Fri, Sep 14, 2018 - Page 14 News List

Highlight: An evening of revelations

By Diane Baker

German violinist Arabella Steinbacher will make her Taiwan debut tonight with the National Symphony Orchestra at the National Concert Hall in Taipei.

Photo courtesy of Peter Rigaud

The National Symphony Orchestra (NSO, 國家交響樂團) opens its new season with an ambitious program that begins with the world premiere of work by a young Taiwanese composer, features the Taiwan debut of German violinist Arabella Steinbacher in Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 and finishes up with Dimitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No 4.

While the English-language title, “Season Opening Concert,” is rather bland, the Chinese title includes “symphonic revelation,” which seems much more appropriate for the selection of works chosen by conductor Lu Shao-chia (呂紹嘉).

Hualien-born composer Lily Chen’s (關於我) new work, Glittering Across the Ocean, was specially commissioned by the orchestra.

Chen, a graduate of Taipei National University of the Arts, where she earned a bachelors’ degree and a master’s, received her doctorate in music composition in December last year from the University of California, Berkeley.

She is only 33, but she has already begun to make a name for herself with her forays in to electronic music as well as classical, winning first prize in 2012 at the Asian Composers League Young Composers Award, second prize in the NSO’s Symphony Competition last year, among others, and having her works performed at festivals in the US and Asia, including the Mise-en Music Festival, International Computer Music Conference, New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival and Asian Composers League Conference and Festival.

Steinbacher is just three years older than Chen, but has been making waves in the concert world since her debut at 22 with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France in Paris in 2004.

Born into a family of musicians — her Japanese mother and German father were singers — she began learning the violin at age three and serious studies at age nine at the Munich Academy of Music. She has performed widely with major orchestras in Germany, the US, France as well as with the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra and NHK Symphony Orchestra.

She currently plays the 1716 ‘Booth’ Stradivari, on loan from the Nippon Music Foundation.

While Chen’s Glittering Across the Ocean is receiving an immediate premiere, Shostakovich’s symphony had to wait more than 25 years before it was played in public.

The Russian finished the piece in early 1936, but withdrew it before it was scheduled to be performed for political reasons, having fallen afoul of Soviet cultural authorities earlier that year who had taken exception to his 1934 opera Lady McBeth of the Mtsensk District, despite its initial public success.

It did not have its premiere until Dec. 30, 1961, the same year that Lady McBeth was finally able to be performed again.

The hour-long symphony requires a full orchestra and includes solos for every instrument.

■ Tonight at 7:30pm at the National Concert Hall (國家音樂廳), 21-1 Zhongshan S Rd, Taipei City (台北市中山南路21-1號)

■ Tickets are NT$500 to NT$2,000; available at NTCH box offices, online at and convenience store ticketing kiosks

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