Fri, Jan 11, 2008 - Page 13 News List

TSO announces crucial appointment

By Bradley Winterton  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER

Martin Fischer-Dieskau, the TSO's new Music Director Designate.

PHOTO: COURTESY OF THE TSO

After nearly a year's search, the management of the Taipei Symphony Orchestra (TSO) has finally announced the appointment of a Music Director Designate. It's the 55-year-old German conductor Martin Fischer-Dieskau.

This is a major coup for the TSO, sometimes perceived these days as the little sister of the bigger National Symphony Orchestra (NSO), even though its budget is said to be the larger.

Ever since Felix Chen Chiu-sen (陳秋盛) resigned after two decades as Music Director in extremely controversial circumstances in 2003, the TSO has often appeared to lack direction, in contrast to the ever-increasing repute of the NSO under Chien Wen-pin (簡文彬). This new appointment, however, could alter things dramatically.

It should be remembered that the TSO was once the leading Taiwanese orchestra, mounting twice-yearly opera productions at the National Theater - a role that abruptly ended with Chen's tragic departure.

Martin Fischer-Dieskau, son of the famous baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and cellist Irmgard Poppen, has already announced that his aim is to transform the TSO into a first-tier orchestra that can take its place on the international stage. This will be no easy task, you might think, after its four years in the relative doldrums.

But Fischer-Dieskau has a record of tough decision-making, notably during his tenure as Artistic Director of the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra in Ontario, Canada from 2001 to 2003. There he was engaged in a prolonged dispute with the orchestra's administrators that culminated in the mass resignation of the board of management.

The appointment comes hot on the heels of the NSO's announcement that Gunther Herbig will be its Artistic Advisor and Principal Guest Conductor for the 2008 to 2010 seasons.

Both orchestras, it would appear, are testing the waters with caution. But at the same time, both have made strong and courageous decisions, selecting high-profile figures from the international music scene. With the Evergreen Symphony Orchestra having appointed yet another German conductor, Gernot Schmalfuss, as its director, the stage appears to be set for a contest of the Titans, with the Taiwan classical music scene for the time being dominated by German-speaking music directors with, you can be sure, very high musical standards. This can only benefit the already highly accomplished professional music scene here.

Martin Fischer-Dieskau will conduct four concerts and one opera for the TSO this year, and in addition help with future planning. If all goes well he will be appointed Music Director from the beginning of 2009.

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