Fri, Jul 16, 2010 - Page 15 News List

MUSIC: NSO announces new season’s program

By Bradley Winterton  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER


Taiwan’s National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) has just unveiled the program for its new season beginning in September.

Among the highlights are a semi-staged production of Richard Strauss’ 1909 opera Elektra, Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, a visit by celebrated UK conductor Christopher Hogwood, the ever-popular and newly fashionable Carmina Burana by Carl Orff, and four Mahler symphonies.

Elektra, Strauss’ searing and often cacophonous account of the murder of Elektra’s mother Clytemnestra and stepfather Aegisth by her brother Orest (Orestes), taken from the tragedy of Euripides, is one of the masterpieces of musical modernism. It represents Strauss’ most extreme engagement with that movement; after it he retreated into a more congenial late-Romantic mode.

There were plans to stage the opera in its anniversary year, 2009, by Martin Fischer-Dieskau with the Taipei Symphony Orchestra (TSO), but the scheme was abandoned when Fischer-Dieskau’s appointment as the TSO’s musical director failed to be confirmed by Taipei City’s Bureau of Cultural Affairs.

Now the NSO will be staging it, for a single performance only, at the National Concert Hall on March 18, 2011.

Britten’s 1962 War Requiem, a blend of elements from the Roman Catholic mass for the dead and World War II poems by Wilfred Owen, is on Dec. 18. The soloists are Annalena Persson, Will Hartmann and Shigeo Ishino.

The period instruments specialist Christopher Hogwood’s visit is on Oct. 1. Under his baton the NSO will perform Mozart’s familiar Clarinet Concerto, but played not on a clarinet but on a viola, Beethoven’s String Quartet Op. 95 as arranged for string orchestra by Mahler in 1899, and Mozart’s Symphony No. 32.

An item from Carl Orff’s extraordinary Carmina Burana (1937), featuring distinctly unsacred songs supposedly sung by drunken medieval monks, has now resurfaced as a clubbing hit, and many a nightclub denizen will have unwittingly gyrated to its compulsive rhythms. The NSO plays the original version, appropriately enough, on New Year’s Eve.

Mahler makes a strong showing, with his Symphony No. 5 (with the famous Adagietto) ending the NSO Opening Concert on Sept. 17, conducted by the NSO’s Maestro Lu Shao-chia (呂紹嘉). Three more Mahler symphonies follow — the fourth on Oct. 16, the seventh on March 26, and the third in the season’s closing concert on June 17, 2011.

Last, but certainly not least, Mahler’s song-cycle Des Knaben Wunderhorn (“The Youth’s Magic Horn”) will be played on Nov. 28.

What makes this concert extra special is that the conductor will be Felix Chen

(陳秋盛). Chen led the TSO for 17 years until his resignation, in intensely controversial circumstances, in 2003.

He remains a delight to watch, and his concert with the NSO has the additional interest of including Schumann’s Symphony No. 4 in a special version — as re-orchestrated by none other than Gustav Mahler.

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