Sweden’s Anders Norell is Principal Flute with the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) and he’s married to fellow flautist Chiang Shu-chun (江淑君), a professor in the Department of Music at the Taipei Municipal University of Education (教育大學音樂學系). They performed together on Nov. 30 at the National Recital Hall in an exceptionally enjoyable program of music for two flutes, including one world premiere.
The intention from the start was clearly to establish an atmosphere of pleasant informality. Norell entered at the back of the auditorium playing Bach, walked forward slowly, still playing, and ended up sitting on the front of the stage, legs dangling over the edge. A light then came on revealing Chiang’s silhouette behind an improvised screen, and the two of them then completed Bach’s “Ghost” Partita for two flutes — in reality a work Bach wrote for solo flute but which was expanded into a duet by the flute teacher Gary Schocker.
The premiere followed, Hsiau Ching-yu’s (蕭慶瑜) Flying in the Dark Night for two flutes and piano. Specially commissioned for this concert, it would have been hard on most ears present, but the composer nonetheless received several enthusiastic requests for signatures during the interval.
The event continued with five more items, including one for two alto flutes. They were all beautifully played, and it was wholly in the spirit of the occasion that during the final piece, a Swan Lake fantasy based on Tchaikovsky’s ballet, the daughter of the two flautists came on stage and executed a short dance. This cemented the ambiance of good-natured family music-making — just as it might have been, say, in Vienna in Beethoven’s day.
This concert suggested that moves away from the usual classical performance format can’t be less than very welcome. The musical standard was of the highest, but the audience-friendly approach was the linchpin that transformed the event into something particularly memorable. Taipei needs more concerts like this.
Special mention should be made of the piano accompanist Tang Wan-chun (湯婉君), whose deeply-felt playing added greatly to the effect in many places.
There wasn’t a large audience at the NSO’s concert in Taipei’s National Concert Hall on Friday. The performance of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 8, though, was masterly, and prompted wild applause. When I asked my companion at the event, however, what kind of film it might accompany he replied, “Man’s first journey to Mars — years and years when nothing ever happens.”
But Bruckner is a cathedral-builder in music, and Gunther Herbig, the son of an architect, clearly knows how to keep such vast structures in shape. The NSO handled the big climaxes and much else with aplomb, and Herbig appeared very pleased at the audience’s reaction. Everyone, my friend perhaps excepted, seemed to go home happy.