Suzhou gears up for orchestral season

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Suzhou Symphony Orchestra has announced that its fourth official season will kick off in September and run through July 2020 with a total of 44 performances. [Photo provided to China Daily]

French opera singer Norah Amsellem, British conductor James Judd, American cellist Gary Hoffman and Chinese classical guitarist Yang Xuefei are among artists who will perform at the Jinji Lake Concert Hall´╝Źhome to the Suzhou Symphony Orchestra´╝Źduring its 2019-20 season.

On June 20, Chen Guangxian, general manager of the Suzhou Symphony Orchestra, announced that its fourth official season will kick off in September and run through July 2020. A total of 44 performances will be staged during the season, featuring international artists.

Founded in 2016, the Suzhou Symphony Orchestra comprises more than 70 musicians with an average age of 30, who hail from China and 18 other countries and regions including Japan, South Korea and the United States.

"The most exciting thing to me about the Suzhou Symphony Orchestra and the work that our team does is the fact that we have successfully integrated art into the life of the audience in Suzhou," says Chen, 65, a former head of the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra and also the director of China's Symphony Development Foundation, a nonprofit organization. "Our programming for each season is designed to be aligned with that goal."

He adds that Suzhou is a city with rich history and is also known for its art, such as Suzhou Pingtan, a Chinese form of singing and storytelling that dates back 400 years, and Kunqu Opera, one of the oldest forms of Chinese opera dating back more than 600 years. With the birth of the Suzhou Symphony Orchestra, the city's first professional symphony orchestra, nearly 200 performances have been staged, which have attracted a total audience of over 100,000 people.

The orchestra has been touring Europe and Asia since 2017. In February, it gave the first concert celebrating Lunar New Year at the United Nations General Assembly Hall in New York.

A new musical work, a viola concerto, written by Chinese-American composer, Bright Sheng, which was jointly commissioned by the Suzhou Symphony Orchestra, Konzerthausorchester Berlin and the Curtis Institute of Music, will be premiered in Suzhou in November 2020.

The Suzhou Symphony Orchestra will perform two famous Chinese music pieces at a concert in December: Chinese violin concerto, Butterfly Lovers, written by He Zhanhao and Chen Gang, in celebration of the 60th anniversary of its premiere in Shanghai in 1959; and a 50th anniversary performance of Yellow River Piano Concerto, arranged by Chinese composers, including Yin Chengzong and Chu Wanghua, and based on the Yellow River Cantata by composer Xian Xinghai.

With this year marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, a concert on the theme of Chinese movies during the past century will be staged by the orchestra at the end of August. Also working with Suzhou Ballet Theater, the orchestra will stage three performances including the classic, Swan Lake, by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

"Playing original Chinese music works is crucial for the development of the Suzhou Symphony Orchestra, a young dynamic orchestra, which has been heard by audiences from different cultures," says Chinese conductor and the orchestra's musical director, Chen Xieyang. One of the major events launched by the orchestra, says the director, is the Jinji Lake International Composition Competition. First held in 2017, the competition invites composers from around the world to write music inspired by the city of Suzhou.

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