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Han-Na Chang a complete artist

Wednesday, 31 August 2011 , ora 12.44
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Han-Na Chang, a highly educated young cellist who has travelled across the entire world and has released numerous records, has granted me an interview about how important it is for a musician to develop diverse knowledge. This is the reason why she admires George Enescu and Giuseppe Sinopoli and this is what she has been trying to achieve.

You will close the George Enescu International Festival together with the Orchestre National de Paris conducted by Daniele Gatti. Is this your first visit to Bucharest?

No, I was also invited at the last edition of the festival, when I performed the Cello Concerto by Haydn. This time I am even more honoured by the invitation to close the festival and glad because I will perform for the first time a work by Enescu.
How would you describe your experience with the
Sinfonia Concertante for Cello and Orchestra by George Enescu?

It is a very interesting and complex piece. The melancholy that Enescu conveys through this work is close to my soul, the profound emotion that you can notice in the opening and the magnificent parts in the middle section of the work come from the heart and speak to your heart. The orchestra plays a highly important role. There are a few challenging rhapsodic moments in which the orchestra and the cello are joined in a playful dialogue. Overall, I believe that the work reveals the multiple facets of Enescu's musical personality. And it is a great pleasure for me to be able to perform this Sinfonia Concertante for Cello, a work that is not so often played in concerts, which is sad, given that the cello repertoire is not that diverse and a work of such complexity deserves to be listened to more often than it ususally happens.
Were you to have the chance to travel back in time and meet George Enescu, what would you like to ask him?

I think what fascinates me most about him is his prodigious talents. He composed his first work at the age of six. He was the Mozart of his time. Then, the fact that he composed, guided other musicians and pursued a career as soloist - he was a talented cellist and Yehudi Menuhin's teacher - prove and support the idea that you have to grow on different levels and as a musician you have to be interested in different fields, especially since we are living in an era dominated by so many ways of expanding our horizon. You only need to have the passion and the patience to explore all of these. Although Enescu lived in a century when everything used to take longer, he was so intellectually advanced. Thus, nowadays, when information is within your reach, it is even easier to broaden your knowledge, if you have the necessary passion.

The question that I would ask Enescu if I could meet him would be how he managed to do all these - composing, performing, conducting, teaching, what his supreme aim was as a musician and also as an artist. The elements of folklore included in his music are very important as well. I was born in North Korea and one of my teachers, among others, was Giuseppe Sinopoli, who used to advise me not to lose the spiritual heritage nested in the folklore of my birth country. This enriches you greatly when performing classical works. Therefore, meeting a composer like Enescu, a composer who contributed his own cultural heritage to the development of classical music, would be fascinating. I would love to have the chance to travel back in time and meet Enescu.
You have undertaken philosophical studies and not just at any university, but at Harvard. How has this influenced your vision upon music?

The same Giuseppe Sinopoli encouraged me to study philosophy because between the age of 12 and 17 I studied the cello with him and we gave many concerts together. All this time, I would always see him with a book in his hand. He was a doctor; he had studied psychology and was preparing for obtaining a PhD in Anthropology. This had a positive influence upon me. A musician does not have to do only music. In fact, one of his words of wisdom to me was that for a musician music is what matters most, but it does not have to be the only thing in his life. At the age of 21 you can consider yourself a professional musician with a ten-year career. You have to put your talent to good use while you are young.

Nevertheless, I cannot say that the fact that I have studied philosophy has made me a better musician; after all, there are so many great musicians that have not studied philosophy. However, I can say that it has helped me realise that every work of art, every symphony written by Beethoven, every concerto composed by Enescu is a philosophical work. Because music is made of what those composers thought. Thus every time I approach a new score, I try not to limit myself to learning and loving that work. Instead, I try to find out what the composer was trying to convey when writing it, what his perspective was, what he was thinking and feeling, why he chose to write it as such. This is a process of great importance for me that helps me understand a certain work.

Petra Gherasim
Translated by Raluca Mizdrea and Ruxandra Câmpeanu
MTTLC, Bucharest University