Taiwan never saw such a big gathering of professional local musicians for a symphonic celebration. Almost 200 musicians fielded by different orchestras around Taiwan gathered to perform under a succession of six conductors at the home base of the National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra (NTSO) in Wufeng, Taichung County, on December 10.
The mood at the unprecedented open-air concert was very upbeat and festive for a good reason. The NTSO was turning 60. The orchestra led presently by Ko Chi-liang had come a long way.
Erstwhile Taipei Symphony Orchestra conductor Chen Chiu-sen, after lying low for some time, returned to the stage limelight as the NTSO's guest conductor. Strains from Richard Strauss' “Also sprach Zarathustra” – familiar to many due to its use in the opening sequence of the 1968 film “2001: Space Odyssey” – dramatically opened the concert. The orchestra musicians performing together as a group for the first time shortly moved on to Tchaikovsky's “Capriccio Italien.”
The more senior David Liao of the Taipei Century Symphony Orchestra guided the orchestra through music close to the hearts of the Taiwanese population like Teng Yu-hsien's “Looking Forward to the Spring Wind” and “Glow of Love.” Nostalgia filled the air.
Then came the moment for a bit of Hakka culture through Chen Shu-hsi's “Mountain Song (San Ko) Symphony.” A suona soloist played in the loud and festive second part of the Hakka music composition. Chen, the director and conductor of the Kaohsiung Symphony Orchestra, handled the piece himself.
Lin Tien-chi, conductor of the Taipei Sinfonietta and Philharmonic Orchestra, fanned a bit of excitement with his conducting of Suppe's “Light Cavalry Overture.” He also got the orchestra to play “Ali Mountain High.”
The time came for Popo Chiang of Moments Musicaux Ensemble to take over as baton-wielder. The classical piece he conducted in his style on this happy occasion was Beethoven's “Egmont Overture.”
Finally Wang Ya-hui, the lone female conductor in the program, stepped forward to lead the orchestra through “Aboriginal Dance Music.” This number was followed by Elgar's “Enigma Variation.” Another version of “Ali Mountain High” capped the memorable evening's repertoire as encore. Wang is the full-time conductor of the Evergreen Symphony Orchestra. Only the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) did not send a conductor.
Chen Chi-nan, chairman of the Council for Cultural Affairs, reiterated a wish for the well-equipped base of the NTSO to evolve as Taiwan's Tanglewood. Chen remarked: “By year 2008, the National Theater and National Concert Hall in southern Taiwan will be ready. In trying to give our artists a better environment, let us not forget to nurture our music talents. We want to have the venues we build used not just by foreign artists but also by local ones.”
Tanglewood is a name associated with the internationally famous music camp for young artists as well as with the music festival known for presenting world-class musicians. Taiwan hopes to be able to duplicate the American project and experience in Wufeng, Taichung County. The Council for Cultural Affairs will be providing the NTSO with the logistics for the project's realization.