These days, it would seem, Taipei can have anything it wants. In the world of classical music at least, if something is famous anywhere in the world, then it must come here. The money's no problem - Taiwan knows it can afford the best, and so the best it continues to insist on having.
The Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra doesn't sound like much of a name - some local band, perhaps, tied to an outdated technology? In fact, it's one of the world's greatest orchestras. Taipei has tried unsuccessfully to get it here before, and this time met with success.
The secret is that the orchestra is based in Munich, Germany's richest city. Siemens and BMW both have their headquarters there. It's also a city associated with famous composers such as Wagner, Mahler and Richard Strauss. In opera, Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, Meistersinger, Rheingold and Walkure all had their premieres there, as did Mozart's Idomeneo.
The orchestra will be led by its Latvian-born conductor Mariss Jansons. He's had an astonishing career, first in what was then Leningrad, then in Norway where he raised the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra to international celebrity status. From Oslo he moved on to London, Pittsburgh and Amsterdam, taking up his current Munich post in 2003. Last month, he led his Bavarian orchestra in a performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony inside the Vatican before (and perhaps partly in honor of) the German pope, Benedict XVI.
The Bavarians will give two different programs in Taipei. On Sunday evening, they'll play Richard Strauss' tone poem Also Sprach Zarathustra (Thus Spoke Zarathustra) and Brahms' First Symphony. On Monday evening, it will be Schumann's Cello Concerto followed by Mahler's Symphony No. 5 (with its celebrated Adagietto.
Prices for the concerts are not low. Seats are on offer at NT$3,800, NT$4,600 and NT$5,600, with a reasonable number still available for both performances. The NT$2,600 tickets have all been sold.
But this orchestra has reaped enormous praise wherever it has performed, especially under Jansons. Brilliance, warmth, exuberance, clarity, precision - all these have been highlighted by critics, together with the enthusiasm Jansons himself radiates. Taiwan, so much the leader in Asia where classical music is concerned, both needs and deserves to hear these artists.
Mariss Jansons and the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks play at Taipei's National Concert Hall on Sunday and Monday, beginning at 7:30pm. Tickets are from NT$3,800 to NT$5,600, available through NTCH ticket outlets. For more information, call (02) 3393-9888 or visit www.ntch.edu.tw.