What is music? People sometimes ask. Why is western classical music still relevant to Taiwan in the 21st century? What has made us in East Asia listen to the music from centuries ago and thousands of miles away?
As Arthur Schopenhauer, the German philosopher, once described, the pursuit of Science always follows logics and rationality, like an endless straight line that stretches forward; the pursuit of Art always follows afflatus and contemplation, never asking why or how, like the fair, still, and eternal moon.
In the 2019/20 season, the NSO looks out to a grand panorama that incorporates the eloquence of Beethoven, the vigor of Bartók, the originality of Sibelius, the elusiveness of Shostakovich, the sincerity of Tchaikovsky, the genius of Strauss, the poetry of Schumann, the nostalgia of Rachmaninoff, the fluency of Debussy, the wizardry of Ravel, the fortitude of Nielsen, the tartness of Prokofiev, and the glamour of Respighi. These maestros of different eras and places have spoken with different languages both to their audience and to the entire human race. The pure, moving moments that they have brought us transcend time and space, expanding and connecting us in the great collective unconscious. Classical music has endured time to keep resonating with souls pursuing profoundness, sophistication, and heartfelt moments. Through our renditions, the NSO and I wish to bring these classics of various times, places, and genres closer to the music lovers in Taiwan.
Let me briefly go through a few prominent features of this season:
Following the convention that the NSO has established in past years, we once again explore Mahler, the music guru, with “Mahler: From Beginning to End” this year. From Das klagende Lied that he composed at the age of eighteen to Symphony No.9 in his later years, Mahler strained himself to portray the world he saw, to ask questions of existence, and to search for answers through every note he put down. On the peaks and in the valleys of Mahler’s creative journey, on the vast, wavy ocean between the Beginning and the End, there has been this clear, consistent theme. It is a worldview that incorporates into music every component of our universe —— ugly and beautiful, gentle and simple, a view from the eyes of a soul that fervently sought self-identity and self-fulfillment.
The music of Beethoven emanates the noblest of humanity, a light in dark, difficult times that inspires us to keep on. In the year of 2020, we will celebrate the 250th birthday of Beethoven and pay tribute to the maestro with our rendition of his works throughout the entire season. I want to mention especially that we will include Missa solemnis, which is rarely performed in Taiwan. As challenging as Mt. Everest is to its climbers, this intricate masterpiece is one of the greatest compositions of Beethoven and a milestone of his late works. With his characteristic, exquisite counterpoints, Beethoven seemed to travel between times, reminiscing about the past and telling the future, balancing between humanistic contemplations and spiritual quests. With your company, we look forward to exploring the extraordinary mind of Beethoven through our rendition of this magnificent piece.
As usual, we are blessed to have distinguished guest musicians both from Taiwan and abroad to perform with us. In this season, we have Meng-Chieh Liu (piano), Brett Dean (viola and composition), and Qigang Chen (composition), three artists in residence from diverse backgrounds with experience in different fields and the same devotion for excellence in art. Through the lectures and concerts we arrange, they will share in depth with the orchestra and the audience their thoughts, talents, and beliefs in art and music. The rise of Richard Wagner was doubtlessly a landmark in the history of classical music. He expanded the possibilities of music to the corners of a new, untouched realm. An orchestra that has immersed itself in the opera of Wagner will experience inevitable transformation and elevation in art and performance under its influence. After years of effort, the NSO is arguably the most “wagnerian” orchestra in Asia now. With confidence, we look forward to sharing with you Götterdämmerung and Tristan und Isolde, two masterpieces of Wagner, in the beginning and the end of the season.
The 2019/20 season is my last season as the music director of the NSO. With all my heart, I wish to thank you for your constant support and love for the NSO. Since the first day I took office, the establishment of our identity and self-awareness in the world of music has been my calling. In the past decade, the time spent with music lovers during the Salon Concerts and Meet Maestro Lü is especially unforgettable. As I looked into your eyes of filled with passion and devotion, I realized how incredibly lovable Taiwan is as a place that pursues truth, beauty, and goodness. I sincerely hope that, in the ever-changing future yet to come, together with the NSO, we will stay by one another’s side to look up to the clear moon in the eternal, starry sky.