York Times put it, "It's not just that Ms. Cheng plays these daunting pieces with such commanding technique, color and imagination. She has brought together works that fascinatingly complement one another." According to the Chicago Reader, "Her illuminating concerts have made her a local treasure in California, both to younger composers and younger listeners. She plays with clarity and intelligence, exuding such assurance that it seems she and the composer have plotted each note together...and if reports from California are to be believed, she can talk about the music as zealously as she plays it."
Gloria Cheng's recording of Piano Music of Esa-Pekka Salonen, Steven Stucky, and Witold Lutoslawski was released to international accolades that included Gramophone Magazine's Editor's Choice, New York Times Best of 2008, and the GRAMMY® in the category of Best Instrumental Soloist Performance (without Orchestra). She appears on over twenty releases, with three earlier solo discs that showcase the breadth of her taste in contemporary music: “Piano Music of John Adams and Terry Riley”, “Piano Dance: A 20th-Century Portrait”, both on Telarc, and her debut CD, “Messiaen”, on Koch International.
BBC Music Magazine has declared, "Cheng is a winner (no wonder one of her greatest fans is Boulez)." In May 2003, Cheng was personally invited by Pierre Boulez to appear with him as the soloist in Messiaen's Oiseaux exotiques during the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra's historic final concerts in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Cheng's concerto debut with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra was in December, 1998, performing Messiaen's Oiseaux exotiques and Couleurs de la Cité céleste under the direction of Zubin Mehta. Other concerto engagements have included appearances with the Louisville Orchestra, Pacific Symphony, Long Beach Symphony, Indianapolis Symphony, Shanghai Symphony, and Pasadena Symphony. Additional projects have brought her to festivals such as Ojai, Tanglewood, Aspen, Bad Gleichenberg, and Kuhmo (Finland), Chicago Humanities, Other Minds (San Francisco), and Composer-to-Composer (Telluride). She has been featured on the Making Music series at Carnegie Hall, at (le) Poisson Rouge and Théatre du Châtelet, as well as in live broadcast by Radio France, KPFA, KPFK, and WNEW.
In Los Angeles Gloria Cheng has appeared on countless Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra Green Umbrella concerts in repertoire that ranged from Elliott Carter's Double Concerto for Piano and Harpsichord conducted by Oliver Knussen to Pierre Boulez's Éclat/Multiples multiples under the direction of the composer. She presents an annual recital on the Piano Spheres series founded by Leonard Stein, and collaborates with a number of chamber ensembles, most notably with the Calder Quartet and on the Jacaranda Music series. She appears frequently on movie soundtracks at the request of numerous film composers who include Don Davis, James Horner, Maurice Jarre, and John Williams.
As an ardent spokesperson for contemporary music, Gloria Cheng's writings have appeared in Piano Today, Piano & Keyboard Magazine, and NewMusicBox. She has served as the keynote speaker to the Music Critics Association of North America national convention, as a panelist for the Minnesota Composers Forum, Coleman Chamber Music Competition, California Arts Council, Arts International, and as a board member of the American Music Center.