Star-Bulletin Features

Wednesday, February 17, 1999

Chandi Heffner
symphony subject

By Tim Ryan


Internationally acclaimed pianist Helen Huang, 16, joins the Honolulu Symphony and maestro Sam Wong next month for two performances of Ravel's Piano Concerto in G Major.

And local composer Jerre Tanner will conduct the world premiere of "Postcards from Chandi," as well as Mendelssohn's Grand Symphony, No. 3.

The concerts take place 4 p.m. March 7, and 7:30 p.m. March 9 at Blaisdell Concert Hall.

Tickets are $15, $22, $27.5O, $35 and $50, available at the Honolulu Symphony ticket office, 538-8863. One hundred seats at $7.50 will also be sold on the day of the performance.

Tanner composed his piece for Chandi Heffner, the woman adopted by billionaress Doris Duke when Heffner was 37, then unadopted just before Duke's death.

The symphony is the result of Heffner's winning bid during a symphony fund-raiser auction in 1997. The prize was a symphony written by Tanner.

Heffner now lives on a Big Island ranch that was purchased by Duke. The Heffner piece was to be a five-minute overture but developed into a larger work, thanks to a grant from the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts Individual Artist Program.

"Postcards from Chandi" is a short three-movement symphony about Heffner's Keawewai Ranch and about Heffner, including, Tanner said, the "spirit of Chandi's Hindu religion and beliefs (depicting) a spiritual journey of the soul in its music."

"As Chandi and I talked, over a period of time, I eventually came to understand her tie to the stark land of her Hawaii ranch," Tanner said. "It was inevitable the composition would be about the land, even though Chandi and I never made a decision about it.

"As I sat in my studio at sea level contemplating our talks at the ranch on top of Mount Kohala, a subtext of spiritual messages being sent slowly emerged."

These "messages," he said, took on the form of "postcards in my imagination, each with a picture on one side and a message about the particular stage of the spiritual journey on the other."

Tanner, an American composer of symphonic and operatic music, has a degree from San Francisco State University and has studied orchestration with Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Wayne Peterson. According to Gramophone Magazine, "Tanner is the first of the islands' composers to achieve international fame." He also is the first American composer to be recorded digitally.

Huang has an impressive career of guest performances with orchestras like the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra, and the National Symphony. Born in Japan in 1982 to Chinese parents, Huang moved to the United States in 1985 and began piano lessons at age 5. Within a year, she won her first competition. In May 1995, Huang became one of the youngest recipients of the Avery Fisher Career Grant.

Huang has made numerous appearances with the New York Philharmonic and toured with Masur to Munich, Rome, Milan and Madrid. She has appeared with the Vienna Chamber Orchestra both in Vienna and on its American tour. She also took part in two gala performances in Seoul, where she joined a group of celebrated soloists, including Yefim Bronfman, Yo-Yo Ma and Isaac Stern.

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