Renowned cellist Mischa Maisky's one and only student Chang Han-na are set to showcase their ever-evolving joint musicianship before South Korean audiences later this month.
Outside Korea, the duo -- who first met when the 41-year-old cellist-turned-conductor Chang was 9 years old -- occasionally took the stage together, but the upcoming reunion will mark their first performance together in 11 years.
Chang and Maisky, together with the Ditto Orchestra, are set to take the stage for five performances around the nation starting this Sunday.
During a press conference in Seoul, Chang cited three turning points in her life that led up to this tour: “The teacher who taught me what music and musicians are; Dvorak, whose work I performed at the Mstislav Rostropovich Cello Competition and kicked off my journey as a cellist; and Beethoven, who inspired me to become a powerful conductor.”
The concert on Sept. 19 at the Daejeon Arts Center and on Sept. 23 at the Seoul Arts Center will feature Dvorak’s Cello Concerto in B minor, Op. 104 and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67.
On Sept. 24, they will offer an all-Dvorak program with Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95 in addition to Dvorak’s Cello Concerto in B minor, Op. 104. The same program will be performed at Jeonju, North Jeolla Province on Sept. 17 and at Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province on Sept. 21.
While Chang was Maisky's only student, ultimately she decided to become a conductor -- a decision the Soviet-born Israeli cellist fully supports.
“I respect her decision. She pursues perfection as a cellist and also as a conductor. I wish we could record Schubert’s 'Two Cellos' together,” Maisky said.
Now Chang has been the artistic leader and chief conductor of the Trondheim Symphony Orchestra in Norway since 2017, and has taken on the role of principal guest conductor for the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra.
Maisky said that although he had a strong first impression of Chang's cello playing, Chang took a long time to feel at ease with her teacher.
"I have a cheerful personality, but whenever I was with my teacher, I fell silent. I couldn’t even ask him for a photo together. This is my biggest regret," she said.
As if to compensate her regrets, she now calls him by his first name and asks him for selfies to the point where he calls her "the queen of selfies."
"My teacher has his own unique artistic world and personality, within which freedom also exists," Chang explained.
"The phrase 'To follow the law is to enjoy true freedom' comes to mind. The reason for faithfully following sheet music is also to enjoy the freedom that comes from performing it faithfully," she said.
"Within that interpretation, because you're alive, one constantly discovers new things and never becomes satisfied. It's the most difficult yet fundamental thing -- having 100 percent and 200 percent conviction while also having the mindset of seeing something new every day with curiosity and openness, I believe this is the attitude of a musician -- all of which I learned from my teacher," Chang said.