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Chang Han-na to conduct Qatar Philharmonic

2013/08/11 | 276 views |  | Permalink | Source

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Chang Han-na, 30, is about to become the music director of the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra in September, only seven years after her debut as a conductor. Chang said she is going to focus on her role as a conductor rather than cellist. This is the first time for her to lead an orchestra as a permanent conductor, as she had only ever been a guest conductor in the past.

"My mother picked the cello and it became the love of my life and my destiny but conducting an orchestra was something I chose by myself after growing up", she said during a press conference on August 6 for the fifth Absolute Classic concert series at Seongnam Arts Center in Gyeonggi-do (Gyeonggi Province).

About walking the path of a conductor, she said, "I am so happy about the fact that there are always new pieces waiting to be conducted".

In June 2012, Chang conducted the Qatar Philharmonic, a national orchestra founded by the Middle Eastern nation's royal family, and later the orchestra and its performers recommended her for the position. In addition, she will also become the chief guest conductor for the Trondheim Symphony Orchestra of Norway.

The annual Absolute Classic concert was started by Chang and Seongnam Arts Center with the motto "music changes the world" in 2009. Each year over 100 members of the orchestra are selected through auditions. The concerts will be held on August 17, 24, and 31.

The orchestra will perform Debussy's Prelude To The Afternoon Of A Faun and Schumann's Symphony No. 4 for the first concert, Strauss's symphonic poem Don Juan and Mahler's Symphony No. 1 for the second, and Dvorak's Symphony No. 9, From the New World for the finale, among others.

Chang Han-na speaks of her conducting ambitions at a recent press conference (photo above, courtesy of Seongnam Arts Center).

Chang, once a child prodigy who won the Rostropovich International Cello Competition at eleven, said her conducting role models are Wilhelm Furtwängler, Leopold Stokowski, and Guido Cantelli.

Q: How do you feel about becoming the music director of Qatar Philharmonic?

A: I am very glad and have high expectations. Qatar Philharmonic is five years old. The orchestra was founded at the request for an orchestra representative of Qatar. Its 100 members were selected through auditions in ten major cities around the world. They are all good musicians.

A music director's role is to develop an orchestra so that its members can fully demonstrate their musical potentials and to build up its identity to an extent that audiences can recognize its music after hearing it. At the same time, a good orchestra would be able to fully express a composer's style.

I will spend 15 weeks per year in Qatar in the next two years. Each time I go to Qatar, I will stay for three weeks and leave to other places for concerts. In all, I will spend 110 days in Qatar a year.

Last year, I worked with Qatar Philharmonic for two weeks for the first time, as guest conductor, and its members requested that I become their third music director.

Q: What are your strengths as conductor?

A: In the present or the past, sincerity is always the key in music. After working together for one month in August, members of the Absolute Classic cry because they miss the experience so much when they separate. This is the power of music. Music has dialogues between true souls and when I show them my love and vision for music and my sincerity, they respond very quickly. I communicate with them with the heart of an honest musician.

Chang conducts at the Absolute Classic concerts in 2012 (photo courtesy of Seongnam Arts Center).

Q: Have you had trials and errors during the Absolute Classic in the past?

A: There were no such important events. Members of the Absolute Classic including those who return for following events remain the same. Some said they themselves realized why they pursue music after participating in the Absolute Music. Then, it came to my mind that I have to continue this.

Musicians have passions for music and this makes it possible for them to perform good music. Through performances, we realize why we need music in our lives.

Audiences also feel moved and what it does in their lives when they are touched. When they say they waited for one year for the event, I feel so grateful.

Q: What are the programs of Qatar Philharmonic?

A: One of the roles of the music director is to schedule programs, which takes a lot of time and responsibility. I also have to select soloists who are going to perform together with the orchestra. For an orchestra to grow, a music director needs a clear vision. That's why the position of music director was born.

They are going to perform Ravel's La Valse and Beethoven's Symphony No. 7. When I debuted at Seongnam Arts Center as conductor in 2007, I conducted the orchestra to perform Beethoven's Symphony No. 7. I will also select Middle Eastern composers' works.

Q: Do you have plans for cello performances?

A: Yes, of course but very selectively. When people look at my yearly schedule, they all say I have no plans for cello performance. But I plan ahead for my performances for the next ten years.

Chang and Mischa Maisky thank audiences after a performance during the Absolute Classic in 2012 (photo courtesy of Seongnam Arts Center).

Q: Are you planning to perform with your teacher, cellist Mischa Maisky?

A: Maisky is to perform together with Qatar Philharmonic next January.

In the next couple of years, we will have great pianists who are going to perform with us. They range from young pianists in their 20s to masters in their 70s. Performing with good soloists will help the orchestra greatly. When Maisky performed with the Absolute Classic orchestra members last year, they were all very happy.

Maisky came to perform with us not knowing how I would conduct but he enjoyed it very much. He even said he wants to perform all cello pieces with me. He is one of the best cellists alive.

Often, there are performers whom I cannot recognize even after listening to their music. But some performers have strong characteristics and make notable performances. It means that they feel strongly toward music and express their emotions.

Q: Where would you focus on between conductor and cellist? Don't you feel sorry for missing opportunities as a cellist when you can do so much with your cello career?

A: I will focus on being a conductor. There are much more music pieces I can conduct. There is no regret. I chose the path of conductor myself. I was the only child. My mother was a composer and my father was a music lover although he was not a musician.

I started my music career after winning the Rostropovich International Cello Competition at eleven and one day I realized that I wanted to conduct an orchestra. Since then, I never changed my mind.

Living the life of a conductor is like finding new planets in space. There are so many works I can conduct. I feel so happy about the fact that there are always new pieces waiting to be conducted.

Spectators watch an Absolute Classic concert in 2012 held at an outdoor venue (photo courtesy of Seongnam Arts Center).

By Limb Jae-un Staff Writer

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