The San Francisco Symphony Performs Tyzen Hsiao’s “The Angel from Formosa”

Date: Saturday, February 2, 2013
Time: 4:00 pm (concert length ~2 hours)
Location: Davies Symphony Hall
Address: 201 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, CA

The San Francisco Symphony performs legendary Taiwanese composer Tyzen Hsiao‘s The Angel from Formosa at their annual Lunar New Year concert on Feb 2nd, 2013. Taiwanese conductor Mei-Ann Chen leads the San Francisco Symphony in the annual Lunar New Concert at Davies Symphony Hall. Also on the program is Taiwanese composer Kao Shan Ching’s Ali Mountain Evergreen.

Special prize: is partnering with Taiwanese American Professionals – San Francisco (TAP-SF) to give away a pair of premier seating tickets (worth $270) for this performance on Feb. 2! To enter the raffle, leave a comment on the TAP-SF Facebook page, and be sure to follow both and TAP-SF will randomly select a winner by Jan 31!

* * *

Tyzen Hsiao: The Angel from Formosa

Tyzen Hsiao, born in Taiwan’s southern port city of Kaohsiung in 1938, has been a figurehead in the Taiwanese musical community as a composer, pianist, conductor, and teacher since the late 1960s. His compositions are strongly associated with the Taiwanese cultural movement that revitalized the country’s literary and performing arts in the 1970s and 1980s, and which restored a national pride in traditions and history.

The Angel from Formosa is on many levels a work of remembrance. The piece evokes a sense of the quiet, rural life in Hsiao’s homeland of Taiwan (historically called Formosa, from the Portuguese “Ilha Formosa,” meaning “Beautiful Island”)—a simple opening melody is warmed by the slow, breathtaking rise of a solitary flute, lifted by the oboe as if by a gust of wind over Taiwan’s idyllic rural landscape, embraced and strengthened by a sea of undulating strings, and finally embodied in an achingly lush brass solo. For its pure melody without pretentious effect, brilliant orchestral colors, and honest emotion, Tyzen Hsiao’s The Angel from Formosa has drawn numerous comparisons to Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, one of the most popular of twentieth-century orchestral works. The composer dedicated The Angel from Formosa to the late Taiwanese pianist Wen-wan Chen (陳文婉), who championed and performed Tyzen Hsiao’s works on the international stage. Full of pathos, the piece closes with the strumming of the harp, an angelic final call for remembrance.

Kao Shan Ching: Ali Mountain Evergreen

A California audience unfamiliar with Ali Mountain in Taiwan is advised to picture some of the great peaks in the Cascades, Mount Shasta, or Mount Rainier, for example. That will give you an idea of Ali Mountain, or at least of the highest of the eighteen peaks comprising Ali Mountain, Tower Hill. To call this 8,736-foot landform a “hill” is an understatement. The summit is reached via mountain railway. Sunrises from the top peak are exquisite. Kao Shan Ching’s Ali Mountain Evergreen captures the mystery of a great mountain, and the serenity and sense of reverence sacred mountains inspire.

Mei-Ann Chen

Mei-Ann Chen is Music Director of both the Memphis Symphony Orchestra and the Chicago Sinfonietta. She previously served as assistant conductor of the Atlanta, Baltimore, and Oregon symphonies. During her five-year tenure as music director of the Portland Youth Philharmonic, she conducted that orchestra in its sold-out Carnegie Hall debut and received an ASCAP award for innovative programming. Ms. Chen has appeared as a guest conductor with many US orchestras, including the Rochester Philharmonic and the Chicago, Columbus, Nashville, National (Washington DC), Pacific, Pasadena, and Seattle symphonies. International appearances include all the principal Danish orchestras, BBC Scottish Symphony, Norwegian Radio Orchestra, and the Bournemouth, Graz, Trondheim, and Toronto symphonies. Ms. Chen has also appeared at the Grand Teton, Wintergreen, Chautauqua Institute, and Texas music festivals.

Last season, Mei-Ann Chen made her debut with the Aspen Music Festival, the National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra, the Jacksonville, Naples, and Sarasota symphonies, and with the Netherlands Philharmonic at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw. Ms. Chen recently stepped in on short notice for her subscription concert debut with the Cincinnati Symphony; she returns to that orchestra this season. Other highlights of her current season include the Chicago Symphony subscription series, the Tampere Philharmonic in Finland, and the North Carolina, San Diego, and São Paulo symphony orchestras.

Mei-Ann Chen was the first woman to win the Malko Competition (2005), and as recipient of the 2007 Taki Concordia Fellowship, she appeared with Marin Alsop and Stefan Sanderling in subscription concerts with the Baltimore Symphony, Colorado Symphony, and Florida Orchestra. She received a Sunburst Award from Young Audiences for her contribution to music education, and the League of American Orchestras honored her with the Helen M. Thompson Award last year. Born in Taiwan, Ms. Chen has lived in the US since 1989. She holds a doctorate degree in conducting from the University of Michigan, where she was a student of Kenneth Kiesler. Prior to that, Ms. Chen was the first student in the New England Conservatory’s history to receive simultaneous master’s degrees in violin and conducting. She has also participated in the National Conducting Institute in Washington DC and the American Academy of Conducting in Aspen.

Leave a Reply