Friday, December 2, 2011, 00:00

Music without boundaries

By Rossie Indira

Music without boundaries Pianist -  Stephen Tarmadji.JPG

Music without boundaries Erhu - Chew Jun Ru.JPG

Music without boundaries Baritone - Djati Jan Salim.JPG

Proving that music is universal, Kesenian Jakarta (Jakarta Arts Theater), on its 24th anniversary, collaborated with Jakarta Philharmonic Orchestra, to bring two concertos that allowed audience to enjoy music both from the East and West in one evening at this years grand opening of the Gedung Kesenian Jakarta International Festival (GKJIF).

The festival was an attempt to present various cultural performances and the decision to present a masterpiece from Chinawas a breakthough.

Indonesian audience rarely has the opportunity to watch performances from China, thanks to the military coup in 1965 and the mass killings afterwards which subsequently banned all forms of Chinese culture in the archipelago including language, schools, temples, and even some foods.

Music is universal, says Neneng Rahardja, director of Jakarta Philharmonic Orchestra. There are no boundaries in music so it can weave harmonious relationships among people from different places without prejudice.

Rahardja says the concert was unique. One from the West and one from the East: here two worlds meet. Chopin meets Xian Xinghai. They speak to each other without words.

Orchestra performances are rare in Jakarta, says Bambang Subekti, director of GKJ. This was a very big opportunity for GKJ to have more classical music performances. As a tribute to the efforts of Chinese composers influenced by western classical music, GKJ chose the Jakarta Philharmonic Orchestra to present Huang He Cantata and Piano Concerto. We have a lot of cooperation from the Chinese communities here. I think Chinese culture has no boundaries.

Xian Xinghai composed Huang He Cantata in 1939 during the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945) in Yanan.

The libretto is a four-hundred-line poem of eight sections written by Guang Weiren (1913-2002), a comrade of Xian, who was inspired while crossing the river on his way to Yanan a year earlier, wrote Helen Yang and Linda Ma of Hong KongBaptistUniversity.

The poem was a nationalistic and patriotic call to the Chinese people to resist the Japanese invasion.

The Yellow River (Huang He), also called the cradle of Chinese civilization, symbolizes the Chinese peoples spirit, just as the Czech composer Smetana used the famous River Vltava in his symphonic poem, Ma Vlast.

However, the organizers involved in the production of the concert refuse to talk about politics. It is easy to understand why. Ethnic Chinese in Indonesia, a minority, have for the past 32 years been prohibited from practicing their culture.

I think the concert was extraordinary. It is proof that music with eastern nuances can be performed with techniques from the West without losing its beauty, says Tinia Budiati, vice-director of Jakarta City Government Tourism and Culture Office.

We can see that music composed by Chinese composers is not inferior from those composed by Western composers.

In the first half of the opening nights concert, the JakartaPhilharmonic performed Frederic Chopin Piano Concerto No 1 in E Minor Op 11, a work dedicated to F. Kalkbrenner that debuted in the Warsaw Theater in 1830.

Stephen K. Tamadji, better known in Indonesiaas the vocalist in the pop vocal group Warna, went back to his classical music roots to play the piano. The program he played combined two worlds: the western music he studied for many years and the Chinese music of his ancestors land.

Chew Jun Ru with his erhu performed The Story of Lan Hua Hua. The audiences were invited to identify with a beautiful village girl with a kind, nave and simple personality who changed into a totally different person when facing feudal power. This ballad was a good bridge between the Western compositions performed earlier and the Eastern repertoires which came after.

The highlight of the night was the performance of the Yellow River Cantata and Piano Concerto. The 100-strong Xiao Yuan choir joined the 50-strong orchestra.

The prelude The Song of the Yellow River Boatmen with rapid crescendo of the timpani and cymbals portrayed the boatmen whom facing a deadly storm, battled with all their might against wild winds, pouring rain and huge crashing waves to cross over to the opposite shore.

Djati Jan Salims baritone voice sang Ode to the Yellow River and with unrestrained emotion, praised the Yellow Rivers might and strength. His recitation was accompanied by the deep timbre of the cello.

The chorus continued with Yellow Water Ballad, supposedly showing the cruelty of the enemy invasion of the people on the rivers eastern shore; inflicting casualties and desolation.

In Dialogue on the River Bank duet tenors Huang Jia Xing and Zheng Ji Shen played the role of two exiled villagers who met on the river bank of the Yellow River. Their song is a lament of their fate and their final resolve to join the resistance forces together.

However, in a role of wife of one of the two exiled villagers, Zhao Xiao Hua with her mezzo-soprano voice sang an elegy Yellow River Lament with tears held back. Her voice successfully depicts the emotional condition of a woman about to throw herself into the river.

As the finale of the piano concerto, the orchestra and the choir performed Defend the Yellow River in unison.

It was a indeed a grand and powerful ending to a concert that was breaking new ground in the Indonesian arts and cultural scene.