Dad conducts, daughter plays

Susan Tang (left) has performed the Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto with her father, Chinese conductor Tang Muhai (below), more than 10 times.
Susan Tang (above) has performed the Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto with her father, Chinese conductor Tang Muhai, more than 10 times.PHOTOS: LIM SIN THAI, SINGAPORE CHINESE ORCHESTRA
Susan Tang (left) has performed the Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto with her father, Chinese conductor Tang Muhai (below), more than 10 times.
Susan Tang has performed the Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto with her father, Chinese conductor Tang Muhai (above), more than 10 times.PHOTOS: LIM SIN THAI, SINGAPORE CHINESE ORCHESTRA

Tang Muhai will lead the Singapore Chinese Orchestra, while his 11-year-old daughter will play the popular Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto

Eleven-year-old violinist Susan Tang is probably the youngest Chinese soloist to play with the Singapore Chinese Orchestra.

She will be playing the popular Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto, a 27-minute, 1959 work based on Chinese folklore originally composed for a symphony orchestra, at the Singapore Conference Hall on Saturday.

The concert also includes a solo performance by SCO's erhu principal Zhu Lin and Dianxi folk tunes by Chinese composer Guo Wenjing.

Susan's father, Tang Muhai, 67, one of China's best known conductors, will conduct the concert, titled Dazzling Strings - Tang Muhai and SCO.

This is not the first time father and daughter are performing the work together, says Tang, whose international career started when Herbert von Karajan invited him to conduct the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in 1983.

"More than 10 times, I think, since we played it with the symphony orchestra in Tianjin, China, about two years ago when Susan was nine," he says.

  • BOOK IT / DAZZLING

  • STRINGS - TANG MUHAI AND SCO

    WHERE: 7 Shenton Way, Singapore Conference Hall, SCO Concert Hall

    WHEN: Saturday, 8 pm

    ADMISSION: $70, $60 and $45 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)

Since then, they have performed the piece by Chinese composers He Zhanhao and Chen Gang in other Chinese cities, including Beijing, Shanghai and Heilongjiang.

Tang says: "The audience simply loved it, maybe because she is the youngest to play the work. It is based on the legend of star-crossed lovers Liang Shan Bo and Zhu Ying Tai."

His last visit here in 2006 was to conduct the Singapore Symphony Orchestra.

He says he did not expect his daughter, from his second marriage to Korean pianist Ju Hee Shu, to play the work like an adult. But he is very happy with her interpretation, expressing the emotions and woes in feudal China pretty well.

He discovered her musical talent when she was four in Belgium, where she was born.

"One day, I saw her watching Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto on television and I realised that she understood the music when she began to tear in the second movement," he recalls.

Susan, who grew up in Zurich, is now studying at the junior school affiliated to the Shanghai Conservatory of Music.

She started taking lesssons when she was five from violinist Robert Bokor, concertmaster of the Zurich Opera House, and Wang Xiaoming, concertmaster of China's National Theatre. In 2012, at age seven, she played Bach's Violin Concerto as a soloist with the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra in Serbia.

The next year, she performed Vivaldi's Violin Concerto with the Austrian Arpeggione Chamber Orchestra.

Tang says the family moved back to Shanghai, where he is music director of the Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra, because he wants her to be "closer to her roots".

Susan tells The Straits Times in a telephone interview from Shanghai that she picked up the violin because she received many small violins as birthday presents when she was a child.

"So I began to play with them and loved it very much," she adds.

On the Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto, she says: "I like the piece and I am thrilled each time I play it, especially with my dad conducting. He makes me feel comfortable."

Does she plan to be a concert violinist when she grows up?

"Oh, I don't know yet, but I am enjoying what I do now," she says.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 03, 2016, with the headline 'Dad conducts, daughter plays'. Print Edition | Subscribe