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Hitting the perfect note in honor of heroes
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Five months on, do you still think of the victims of the Sichuan earthquake? A group of instrumentalists from Italy have not forgotten and are trying to do something for the survivors.

Led by Francesco La Vecchia, artistic director and chief conductor, the Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma will give a charity concert in Dujiangyan, Chengdu, on Oct 15 and donate all the box-office earnings of its China tour, including the concerts in Beijing and Shanghai.

This is the orchestra's debut tour in China, and it is the first performing arts company to tour the area since the earthquake on May 12.

At the special concert in Dujiangyan, they will perform Beethoven's Symphony No 3, known as the Eroica which is Italian for "heroic", and the overture of Verdi's The Sicilian Vespers.

The second movement of Beethoven's Third Symphony, a funerary march, is frequently performed on memorial occasions. Serge Koussevitzky performed it to commemorate the death of US President Franlkin Delano Roosevelt, and Bruno Walter did the same for Arturo Toscanini.

It was also performed at the funeral of Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy in 1847. The second movement was also played by the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra as a funeral dirge during the memorial service following the "Munich massacre" terrorist attacks of the 1972 Summer Olympics.

"We have specially chosen this piece, because we are performing there for two kinds of people. One, the survivors who might have lost family members, and the other, the soldiers, doctors and all those who helped with the rescue operations. They are all heroes. This is the perfect piece for them," Vecchia tells China Daily.

James Kang, CEO of China-Italy Museum League (Beijing) Culture Media Co, Ltd, the company which is presenting the orchestra's China tour, says they planned to tour Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong in spring before the earthquake, but the tour was delayed. When Vecchia and his group came to Beijing to check out the venue they were to perform at, they saw reports of the earthquake on TV and were deeply moved.

"Vecchia could not help going to Sichuan immediately. After discussions, we finally canceled the Hong Kong leg and decided to perform in Dujiangyan. The orchestra also agreed to donate all the box-office revenue to help survivors rebuild their homes," says Kang.

Before they visit Chengdu, the orchestra will first play at Beijing's National Center for the Performing Arts tomorrow and Shanghai's Oriental Arts Center on Oct 17.

Founded in November 2002, from a vocational training course which lasted almost one year, the Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma now has 65 members, most of whom are under 30, and many are recognized soloists.

For the first two seasons, the orchestra performed at the Teatro Argentina of Rome giving 160 concerts with approximately 80 different programs. This earned the orchestra recognition from the press and audiences, who guaranteed sell-out performances.

The orchestra also boasts lyrical productions such as Verdi's La Traviata and Rigoletto and Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia, as well as numerous recordings and performances on the global stage, from St Petersburg to the European Parliament in Brussels.

This is an orchestra underpinned by musical direction marked by absolute precision in tempo, perfect tuning and harmonious understanding with the soloist. Enthusiasm, desire and passion: This is what drives the Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma. Vecchia, who has worked as the artistic director from the very beginning, has found the expressive key to exalt the professionalism of his young musicians.

For the programs in Beijing and Shanghai, half are classic works of Beethoven, Brahms and Musorgskij, and the other half features music by the most renowned Italian composers, including Puccini, Rossini, Verdi and Respighi.

"We have carefully designed the program to showcase the young orchestra's ability in big classic works and at the same time give our interpretation of those great Italian musicians," says the conductor, who will also offer classes at the National Center for the Performing Arts and Central Conservatory of Music.

"It's great to meet Chinese music professionals. Instead of teaching techniques, I prefer to make friends with them and learn more Chinese music from them," says Vecchia.

(China Daily October 10, 2008)

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