Chinese conductor on past hurdles, future hopes

Wed Jun 16, 2010 5:39am EDT
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By Adam Tanner

BELGRADE (Reuters) - Hoping to raise its profile, the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra last week named Chinese musician Muhai Tang as its chief conductor for the 2010-11 season.

In an interview Tang, who also serves as the artistic director of the Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra and Zurich Chamber Orchestra, as well as first guest conductor at Hamburg Symphony Orchestra, discusses how the Cultural Revolution played a role in his musical career, the obstacles he faced early on as a Chinese conductor and the future for Chinese composers.

Q. Belgrade is not the center of world music and as a city is still outside the music mainstream. You have conducted orchestras in Berlin, in Helsinki, in Queensland (Australia) and Zurich. Why then did you choose Belgrade?

A. "It is my general character, it is also my philosophy: I would like to contact totally different people, totally different cultures....

I never play my music only for the elegant people, they are highly educated. Music really should go to street workers ....important is whether my music can touch normal people's hearts, it doesn't matter where.

You can work with a world famous orchestra, but if they don't give you everything, they are lazy, or they are thinking you are Chinese, come on, how can a Chinese teach us?...I don't feel I am the happiest, even if I am at a world famous place."

Q. Have you faced instances when people say 'You are Chinese, what do you know about Western classical music?'

A. "Of course, as I was very young starting in Europe, I came just with a scholarship...just a young Chinese and I had to start everything myself. Even after I finished my study and conducted the Berlin could feel these musicians just say, 'oh, we are helping a young Chinese.'"   Continued...