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Report from the Doldrums

July 21, 2006

Summertime, and the brain cells are melting.  Here and there, dotted forlornly across the DC wasteland, lie a few glittering gems -- Ricardo Cobo’s guitar recital  tomorrow night, for instance.  But mostly we’re adrift in the Easy Listening Doldrums as events like “Mozart’s Hottest Hits”  (last night at Strathmore) wash over our languid, slightly-sunburned ears.

Out of these dog days of summer, though, came the energetic Taipei Philharmonic, performing very well indeed at the Kennedy Center last Sunday. Not really their fault if the event had the anxious, please-the-constituents feel of a government-sponsored tour -- the audience was at least 70 percent Taiwanese, every note was wildly applauded, and there were so many bouquet-bearers that they had to be choreographed -- not kidding! -- so as not to trip over each other. Whatever – the place was packed, families abounded, and everybody had a good time. Here’s the review:

The Washington Post 07/17/06:  Taiwan’s Taipei Philharmonic Orchestra brought an amiable East-Meets-West program to the Kennedy Center Concert Hall on Sunday evening, mixing fluff and familiar warhorses with an intriguing, culture-straddling new work by local composer Chien-Tai Chen. 

Yoel Levi
Under the capable direction of guest conductor Yoel Levi (Director Emeritus of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra), the orchestra tossed off Mozart’s “Overture to The Marriage of Figaro” with ease, displaying their considerable skill from the outset.  But the group really came alive in the two Taiwanese folk songs that followed. Soprano Huey-Ru Tang delivered a nuanced and extremely tender account of Li Lin-Chiu’s “Spring Breeze Prospect”, and both she and the orchestra dug deeply into Yang San-Lung’s “Awaiting Your Early Return” – a powerful lament on the tragedy of war. Huey-Ru Tang sang with great conviction and understanding, despite being plagued with problems in the high notes.

After a slightly lumpy, slightly frumpy rendition of Johann Strauss’ well-known “Fruelingstimmen”, Levi launched into Chien-Tai Chen’s piano concerto, “Far Horizon.”  It was a truncated version of this five-movement piece (the outer movements require a children’s chorus), but pianist Brian Ganz gave a vivid reading, from the introspective opening (with its short, questioning statements from the piano over floating waves of orchestral color) to its jazzy, lyrical ballad-like middle section, to the jaunty and wildly percussive close.

Levi saved the best for last, however, with Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9, "From the New World". Superb playing from the Taipei Philharmonic and elegant direction from Levi produced a passionate, thrilling interpretation -- beautifully controlled, thunderously alive, and memorable in every way.

Posted on Friday, July 21, 2006 at 04:33PM by Registered CommenterStephen Brookes | CommentsPost a Comment

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