Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s Chinese New Year Concert

Planes, trains and automobiles, from the Catalan Pyranees back to Canada to a front row seat for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s Chinese New Year concert hosted by none other than Dashan. 

Expectedly, I spent most of my time watching Yuja Wang’s 王羽佳 legs instead of her hands as she marvellously tackled Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. Years ago, I had previously heard Lang Lang perform the same piece from the same seats. Guess which performance was more titillating; however I’ve yet to see Lang Lang in heels and miniskirt.  

A nice touch was knowing that the conductor Long Yu’s 余隆 first time to attend a foreign orchestra’s performance was this very TSO orchestra back in 1978, one of the first orchestras invited post-cultural revolution. And now he was conducting them, after having risen to lead the China Philharmonic, Shanghai and Guangzhou Orchestras. 

Further, cellist Jian Wang 王健 performed as a soloist; this was the once ten year old boy from the celebrated documentary From Mao to Mozart: Isaac Stern in China who is now touring the world as a soloist.

I was blown away by The Triple Resurrection, written by Tan Dun 谭盾 who had also composed music for Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Yuja Wang, Long Yu and the celebrated Taiwanese-American cellist Cho-Liang Lin 林昭亮 performed a blend of his various movie scores juxtaposed with perhaps the most stirring operatic overture, Wagner’s Das Rheingold

The night closed with Song Zuying 宋祖英 in full Miao regalia singing about fond memories of her mother’s swinging basket—a Freudian allusion?—and singing songbirds—presumably uncaged, and undead and not nailed to the perch. Struck me as odd that she was using a microphone; perhaps Miaoling Mountain naturally amplifies the voice as I’ve never seen a performer on such a stage require vocal assistance. Just last week at the Paris Opera Bastille I snoozed through Massenet’s terribly boring Werther, with none on stage requiring electronic megaphonic gadgetry. 

The last time I saw Dashan/Mark Roswell was at the Canadian pavilion of the Shanghai Expo where I told him how interesting it was listening to him host an event in English, French and Chinese. He doesn’t repeat himself in each language but conveys the key points in a very organic fashion. Nothing is more draining for the multi-linguists in an audience to hear the same concept thrice—especially jokes, which sound forced when repeated. 

However, I'm looking forward to a full repeat of last night's concert in the upcoming Year of the Sheep.

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