My friends are those who haunt the Ideal; there, dear friend, we 'recognize' each other, and shall always do so…

Liszt to Ödön Mihalovich

Mira Farkas played the Chinese premiere of the Nu Shu Harp Concerto

13 May 2019

Oscar-winning composer Tan Dun’s harp piece, Nu Shu was presented to an audience of eight thousand at the Shenzhen Stadium, featuring harpist Mira Farkas, sponsee of the Artist Management Office of the Liszt Academy. Among other things, we asked the young musician about her successful concert.

This is not the first time you’ve played this piece: for instance, it was already presented in 2017 at the opening concert of the Café Budapest Festival. Was made this year's performance different?

The piece had its debut in the Palace of Arts a year and a half ago, and I haven't played it since. A few months ago Tan Dun informed me that it was going to be performed again, this time in Shenzhen at a popular festival. Because, as far as I know, Nu Shu (The Secret Songs of Women - ed.) has never been performed in China before, it was an especially great honour to be able to participate.



Photo:  Misi Kondella


It is a huge challenge to present a work in the homeland of the author and in the presence of his compatriots. What was your primary focus?

Before the Hungarian premiere, mastering the piece was my main concern. It is worth knowing that the work consists of thirteen movements, during which microfilms are presented. As a result, in addition to a thorough knowledge of the music, the voice on the video must also be taken into account. (Luckily, they sent me the recordings at that time, and I practised to play the melody in harmony with these.) The other challenge of the harp piece is the fact that it consists of elements of local Chinese folk music, which have been partially written down, but neither the rhythm nor the melody of folk music can be represented on paper 100 percent. When I realised this, the Budapest concert felt like a serious challenge, but the concert turned out to be a huge success. As the piece was no longer unknown to me, I was able to play with much more confidence in China, and playing together with the Shenzhen Symphony Orchestra, and especially Tan Dun meant even more inspiration.


In what language do they sing in the recordings? How does the "secret language of women" appear in the music?

Microfilms show women of different ages singing in a language that is understood only by women in China, and which until today has only been passed on from mother to daughter by oral tradition. In my opinion, the language of the women is very spectacularly presented in Nu Shu through the musical conversation between the orchestra, the harp and the human voice. Both playing it and listening to it was a special experience. It is contemporary music, which conveys its message not only to professionals but also to laymen.


The success of the concert is further demonstrated by the fact that Tan Dun is going to write a musical piece especially for you. What is this piece about, and when will you perform it?

Tan Dun’s request is a very important feedback from both a professional and a personal point of view. His personality equals a tranquillity that has a positive effect on me. It means a lot to be able to work with a supportive, positive and helpful conductor. He mentioned that he was planning to write a harp concerto dedicated to me. This is of course a great honour, as he works with such world-renowned artists as Itzhak Perlman or Yo Yo Ma. I am confident that the piece will soon be finished, and I look forward to our continuing cooperation.


The Oscar, BAFTA and Grammy Award winner Tan Dun is one of the most successful Chinese composer-conductors, who has undisputedly left his mark in the world of music. He has primarily composed operas and film music, combining Far Eastern traditions with the elements of classical music, and does not hesitate to use non-traditional instruments. He is currently the honorary artistic director of the Chinese National Symphony Orchestra.



Earlier, you won the South Korean Keimyung University Foundation Scholarship, which means you have more ties to the Far East. Does this affect smooth work with Tan Dun?

I admire the peculiarity of Eastern culture, although I do not closely associate with it. With Tan Dun, we understand each other so well because of our similar musical thinking. I have repeatedly had the feeling that we understand what the other wants even without communication.




What are your plans for the near future after the concert?

In the summer, I will play in the Valley of Arts, and later at the Gödöllő International Harp Festival with Gergely Devich and László Nyári. I am very grateful for the opportunity to play at the festival, considered to be the most important event for harpists in the world.  In addition, I attend the Doctoral School of the Liszt Academy, I teach at the Liszt Academy of Music and at the Béla Bartók Primary Art School, and of course I am looking forward to presenting Tan Dun's harp piece still in preparation.

Anna Unger