Tuesday, March 3, 2015
How Taiwanese pianist Chen Ruei-bin has struck a chord with Hong Kong - Interview by South China Morning Post《南華早報》
Vienna-based Taiwanese pianist Chen Ruei-bin during his most recent visit to Hong Kong
Pianist Chen Ruei-bin performs at a recital.
I was recently interviewed by South China Morning Post in Hong Kong. Celebrating its 115th this year .
How Taiwanese pianist Chen Ruei-bin has struck a chord with Hong Kong
Chen Ruei-bin said thank you through music for city's response to tragedy in his native Taiwan
The exaggerated stage etiquette of mainland pianist Lang Lang has found an antithesis in his Taiwanese counterpart, Chen Ruei-bin.
The Tainan-born musician could be just as bombastic on the keyboard. But his diffidence in telling how Hong Kong played a role in his music-making - from here to Los Angeles, where he returns for a concert this week - was like an anticlimax to his piano forte.
"You may not know that Kaohsiung is the city where many Hong Kong people emigrated to after 1997," said while in town recently. "I always hear people speak Cantonese in the subway there."
In fact, ties were so close that donations and relief supplies from Hong Kong were among the first to arrive in the southern Taiwanese city shortly after massive gas explosions last summer that killed 32 people.
To express his gratitude, Chen agreed to perform a concert, Pray for Kaohsiung, for a Hong Kong audience in November, only to find the city engulfed in Occupy Central, and the venue, the City Hall concert hall, right in the middle of the protests.
"It was a concert to say thank you to Hong Kong for the timely subsidies to Kaohsiung after the explosions," the soft-spoken, Austria-based pianist recalled.
The piano recital, he said, was put together on a tight schedule. Both the Leisure and Cultural Services Department and RTHK helped by allocating a venue slot on November 4 and promoting the concert on air, respectively.
"It was no easy thing to get a full-house audience during the Occupy Central protests because of the inconvenient traffic conditions," he said. "I was especially surprised that officials from both sides of the strait, Hong Kong and Macau, were in the audience. Hong Kong is truly unique as the platform for cultural exchange in the greater China region."
The programme began with Ave Maria, a soul-searching classic arranged by Charles Gounod from Johann Sebastian Bach's scores through which Chen wanted to convey tranquillity to the city. The peace motif continued with the next piece, Love River by Taiwanese composer Lu Liang-hui, which Chen arranged into a piano solo for the Hong Kong premiere.
"The Love River is a landmark of Kaohsiung city and it was a pleasant surprise that the piece was very well received by mainland officials, who invited me to perform at future cultural exchanges in China," he said.
Chen is equally versatile in performing another river work, the boisterousYellow River Piano Concerto, which features such revolutionary tunes as The East is Red and The Internationale in the climaxes.
This piece took him to the opening of the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai - and then to Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles last summer, in front of an outdoor audience of more than 10,000.
There, he performed with Perry So, a conductor from Hong Kong who conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
At the end of this week, Chen will return to Los Angeles to deliver a pre-Lunar New Year programme at the Wallis Annenberg Centre for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills. "It will be a new experience for me to play famous folk tunes from both sides of the Taiwan Strait, such as the much beloved Jasmine Flower, for piano and Chinese traditional instruments, including my own arrangements," he said.
"If I could get Under the Lion Rock into the programme, that would put Hong Kong into a concert about the greater China region," he laughed.