New York Philharmonic celebrates Year of the Rat with annual concert

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The New York Philharmonic presented its ninth annual Lunar New Year Concert on Tuesday night with celebrated and emerging artists to ring in the Year of the Rat.

The New York Philharmonic presents its ninth annual Lunar New Year Concert on Tuesday night with celebrated and emerging artists to ring in the Year of the Rat. [Photo/Xinhua]

Featuring famous musical pieces from America and Asia, the program included a violin concerto The Butterfly Lovers with American violinist Gil Shaham as soloist, and George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue with 29-year-old Chinese pianist Zhang Haochen.

The event also marked Zhang's Philharmonic debut. As the Gold Medalist of the 2009 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, Zhang studied under American classical pianist Gary Graffman, who was the soloist for the New York Philharmonic's performance of Rhapsody in Blue on the soundtrack of Woody Allen's 1979 film Manhattan.

The virtuoso performance given by the young pianist won a standing ovation from over 2,700 people at the David Geffen Hall. Many of them were New Yorkers who grew up listening to the piece, which as a composition for solo piano and jazz band premiered in New York in 1924.

During a meeting with local press on Monday, the Shanghai-born pianist described the concert's program as a beautiful musical exchange between China and the United States.

"I think the Chinese traditional music and the American jazz are as remote as you could get in terms of artistic aesthetics," said Zhang.

With a program in which a Chinese pianist gets to play The Rhapsody in Blue and an American violinist plays The Butterfly Lovers, "it really made a statement of what musicians are trying to do with music in cultural exchange," he added.

Shaham, one of the most acclaimed violinists in the world, recorded The Butterfly Lovers with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra in 2007.

His performance on Friday night demonstrated his special connection with the classic piece, with an interpretation that blended both Chinese and Western music styles.

The concert also marked the U.S. premiere of China-born composer Zhou Tian's Gift, and the New York premiere of Korean composer Texu Kim's Spin-Flip.

The Philharmonic was under the baton of world-renowned Chinese conductor Yu Long, who has conducted a highly acclaimed list of orchestras throughout the world, including New York, Los Angeles, Munich, and Tokyo philharmonic orchestras.

Currently vice president of the Chinese Musicians Association and artistic director and chief conductor of the China Philharmonic Orchestra, Yu collaborates frequently with many of the world's most celebrated soloists, such as Lang Lang, Yo-Yo Ma, and Wang Yujia.

The New York Philharmonic has welcomed the Lunar New Year with an annual celebration since 2012. This year's Lunar New Year fell on Jan. 25. 

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