The Taiwan National Symphony Orchestra, which goes by the name Philharmonia Taiwan internationally (due to China’s diplomatic sensitivities), was once known for what some critics called its “Music 101? repertoire — heavy on the likes of Beethoven’s and Mozart’s greatest hits. But in recent years it has become a standout in the region for its ambition and adventurousness. In 2006, for instance, it took on the epic scale of Wagner’s four Ring-cycle operas. These mid-19th-century classics are ambitious undertakings even for established European and American orchestras; for a modest Asian outfit to play them was unprecedented.
And this season, under new maestro Shao-chia Lü, a native Taiwanese back from a stint as music director of the heralded German opera house Staatsoper Hannover, the program encompassed a wide range of German music that included works by 20th-century composers such as Schoenberg and Webern as well as by their more-popular predecessors Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Brahms and Mahler.
This kind of mix is a rarity in any concert hall, any season, anywhere. But in Taipei, it is a revelation — a sign that the National Symphony, and its audience, are maturing. Then came last month’s concert performance of the 1909 Richard Strauss opera “Elektra.” Strauss is probably best known for composing the music used as the theme of the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey,” but to many his music is considered hard to listen to — and hard to perform.
Ching-Yun Hu, piano (Orchestral Promo
Ma Shui-Long Piano Concerto, part 1