Meet teenage cellist Nana Ou-Yang
Meet teenage cellist Nana Ou-Yang
SOUNDS FAMILIAR - Baby A. Gil (The Philippine Star) - July 25, 2016 - 12:00am

Listening to Nana Ou-Yang’s album titled 15 got me wondering. How big a cello can a six-year-old girl play?  Must be a very small one, which looks a lot like a big violin and the very pretty Nana must have looked really cute playing little tunes while learning the how to handle the huge instrument. 

Nana, who comes from Taiwan, started with the usual piano lessons when she was five years old but switched to the cello a year later. She is now 15 years old and already an acclaimed cellist worldwide. Yo yo Ma will soon be getting serious competition. And she is also Chinese. It was really nice to learn about her and get a copy of her debut album during what was truly a hectic week. 

So after checking out the likes of The Smiths, Arctic Monkeys and The Pixies, I was able to take a much-needed breather with Nana Ou-Yang’s refreshing cello music. The album is simply but elegantly packaged and displays the beautiful teenager on the cover. Truth to tell, I initially thought she is some new pop star from Taiwan because that is what she looks like and the album comes with bonus pics like Taylor Swift’s 1989 did. But then I saw the cello. She is a cellist! She is indeed. Then I checked the song line-up. And she is truly a cellist.

Nana was born into show business. Her parents are both successful actors in films and television in Taiwan. Her privileged existence led to music lessons as a kid where she turned out to be a natural. It was after winning prizes for her cello playing that she and parents started to take music seriously and to look at her innate gift as a talent that should be nurtured. 

Just take a look at some of her accomplishments.  During one year when she was only 11, Nana became the principal cellist of the Century Youth Orchestra; won the grand prize at the Grand Tainan National Music Competition; the First Award at the Taiwan School Year 100 National Music Competition; joined the National Cello Institute Summer Festival in the US of A; graduated with a certificate of high distinction and was accepted to the Junior High music program at the National Taiwan Normal University; won other honors and figured in many acclaimed performances. Two years later, Nana became the youngest student to be admitted to the Curtis Institute of Music in the US.

Nana’s youth is what is most remarkable about 15. The contents of the album actually seem like a greatest hits collection for cello. These are the most popular cello pieces in the whole world. Any cellist worth his salt should know these songs by heart and should be able to perform them very well. Nana does. There is this affecting quality to her tone that makes the listener want to wrap themselves up with the familiar melodies.

The best among these are Concert Polonaise, Once Upon More Beautiful Days and Hungarian Rhapsody Op. 68. These intricate pieces are not as popular as the other cuts probably because these were composed for the cello and not for the more popular piano. All of them are by the great 19th century cellist David Popper and it is not often that we come across his works. These are difficult numbers which are not often performed by young cellists. But Nana sails through them admirably. 

Accompanied by Tien-Lin Chiang on the piano, she also does: Lied ohne Worte Op. 109, a song without words and Auf Flugeln des Gesanges Op. 34. No. 2 by Felix Mendelssohn; the Ave Maria by Johann Sebastian Bach and Charles Gounod; Tarantella, Op. 23 by William Henry Squire; Allegro appassionato, Op. 43; Standchen, D957. No. 4, the famous serenade and Ave Maria D839 by Franz Schubert; Salut d’amour Op. 12 by Edward Elgar; Requiebros by Gaspar Cassado; Impromptu by Alexander Arutiunian; Vocalise, Op. 34, No. 14 by Sergei Rachmaninov; and Apres un Reve Op.7, No. 1 by Gabriel Faure. 

Nana’s virtuosity is amazing and I am saddened by the news that she has left Curtis and become a movie star in Taiwan. It will not be far fetched to think that she would one day become a big movie star and acclaimed actress. But it would also be regrettable if because of that, we would lose this cellist.

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