Thanks to my wife Pi-Chin, Taiwan has become a second home for me. I appreciate not only the great hospitality and openness of the people, but also Taiwan’s cultural diversity, something it has in common with my home country of Switzerland. In both places, old traditions combine with modern life and a variety of languages and cultures to form a greater whole within a very confined space. Both countries possess magnificent and timeless cultural treasures, especially in their folk song traditions.
I have known a number of Taiwanese songs for years, through Pi-Chin, and over time I have arranged them for her in a variety of ways, primarily for small ensembles. I also used one of the songs in Dialogues Cellestes, my double concerto for two cellos. Following the Taiwanese premiere of Dialogues Cellestes in the spring of 2012, we came up with the idea of setting our favourite Taiwanese songs in a symphonic context. The cello seemed to be predestined to express the lyricism and beauty of these songs as the primary melodic instrument, and so the Taiwan Rhapsody was born.
We were delighted when our friend Wen-Pin Chien immediately and spontaneously agreed to collaborate with us on the project. Thanks to him and to my wife, and with the help of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and my music, we were able to create a cultural connection between the musical sensibilities of Europe and Asia.
I took great pleasure in capturing the very particular moods and atmospheres of these melodies ─ which are very simple in their original form ─ during the compositional process. It was very important to me to approach them with the greatest respect, just as Asian musicians have done with European music for many decades. My treatments of the melodies are far more than mere arrangements ─ they contain a lot of my own music, especially in the rhapsodies. I could imagine that it might be particularly surprising and interesting for Taiwanese music lovers to see how a Western-educated composer and Taiwanese “son-in-law”might relate to these songs and express them in his own music.
─ Fabian Müller ─