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United by music

By Chen Nan | China Daily | Updated: 2018-04-28 09:27

Closing concert of the 2017 Hangzhou Music Festival. [Photo provided to China Daily]

The average age of musicians with the Suzhou Symphony Orchestra is 30. Its inaugural concert was at the Suzhou Culture and Arts Center Grand Theater on Dec 31, 2016 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 played in the concert, after which more musicians joined the orchestra.

Last year the orchestra opened its first season with a concert performance of Johann Strauss II's Die Fledermaus, under the baton of Xu Zhong. In August it embarked on its first international tour with performances of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto and Beethoven's Symphony No 9 in Dieuze, northeastern France. And then Verdi's Aida in Saarbruecken, western Germany.

Speaking about the project, Georgi Videnov, a Bulgarian who is a percussionist with the orchestra, and who had his first rehearsal with it before touring with Verdi's Aida, say: "This blend of local and international talent is a wonderful cultural exchange on a daily basis.

"To call it unique is an understatement."

Videnov, a graduate of Johns Hopkins University and Yale University in the US, has shared the stage with the Hyogo Performing Arts Center Orchestra in Japan and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in Canada.

As for Chen Guangxian, he says: "I look on the Suzhou Symphony Orchestra as my last project before I retire. I had never built up a symphony orchestra from zero, and the process was challenging yet exciting."

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