Orchestra celebrates the nation's musical youth

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The China Philharmonic Orchestra opens its 2023-24 season under the baton of conductor Yu Long, with a three-day marathon featuring five young Chinese pianists, playing four piano concertos; Symphonic Dances, Op 45;and Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op 43, by Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff.

Between Saturday and Sept 4, three concerts will be staged at the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing. The five pianists will be Zuo Zhang, Bao Yang, Wang Zhiren, Ju Xiaofu and Wang Yalun.

"This year marks the 150th anniversary of Rachmaninoff's birth and the three-day marathon will bring an end to our yearlong celebration of the composer, and is the first such marathon in the orchestra's 23-year history," Yu said in the rehearsal room in Beijing on Aug 14. "These five talented young pianists will kick off the upcoming season, which is dedicated to young musicians."

For its 23rd season, the China Philharmonic Orchestra has a schedule of 21 concerts.

Laufey Lin, whose Chinese name is Lin Bing, will join the orchestra for a jazz concert on Sept 26, under the baton of Jin Yukuang. Both are 23 years old, and they both will be performing with the orchestra for the first time.

Born into a musical family, Lin's grandfather was the renowned violin educator Lin Yaoji (1937-2009) and her mother is a violinist with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra. Laufey Lin composes, sings and plays cello, and has a large online fan base. She recorded her first song, Street by Street, on campus at the Berklee College of Music in the winter of 2020. Since then, she has released an EP, Typical of Me, and a debut album, Everything I Know About Love. A second album, Bewitched, will be released on Sept 8.

Other young musicians will also be playing with the China Philharmonic Orchestra for the first time. Zhou Ying, who was born in 1993 and won the second Shanghai Isaac Stern International Violin Competition in 2018, will perform in a concert on March 3, 2024, featuring Johannes Brahms' Violin Concerto in D Major, Op 77, and Symphony No 2 in D Major, Op 73, under the baton of conductor Chen Lin, at the Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing.

Pianists and twin sisters Shi Wei and Shi Rong will play Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro Overture, Concerto for Two Pianos and Piano Concerto No 10 in E-Flat Major, K365, as well as Tchaikovsky's Manfred Symphony, Op 58, under the baton of Xia Xiaotang in a concert on April 7, 2024, at the same venue.

"These young musicians have matured quickly, and their performances really impressed me. During the COVID-19 pandemic, they performed on social media platforms and reached wider audiences around the world," says Yu.

"Unlike the musicians of my generation, they received professional music training as children, pursued their studies at top music schools around the world, and won prizes at international competitions. They have demonstrated their potential and ability," Yu adds.

In 2000, Yu co-founded the China Philharmonic Orchestra, which has become one of the top symphony orchestras in the country, and which is dedicated to supporting young musicians.

Although it often had to reschedule over the past three years due to the pandemic, the orchestra has been working hard to present audiences with a diversity of programming.

"I am very grateful that I have been evolving as a musician along with the China Philharmonic Orchestra, which is an important step in my career," says Yu, who is also artistic director of the troupe.

On Jan 13, 2024, a concert of art songs will be performed under the baton of conductor Huang Yi, featuring music by the late Chinese composer and pianist Ding Shande (1911-95), who was Yu's grandfather and introduced him to music as a child.

This year, with the music scene back in full swing, international musicians will join the China Philharmonic Orchestra for its new season.

German conductor Christoph Eschenbach will return for a performance featuring Symphony No 1 in D Major by Gustav Mahler and Russian composer Alfred Schnittke's Viola Concerto. Viola player Mei Diyang, 29, the first Chinese principal viola at the Berliner Philharmoniker, will also play in the concert. In 2022, he became the first Chinese musician to be given the position at the troupe.

On Oct 29, British pianist Stephen Hough will make his debut with the orchestra, playing Beethoven's Piano Concerto No 3 in C Minor, Op 37, and Brahms' Piano Concerto No 1, Op 15, under the baton of Yu.

Other highlights in the new season include Greek violinist Leonidas Kavakos, British violinist Daniel Hope, and German baritone Matthias Goerne.

On Oct 6, violinist Hope, pianist Sun Jiayi, and cellist Nie Jiapeng will perform music from award-winning composer Tan Dun's Martial Arts Trilogy, a cycle of pieces for soloists and orchestra based on Tan's famous film scores: The Crouching Tiger Concerto, The Banquet Concerto, Hero Concerto and The Triple Resurrection. Tan will conduct.

On May 25, 2024, the orchestra will give a concert at Beijing's Poly Theatre, where it was founded in 2000. In celebration of the China Philharmonic Orchestra's 24th birthday, the concert will feature established artists like actor-director Pu Cunxin, pianist Chen Sa, violinist Lyu Siqing and cellist Wang Jian.

According to Li Nan, president of the China Philharmonic Orchestra, the new season will be the last before the opening of its new headquarters. The new China Philharmonic Orchestra Hall was scheduled for completion on June 30,2022, but was postponed due to the pandemic. It will be the orchestra's first permanent venue, and is located on the southern side of the Beijing Workers' Stadium.

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