Composer of note given a global stage

By Chen Nan | China Daily | Updated: 2022-11-03 08:32
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A vinyl record released by the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra and China Record Group featuring seven of Zhu's chamber music works. [Photo provided to China Daily]

As the professor of musicology and an early music ensemble director at the University of South Florida, Robison, who has been on the School of Music faculty of the university since 1977, received his doctorate in musicology from Stanford University in 1975. Since 1990, his research interests have become more global through his work on contemporary composers from Asian, African and Latin American cultures. Over the past decade, he has been devoted to studying intercultural composers and modern compositional trends from China, India and South Korea.

His longtime friend and colleague, Chinese musicologist Yu Hui, translated his new book, Zhu Jianer and the Symphony in China, into Chinese. Yu also helped publish it and the other book, The Symphonies of Zhu Jianer: A Western Perspective, while acting as the chief editor for the two book series.

"Zhu's symphonies are some of the most significant contributions to late 20th-century symphonic music, which deserve worldwide recognition. These new books about Zhu will increase worldwide understanding of Chinese and Chinese-influenced composers," says Yu, who received his PhD in ethnomusicology from Wesleyan University in the US in 2000. He is currently a "distinguished professor" of the Changjiang Scholars Program of the Chinese Ministry of Education and a member of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts.

Yu also recalls his meeting with Zhu in the 1990s, when he was on the Shanghai Conservatory of Music faculty from 1991-96. Besides his artistic achievements, Zhu's passion for discovery, creating and learning deeply impressed him.

"I always saw him sitting in classrooms at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, learning from young faculty members who just returned from the West. I met him again when he visited the US in his 70s, and he still tried learning English when reading the restaurant menu," recalls Yu.

This year, concerts have been held across the country to mark Zhu's centennial.

On Oct 22, a concert performed by the China National Symphony Orchestra under the baton of conductor Chen Xieyang was held at Beijing Concert Hall, with music works that included Sketch of the Qianling Mountain Op 23 and Symphonic Fantasia — In Memory of Martyrs for Truth Op 21.

On Oct 23, the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra performed under conductors Zhang Jiemin and Zhang Lu, featuring Zhu's Symphony No 10 Fishing in Snow, Lantern Festival for orchestra Op 44 and Water Dragon Chant for soprano and string orchestra Op 47. The Shanghai Symphony Orchestra and China Record Group released a vinyl record featuring seven of Zhu's chamber music works.

"During my 55-year career as a conductor, I am glad to have worked with Zhu for 20 years. I invited him to join in rehearsals, telling musicians about the meaning and emotion of his music," recalls Chen. "In my opinion, his 10th symphony was composed for himself. The piece is full of creativity, featuring Peking Opera singing, guqin and music from tape. It might be one of the most difficult music pieces I have ever conducted."

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