Published: 15:22, May 16, 2024
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A new classical sound
By Chen Nan

Country's youngest symphony orchestra is making its presence felt, Chen Nan reports.

The Wuxi Symphony Orchestra pays homage to Beethoven at the Wuxi Grand Theatre in January 2024. (PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

About a year after its founding, the Wuxi Symphony Orchestra, the youngest symphony orchestra in China, is set to venture outside its birthplace, Wuxi, Jiangsu province, visiting three cities — namely, Shanghai, and Jiangsu's Suzhou and Yixing — from May 15 to 26.

The orchestra will play such pieces as the overture to the symphonic poem, Ode to the Land, by Chinese composer Li Shaosheng and Symphony No 9, Op 95 by Antonin Dvorak. Pianist An Tianxu will join the tour by playing with the orchestra, performing Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No 2, Op 18.

According to Lin Daye, the principal conductor of the Wuxi Symphony Orchestra, who is also its artistic director, these pieces pose a big challenge for the young orchestra, especially the overture by Li, who is also the orchestra's music director.

"The orchestra will perform that piece for the first time during the upcoming tour. It's a beautiful piece by Li, who has traveled around China and portrays the country's natural scenery with classical music," says Lin.

READ MORE: Unveiling the charm of Jiangsu

As Li said in an earlier interview, Ode to the Land was inspired by the country's different places, "from northwestern China's Gobi Desert to the reefs in the Nansha Islands in the South China Sea".

"The pieces offer audiences an enjoyable way to visualize those great places in one day, from the sunrise to the sunset," Li says.

Lin says that since the Wuxi Symphony Orchestra's founding, the goal has been very clear — focusing on playing more original Chinese works and infusing Chinese elements into their commissions.

As for the other two Western classical music pieces, Lin says that the audience, especially classical music fans, know those two pieces very well. He tries to lead the Wuxi Symphony Orchestra to bring new interpretations.

Founded in June 2023, and supported by the Wuxi government and the Wuxi National Hi-tech District, the orchestra gave its debut performance at the Wuxi Grand Theatre on Jan 1 this year to celebrate the New Year.

During the concert, the orchestra premiered the original music piece, Wuxi Overture, also composed by Li. The work is dedicated to the ancient city of Wuxi, which is known for its long history and rich culture.

The orchestra performs under the baton of conductor and artistic director Lin Daye. (PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

Wuxi is bordered by Taihu Lake to the south and the Yangtze River to the north, and is pierced by the ancient Grand Canal.

The orchestra has staged seven concerts in Wuxi after announcing its first performing season early this year.

In 2025, the Wuxi Symphony Hall will open as a new venue for classical music and as the home of the orchestra.

"One of the best ways for a new symphony orchestra to grow fast is to perform as much as possible. With the feedback of the audiences, it makes progress and gradually finds its own voice," says Lin, who is also the music director and principal conductor of the Shenzhen Symphony Orchestra.

Li Wei joined the Wuxi Symphony Orchestra as a violinist after Lin invited the 33-year-old to perform with the new orchestra.

"Our first concert on Jan 1 was full of excitement. We performed with many great musicians, such as cellist Wang Jian and soprano Wu Bixia. We could sense the audience's excitement about this concert and this new orchestra," recalls Li Wei, who joined the China Philharmonic Orchestra when he was a sophomore at the Central Conservatory of Music in 2012.

Horn player Eitaro Sakamoto, from Japan, presented his first rehearsal with the Wuxi Symphony Orchestra on March 18, playing My Country by Czech composer Bedrich Smetana, under the baton of conductor Tang Muhai. Without any experience of playing with a Chinese symphony orchestra before, he applied to join the Wuxi Symphony Orchestra because it's a new orchestra.

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"The audience seemed to enjoy listening to Western music. It is necessary to actively hold outreach concerts, especially for children and the younger generation, so that the people of the city will become familiar with Western music," says Sakamoto, who started playing the piano at 5 and French horn at 12. He graduated from Tokyo University of the Arts in 2017 and then studied at the Karlsruhe University of Music in Germany.

"The classical music market in China needs new symphony orchestras to bring new sounds to the audiences. We are glad to offer this young symphony orchestra a platform to perform and communicate with audiences," says Zhang Zhaohui, deputy general manager of Poly Theatre Management Co, whose affiliated company, Poly Armstrong International Arts and Communication Co, manages the tour of the Wuxi Symphony Orchestra.

"At the same time, more and more young people enjoy classical music in China," Zhang adds.

"Both young musicians and young audiences are the future of the country's classical music market."

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