Altadena cellist commissioned piece based on her dramatic life story
by Timothy Rutt
The piece will have a special meaning for Pantoum Trio cellist Cécilia Tsan: Tanguy's inspiration to write the piece was Tsan's family story.
Altadena resident Tsan, who is also principal cellist of the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra, has a dramatic story to tell. Her parents, both from Shanghai, were musicians who fled Communist China for Europe, where they had been educated. They were married at the Vatican, and settled in France. Tsan was born in Versailles.
A composer, Tsan says her father was writing a major ballet for a patron when he was killed in an apparent accident. She was only 40 days old at the time. With her sister and her mother, they lived in a convent in France for several years while her mother held a variety of different jobs.
A deathbed confession
Tsan says that when she was 15, the priest who conducted her father's funeral told her on his deathbed that the accident that took the elder Tsan's life had actually been arranged by a secret unit of Chinese intelligence. Considered a dissident who was about to become famous, Tsan's father was a target, even though neither parent was politically involved, Tsan said.
Raised in the community of expatriate Chinese musicians in Paris, the first cellist Tsan heard was childhood friend Yo Yo Ma. In part inspired by him (he remains her oldest friend), Tsan majored in philosophy and Chinese music at the Paris Conservatory. She toured and won several competitions as a cellist, finally settling in the Los Angeles area in 1991.
Tanguy's "Trio" is the first piece she has commissioned, she said. Tanguy "attended a few of my concerts when I was still in France. About four or five years ago, we spoke again, and spoke a lot about repertoire. I always wanted to commission a trio -- it's my favorite form of chamber music, which I've been performing since I was six."
Family story inspires music
Tanguy, who earlier this month was warded the 2012 career achievement Grand Prix by SACEM, the French equivalent of ASCAP, wrote in a release that “This work is the result of an intense spiritual dialogue with Cécilia Tsan, whose incredible family story deeply moved me. It is very fondly dedicated to Cécilia, who performed the world premiere on June 26, 2012 at Radio France in Paris.”
For the American premiere, Tsan will perform with pianist Steven Vanhauwaert of Belgium and violinist Tereza Stanislav (who is also concertmaster of the LA Chamber Orchestra). "They are my partners in chamber music and wonderful musicians," Tsan said.
The trio will perform as part of the series "Jacaranda: Music at the Edge." Saturday's concert, "Seduction," also includes music from Debussy and Enesco performed by the Lyris Quartet and Calder Quartet. For more information and for tickets, go to http://www.jacarandamusic.org/