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When Tang interprets this symphonic spiritual journey that expresses the entire spectrum of human emotion, it touches the grief he has met in his own life. He feels a connection with Mahler because he knows that this composer suffered the same degree of anguish if from very different causes and that involvement in composing music gave him happiness and a kind of salvation. Tang gains much comfort from music and especially Mahler's.
'It is ironic that Mahler sought peace through exploring Chinese poetry which he loved while I have found solace through European culture. If I were to die conducting this magnificent epic symphony I would die happy indeed.'
Showing an interest in Western-European classical music during the revolution was a serious crime that would lead to imprisonment or worse. It wasn't until the late 70s that Tang first heard this symphony. He muses that it could have had an equivalent impact on him in terms of surprise as it did in 1902 when Mahler conducted the first performance. Mahler's orchestral language is rich in detail and imaginative colour.
Every instrument, including brass and lower strings is given important materials to play. Another technique that introduced a new effect was in the requirement for woodwind instruments to play at the top end of the register. One of the most striking moments in the score according to Tang is the eerie offstage brass solo that was impressively delivered last Saturday night by Dave Elton, The Queensland Orchestra's Guest Principal Trumpeter who successfully mimicked the sound print of a flugelhorn.
Copyright © 28 February 2008
Gillian Wills, Brisbane, Australia