Chinese overseas performances reveal growth of classical music at home

By Zhang Yuchen Source:Global Times Published: 2016/12/6 17:53:39 Last Updated: 2016/12/6 17:53:40

The China Philharmonic Orchestra Photo: CFP

The China Philharmonic Orchestra Photo: CFP

Featuring 12-year-old piano prodigy Serena Wang, the China Philharmonic Orchestra (CPO) successfully performed at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles for the first time on Monday.

Currently on its third tour of the US, the CPO has been invited by the New York Philharmonic to perform as the guest orchestra at the Lincoln Center in New York on December 11. For its next stop, it will move on to Cuba, where it will be the first Chinese orchestra to perform in Havana.

The CPO is not the only group of Chinese performers touring overseas. In early December, the National Ballet of China performed a Chinese-style ballet version of the classic play The Peony Pavilion. In April, musicians from the China National Opera House also brought Puccini's Turandot to the Budapest Spring Festival. The Beijing Symphony Orchestra has already toured in Europe six times over the years.

Forty years after suffering through the long and winding road that was the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), Western classical music has begun to spring up across China. Along with the rising number of professional venues and schools for classical music, an increasing amount of young individuals and music groups have been heading out to perform on the world stage.

A November report from The Economist says China is "bringing orchestras, opera performances and top individual performers to the West," in order to demonstrate the country's "cultural power."

Song Tu, director of program for the Beijing Music Festival, stated that the term "cultural power" is too broad a term to define China's overseas performances.

"To demonstrate cultural confidence, you should have cultural awareness first," Tu told the Global Times.

"When we perform for Western audiences, we are actually showing China now does have a standard."

So far, China has around 50 million to 60 million children learning to play the piano and more than 30 cities have top-level concert halls and venues for performances, Li Yundi, a well-known Chinese pianist, said in a June interview with

"More and more young people want to learn more about and appreciate classical music. Although it is not a popular genre, the future of classical music is definitely in China," Li asserted.

However, the road of classical music development in China is sure to be a rough one.

"Weak management at performing arts institutions" and lacking of a "unified cultural policy" were highlighted in an April report by The New York Times.

"Compared to last year, the amount of oversea performances have decreased this year," Zhang Xiaorui - senior project manager at Wu Promotion, a performance management company dedicated to promoting cultural exchange between the East and West - told the Global Times on Friday.

Zhang said that there could be multiple reasons for the decrease. For instance, Wu Promotion's limited budget means the company has had to cut back on performances.

Although the government has placed great importance on overseas cultural projects, economic support is "still far from quenching our thirst," Zhang said.

 "Funding always goes to theater but never to private management companies,"Zhang noted.

Since overseas performances involved a great deal of responsibility and come with a certain amount of risk, this has led the company having to "walk on eggshells," according to Zhang.

Newspaper headline: Cultural confidence

Posted in: MUSIC

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