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Suzhou orchestra’s Beijing debut honors late Chinese composer

By Chen Nan | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2018-04-13 09:30

The Suzhou Symphony Orchestra made its debut April 11 at the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

The Suzhou Symphony Orchestra made its debut April 11 at the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing.

Under the baton of Chinese conductor Chen Xieyang, the orchestra performed works by the late Chinese composer Zhu Jian'er, including Symphony No. 2, Op. 28, Suona Concerto Music from Paradise and Fishermen's Song of the South Sea Suite No. 1, Op. 17.

According to Chen, Zhu's works are rarely performed in Beijing. He decided to pay tribute to the composer who died last year when Suzhou Symphony Orchestra was invited by the Beijing performing arts center to appear as part of the ongoing biennial China Orchestra Festival, which runs from April 6 to 28 at the venue with nine Chinese symphony orchestras performing 35 original works by 22 Chinese composers.

Chen adds, "He was a pioneering composer who combined Western classical music with traditional Chinese musical instruments such as the suona," a type of double-reeded horn.

Besides the suona, the orchestras also performed with other traditional Chinese instruments including the gong and the muyu, a wooden percussion instrument.

The Suzhou Symphony Orchestra was founded Nov 18, 2016.

Chen Guangxian, the general manager of the Suzhou Symphony Orchestra, says the local government of Suzhou had long harbored ambitions of establishing a symphony orchestra.

According to him, Suzhou is a city with rich history and also known for its art, such as Suzhou Pingtan, an ancient Chinese form of singing and storytelling that dates back 400 years, and Kunqu opera, one of the oldest forms of Chinese opera dating back more than 600 years.

Now the young Suzhou Symphony Orchestra has over 70 musicians from 19 countries and regions, including China, Britain, Japan, South Korea and the United States.

The average age of the musicians with the Suzhou Symphony Orchestra is 30. Its inaugural concert was Dec 31, 2016, at the Suzhou Culture and Arts Centre Grand under the baton of Chen Xieyang, who is also the orchestra's music director. The world-renowned violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter and the Chinese pipa player Zhao Cong performed during the concert, after which more musicians joined the orchestra.

Chen Guangxian adds that the orchestra will be expanded to 80 members this year and it has commissioned Chinese composers to write original pieces.

He also notes that the country's flourishing classical music scene has drawn these foreign musicians to China.

"I can still recall that around 1998, I had to sell concert tickets myself outside the concert hall but few people would pay. Now our concerts sell out fast online. It has become a lifestyle for audiences to spend weekends at the concert halls," Chen Guangxian says.

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