Jian Wang (王健) was the nine-year-old Shanghai-born cellist so sensationally featured in Isaac Stern’s 1979 video From Mao to Mozart, which describes his experiences as a visiting musician in China. Who was this little boy who played with such mastery? How many more such prodigies did China, then largely an unknown destination, contain?
Now Wang is 42 and an international celebrity, and on Dec. 10 he’s performing with the National Symphony Orchestra in Taipei’s National Concert Hall. He’ll play Dvorak’s Cello Concerto of 1896, the best-known and best-loved cello concerto ever penned, and a work that combines musical profundity with instant accessibility. What more can you ask of any music?
Lu Shao-chia (呂紹嘉), the NSO’s resident maestro, will also conduct his orchestra in Sibelius’s 1906 tone poem Pohjola’s Daughter, and then a selection of them in Bartok’s well-known Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta of 1937.
Sibelius’ later music has been out of fashion for some time but Pohjola’s Daughter, dating from shortly after his marvelous Violin Concerto, is likely to impress and even surprise listeners. It isn’t often played, but it evokes wild northern European winter landscapes in the Romantic manner of his perennially popular first two symphonies.
Bartok’s item is totally different — vibrant, angular and very zestful. There are currently over 40 recordings of this work available, an extraordinary total for any post-Romantic composer.
But Wang and the Dvorak concerto will be what everyone will be waiting for, and it has been placed after the interval as the concert’s climax. It’s an unusual position for a concerto, but then Jian Wang is in no way a usual performer. Tchaikovsky’s Andante Cantabile has, again unusually, been announced in advance as Wang’s encore, or one of them.
All in all, it seems, the NSO organizers are well aware that this will be a major Taipei occasion, and tickets are likely to sell very fast.
The Poetic Cellist — Jian Wang (NSO名家與探索系列—大提琴詩人王健) starts at 7pm on Dec. 10 at the National Concert Hall, Taipei. Tickets are NT$600 to NT$1,500, available through NTCH ticketing or online at www.artsticket.com.tw or by calling (02) 3393-9888.