China Philharmonic Orchestra

Source:Global Times Published: 2010-4-26 16:45:39

CPO performing at Paul VI Audience Hall at the Vatican in honor of Pope Benedict VIX in 2008. Photo: CFP

By Xing Daiqi

The Beijing audience sat spellbound last night as principal conductor Yu Long and internationally-renowned pianist Lang Lang opened a series of celebratory concerts to usher in the 10th year of the China Philharmonic Orchestra (CPO).

The orchestra featured Tannhauser Overture by Richard Wagner and Brahm's Piano Quartet in G minor, two pieces that were performed at CPO's inaugural concert 10 years ago.

The night also saw the China premiere of Erhuang, a piano and orchestral concerto by Chinese composer Chen Qigang. "This arrangement shows the long time commitment of CPO to the promotion of classical music as well as new Chinese composition and musicians over the past decade," Yu explained.

Voted as one of the world's 10 most inspiring orchestras by Gramophone magazine last year alongside Berlin Philharmonic and London Symphony, CPO made its mark on the world stage "for almost single-handedly bringing Western classical music to the ears and hearts of a vast nation, for whom it had been forbidden for decades," according to the consulting jury of Gramophone.

Founded in Beijing on May 25, 2000, in a bid to establish a world-class symphony orchestra in China, CPO was based on the previous China Broadcasting Symphony Orchestra and Yu Long was appointed Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of CPO for his outstanding administration and conducting caliber, as well as his extensive network in the Western classical world, according to CPO Deputy Director Li Nan.

As one of China's most distinguished conductors and music activists, Yu has appeared with a prestigious list of leading orchestras and opera companies throughout the world, including the Philadelphia Orchestra and Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin.

"In the early 90's when I returned from abroad and started to conduct the New Year's concert in China, symphonic music was still in an embryonic stage," Yu recalled. "For most Chinese people, attending a New Year's concert was the only chance to appreciate classical music."

CPO was the first Chinese orchestra to have all of its performers recruited publicly with open auditions. "The measure brings a sense of challenge and pressure to the orchestra as well as a new vitality," he added.

At the orchestra's inception, the then 56-year-old Ma Ying was principal violinist with China Central Symphony Orchestra when he auditioned for CPO. As with many established artists, the reason he chose CPO was to "establish a world-class orchestra in China, to draw a perfect conclusion to his musical career."

Over the past decade, the orchestra has performed an extensive repertoire of 500 pieces, covering a wide array of music styles, including symphonies, chamber music, opera scores and contemporary music. The orchestra has also collaborated with musical great like Krzysztof Penderecki, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Placido Domingo and Cheryl Studer.

"The growth of China Philharmonic Orchestra coincides with the development of symphonic music in China," Yu explained.


In the 2002-2003 season, CPO featured Mahler's Symphony No.8, one of the largest works in orchestral literature, presented by nearly 1,000 musicians. Early 2005 saw CPO embark on an unprecedented three-month-long world concert tour covering 22 countries and performing in such prestigious venues as Avery Fisher Hall, Berlin Philharmonie and Teatr Wielki-National Opera.

In 2006 CPO was the only Asian orchestra to play in a televised relay-style concert along with the Berlin and New York philharmonics as a tribute to the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birthday.

On May 7, 2008, CPO performed Mozart's Requiem at Paul VI Audience Hall at the Vatican, in honor of Pope Benedict VIX, which was widely reported as art bridging cultural and political divides.

Education has also been an important focus of CPO, with the orchestra regularly giving master classes and free concerts across the country. Last year CPO toured eight universities in Northwestern China's Gansu and Shanxi provinces with their High Art Entering Campuses concert series.

 "As the national level symphony orchestra of China, the China Philharmonic has shouldered responsibilities beyond an ordinary orchestra," added deputy director Li Nan.

"The China Philharmonic is actively engaged in the rule-making of the professional symphony orchestra in China," Li said. "Many newly-renovated ensembles like the Guangzhou and Shanghai symphonies follow the mode of CPO in terms of recruitment, the training of performers, performance season… The influence of China Philharmonic is far reaching."

Looking into the future, Li said that CPO would begin a new chapter.

"We would like to make more commitments with top composers in the world for opera works because it best demonstrates the quality of an orchestra," he explained. "The orchestra is also looking to partake in the renovation of Chinese opera. In addition, CPO will continue to contribute to the popularization of classical music in China."


Concerts series

May 9, Beijing Concert Hall:Tchaikovsky's Serenade for Strings in C, Op.48, Bach's 5 in D major and Water Music by Handel under the baton of Yang Yang and Xia Xiaotang.

May 15, Poly Theater: master conductor Christoph Eschenbach and acclaimed cellist Lynn Harrell will present Cello Concerto in B minor by Dvorak and Symphony No.1, Op. 68 in C major by Brahms.

May 21, Beijing Concert Hall: conductor Neeme Jarvi and South Korean soprano Sumi Jo present Coloratura Soprano and Orchestra, Op. 82 by R. Gliere as well as Symphony No. 5 in D minor, Op.47 by Shostakovitch.

May 25, Poly Theater: a gala show featuring Liao Changyong, Yao Hong, Zhang Jianguo and Deng Mu, presenting a selection of Western and Peking Opera arias. Also Chopin's Polonaise in E flat minor and Mozart's Sarasate Carmen Fantasy and Don Giovanni.

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