Han-Na Chang joins the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra as music director this month. Before her inaugural concert on June 1, she tells us what she loves about making beautiful music.
How did you get started?
I started performing professionally at the age of 11 - winning the Fifth Rostropovich International Cello Competition in Paris in 1994 started my career. Nowadays I devote almost all of my time to conducting, the transition from the cello to conducting happened gradually since 2007.
What keeps you going?
The joy I find in music, the joy of music. As a conductor, I share my vision and passion for music with the musicians in the orchestra, and then together with the orchestra we make “our” performance to share with the audience. I really enjoy this process. Music is really alive in the sense that it has to be recreated at every performance. No sound lasts forever! It must be created anew each time. The great music has endless reservoir of moving power and emotion which changes and evolves with the performers and likewise with the listeners. So each performance is indeed different and it is this limitless possibility that keeps me going joyfully!
How did you end up in Qatar?
I first conducted the Qatar Phil in June 2012 - we performed two concerts together and a few months later I was asked to become their next music director. I must say I am so happy to call this talented orchestra my musical family.
What’s the orchestra like?
I can tell you from my experience that Qatar Philharmonic is made up of incredibly talented individuals; they are passionate and accomplished musicians, they like to be challenged, and they enjoy working hard. This is so important - talent can not flourish without hard work, achievements can not happen without hard work, great performances are not born without hard work. Dedication and passion is measured by hard work. And working hard is all about forgetting oneself and thinking only of the great music we are here to perform.
How does it compare to other orchestras in other places?
The uniqueness of this orchestra is that it is comprised of people from all kinds of different backgrounds but still from the same generation. This is very rare in this world - in fact in most orchestras, the musicians are from the same background but from different generations. Why is this important? Different backgrounds brings true diversity to the mentality of the orchestra and the same generation brings a unified vision of how the orchestra should grow into the future. So this orchestra is one of the most exciting orchestras in the world today in terms of the tremendous potential it has.
What about the audience? What are they like? Are they different from other places?
Well, I can tell you that in my 20 year career I never really noticed different kinds of audience! Give them a boring performance and everyone will feel bored; give them an inspiring performance and they will be inspired! Of course in Doha, because we have a developing audience, the orchestra can play a fundamental role in how classical music is perceived and received - this is a tremendous opportunity to share the living human spirit and potential which is what classical music is really all about.
The orchestra is very multicultural: what’s that like?
I find that multiculturality allows for a very open mindedness; the orchestra is not stuck in one mentality or tradition. Also, because the musicians are so multicultural, the sound that they have in mind and make is so unique. Sound is made not just with instruments: the true origin of any sound is the human soul and heart. If you hear a sound in your heart, your instrument will make that sound automatically. And because music has the power to unify what is so diverse without sacrificing each unique voice, I think the Qatar Phil is the perfect vehicle for sharing the great music in today’s world.
What’s your favourite part of performing?
Well, we work diligently on so much detail during the rehearsals but I really love it when at the performance the orchestra and I together just let go and enjoy ourselves in the music. There is this incredible possibility to think the same and feel the same - which is why music is such a great art. It allows different people to truly come together with one heart. And then there is the added dimension of sharing this performance with the audience and you can imagine how exhilarating it is to perform.
You’ll be conducting, correct? That’s more than just waving a baton. . .
The idea or definition of conducting is simply to help the orchestra give the best possible performance in the easiest possible way. But how to really do this well is indeed complex and difficult! Conducting is a mystery at the end of the day; preparation, technique, dedication, passion, interpretation, communication, personality, talent, flexibility and chemistry are all a part of great conducting; but great conducting is probably more than the sum of all these things!
What’s on your iPod?
I must confess I don’t listen to music on iPod. . . I don’t like to have earphones in my ears!
What’s coming up?
I will be performing with the Qatar Phil on June 1st - the main piece of the concert will be Shostakovich’s symphony no 8. In my opinion this is one of the greatest and the most moving works by Shostakovich and one of the most important musical monument of the 20th century. You know, the first half of 20th century was full of pain for so many people and in this 8th symphony, in the incredible power of this music I find a testament to the true strength of the human spirit.
She conducts her first show on June 1 at the Qatar National Convention Centre Theatre at 7.30pm. Tickets are QR50. For more, see Qatarphilharmonicorchestra.com