Chiao-han Liao

Music lovers in Taipei were treated to a splendid and versatile solo piano concert earlier this evening courtesy of Chiao-han Liao (廖皎含). Ms Liao attracted a large audience to the grand hall in Taiwan's National Concert Hall. The audience was also, in many cases, strikingly young. Taiwan's most youthful concertgoers are clearly as excited about the music of this distinguished artist as the rest of us.


Johann Sebastian Bach
Italian Concerto in F Major, BMV 971
- [Allegro]
- Andante
- Presto

Robert Schumann
Humoreske in B-flat Major, opus 20
- Einfach: Sehr rasch und Leicht-Wie im Anfang Hastig
- Einfach und zart-Intermezzo
- Innig: Sehr lebhaft. Mit einigem Pomp.
- Zum Beschluss: Allegro

~ Intermission ~

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Piano Sonata in C Major, KV 330
- Allegro moderato
- Andante cantabile
- Allegretto

Enrique Granados
Valses Poeticos

Franz Lizst
Les jeux d'eau a la Villa d'Este

Sergei Rachmaninoff (arr. Kreisler)

Wagner spoke of each piece of music having its melos, its unique inner melody. The essence of the interpreter's art, he said, is to find and convey this melos. It is inextricably bound into the musical character of a work and, by nature, escapes printed notation no matter how much effort the composer puts into efforts to communicate it. A century later Duke Ellington would frame the matter this way: 'It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing.'

Chiao-han Liao excels at finding the inner melody. She makes it swing.

Bach, in her hands, is a dancer as much as a thinker. His suite never loses its roots on the dance floor and each musical gesture becomes an aural counterpoint of a physical, graceful and stylish, move. So vital is Ms Liao's performance that it is easy to overlook the homework she has done on eighteenth-century style. She has absorbed not just the letter but the spirit of the era's performance practice, with all the creative latitude it offered performers even as it had its priorities. The same may be said of her way with Mozart's sunlit sonata. The lyrical middle movement sang so convincingly that it may as well have been an aria from a lost opera; the energetic finale put us right back on that eighteenth-century dance floor.

The Schumann was sublime. A poetic, penetrating performance.

The extended duple-meter introduction of the Granados comes as a jolt to audience members whose expectations are formed by the title. Ms Liao enjoys the joke and makes the most of it, teasing out the last few bars. When the first waltz actually arrives, it invites a smile from both the performer and the listener. From then on each segment has its special mood and colour, and Ms Liao steers each one tellingly through its light and shade and dappled shadows, its fluid moves through gravity and lift, doing justice to both words in the title.

The Liszt made an excellent contract in its cinematic extroversion and physicality. Ms Liao held nothing back in conveying the dramatic shape and grand gestures of the work. At the same time she held the line constant: the flow of the fountain never hesitated or broke.

Her choice of encore, begun without an announcement, was Beethoven's Für Elise (Bagatelle in A minor, WoO 59). The opening bars drew a chuckle from the audience. Taiwan residents are all too familiar with the brutal mechanised treatment the melody gets from city garbage trucks, which excels even the trials the piece endures worldwide in the hands of piano beginners. What a delight to hear it played by an artist as a living, breathing piece of real music. Ms Liao played it with lyricism, style and perception, confident as always of her hold on the melos.


Conductor's Notebook


Alton with Wine

Thanks to Melody for the portrait! Made at Le Rouge at the reception opening the summer photography exhibit.

Alton Thompson 唐博敦
New Taipei City, Taiwan
台灣 新北市
© Melody Hsiao 蕭聿婷

Alton's Images


Conductor's Notebook


Le Rouge photo exhibit

Melody at the Monastery

Nung Chan Monastery, Qiyan District
Taipei, Taiwan
© 2009 Alton Thompson 唐博敦

Le Rouge restaurant in Banciao will be celebrating its second anniversary with a photo exhibit tomorrow night (June 13 Saturday). Some of my work will be displayed along with images by other Taipei area photographers. The exhibit runs from 21:00 to midnight with free wine and appetizers the first hour. I hope you can join us.

The evening will also feature the opening of Le Lounge on the restaurant's Mezzanine level. Owner and chef Francis Beauvis promises 'comfortable couches, chill music, and soft lighting' and a wide-ranging drink menu. Le Lounge will henceforth be open every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night from 19:00 until 1:00.

MRT Xinpu Exit 1
Wenhua Road Section 1, 419-6, 1F

0222 552 861

If you miss the anniversary celebration, feel free to step in later and enjoy some of their tasty calzone. The photography will remain on exhibit all summer.


Conductor's Notebook


Peabody Artists Tour Taiwan

Three artists from the Peabody Institute (two faculty, one alumnus) will soon be making a tour of Taiwan.
- Dr Stanley Cornett, Voice Faculty Member
- Ms Eileen Cornett, Director of Masters Program in Ensemble Arts
- Mr Peter Lee, MM Voice, MM Early Music


6.17-18 Taichung
Tunghai University
6.17 14:00 - Introduction to the Peabody Conservatory
6.17 15:00 - Voice master class with Stanley Cornett
6.18 14:00 - Voice accompanying master class with Eileen Cornett

6.20 Kaohsiung
National Kaohsiung Normal University
13:00 - Introduction to the Peabody Conservatory
14:00 - Voice master class with Stanley Cornett
16:00 - Voice accompanying master class with Eileen Cornett

6.26-27 Taipei
ROC Singers Association
6.26 14:00 - Introduction to the Peabody Conservatory
6.26 15:00 - Voice master class with Stanley Cornett
6.27 14:00 - Voice accompanying master class with Eileen Cornett

6.29 Taipei
National Recital Hall
19:30? - Gi-Gi Chan recital featuring Eileen Cornett and Peter Lee

7.03 Tainan
Chang Jung High School
Peter Lee recital featuring Eileen Cornett

7.06-07 Kaohsiung
7.06 - Kaohsiung Opera Company: coaching by Eileen Cornett
7.07 - Kaohsiung Concert Hall: Peter Lee recital featuring Eileen Cornett

For more information, visit this link:



Conductor's Notebook


2009 Golden Trailers

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the Golden Trailer Awards given by the Directors Guild of America in Los Angeles. (Yes, trophies exist in Hollywood even for previews.) The list of this year's winners may be viewed here.

Naturally, a celebration of film previews is, at its heart, a celebration of promotion. This aspect of the task is most candidly acknowledged in the Golden Fleece Award. This audience favourite goes to the trailer that does the best job of making a stinker look good. In seeking nominees the committee looks for films that were badly reviewed but had good opening weekends and sank out of sight thereafter. Any time that happens, the credit (or blame, depending on your point of view) goes to successful promoters. It's likely that the film's trailer made it look promising. And it's likely that the producers of the trailer did not find the task easy, given the material they had to work with. Studio execs appreciate the wizardry, as that opening weekend revenue is pretty much all they have to show from the loss.

The legend among Golden Fleece Award winners is Pearl Harbor (2001). The trailer is every bit as compelling a piece of cinema as the film itself isn't. Yours truly was among the fleeced that year. The experience taught me never to step out the door without first checking Rotten Tomatoes.

Speaking of legends, though: I'm delighted the Golden Trailers renamed the Best Voice Over Award in honour of the late Don LaFontaine. Known as 'The Voice of God' in the industry, LaFontaine never had a name most moviegoers recognised. But everyone knows the voice.

Imagine an action film preview. Over jagged scenes of explosions, mayhem and badly shaven guys wearing tense, grim facial expressions, a narrator intones:

In a world gone mad...

one man...

stands alone...

heavily armed.

You know that voice. Everyone knows that voice. It's Don LaFontaine.


Conductor's Notebook