I seem to have a strange tie with the world-renowned countryman conductor. No, I have never met him in person. But I spent a fair amount of time in a couple of cities he worked in (many many years after he left, though), and I experienced similar stages in life there – learning the many aspects in the role we play, and stumbling across lifetime love.
Last year he wrote a series of columns in a domestic newspaper on himself and I followed it keenly. One particular paragraph remained with me – “Born in China, raised in [my homeland.] How well will I be able to understand Western music? I intend to experiment throughout life… My mission is to keep pursuing music and foster the next generation [my translation].”
Maybe I felt the same Western / Asian divide in me and a similar way of thinking about education.
Then I happened to see him in a TV interview shortly after the end of his newspaper column series. Another particular thing he said stood out – “With music, the piece written by the composer is everything. Reading the score shows you the emotions that the composer was feeling when writing the piece. It’s all on the sheets… The conductor is to read up on the score thoroughly and have the piece played exactly the way the composer composed it. Not a note slower or faster, higher or lower [my translation].”
Maybe I felt the same way about words chosen by people to be spoken, and what is required in good communication.
So when I found out that I had a chance to see him in action in a nearby town, I pounced on it! I listened to him conduct an opera piece which finally won him the gilded gramophone for the first time in eight tries this year. I could tell right away he had studied the score over and over again, and knew by heart what the composer wanted to express and how to go about doing it – the same orchestra that played another piece for a different conductor immediately before suddenly sounded so much more expressive and emotive when he conducted.
Maybe I felt there was a lesson I should heed, to keep making an effort to achieve what I truly desire.
In other words… Try, try again. I shall follow in his footsteps once again.
Congratulations on receiving the long-awaited award, Mr. S.O.!