Classical music fans will have a chance to sample an array of classical and contemporary music from Australia, Japan and China this week in the Sixth Meet in Beijing Arts Festival.
The festival opened with the ethnic gala show "Wind of Colorful Guizhou" on April 28 and will end on May 27.
The three symphony concerts at the Poly Theatre will give the festival a new twist after the exotic Mexican song and dance shows, French ballet and Russian rock bands in its first week.
On Wednesday, the West Australian Symphony Orchestra (WASO) will present Liszt's "Piano Concerto No 2," Mahler's "Symphony No 5" and "New Upbeat," a piece that the orchestra commissioned the Melbourne-based Chinese composer Julian Yu to score specially for its China tour.
On Thursday and Friday, the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra will give two concerts featuring the eminent Chinese violinist Huang Mengla playing Tchaikovsky's "Violin Concerto No 1."
With the West Australian Symphony Orchestra's first international tour in 23 years, its chief conductor Matthias Bamert will lead the orchestra to perform in Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Shenzhen and Guangzhou. The tour also features the French pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet.
"We appreciate the opportunity it provides to highlight the talent of the orchestra and to enhance the cultural linkages between Australia and China. It's our honor to be part of the Meet in Beijing Arts Festival and to be included in such a diverse display of artistic performances," said Janet Holmes a Court, head of the orchestra.
"The language of music is often said to be a universal one. It requires no translation. It cannot be misunderstood. We believe this WASO tour will do much to underline the importance of this cultural dialogue for future relations between China and Australia," she added.
Formed in 1922, the West Australian Symphony Orchestra started as the Perth Symphony Orchestra, with a small group of musicians performing weekly concerts.
Today, the orchestra has been West Australia's largest and busiest performing arts company and has played a central role in the heart of musical life in western Australia, performing over 170 concerts each year.
Led by the London-based conductor Matthias Bamert since 2003, the West Australian Symphony Orchestra has an innovative approach to music programming, performing both artistically vibrant classical music as well as original contemporary music. Through its "Summer and Contempo Series," the orchestra regularly joins forces with international and Australian pop musicians to create concerts that fuse popular contemporary pieces with classical music.
The West Australian Symphony Orchestra is also at the forefront to commission original compositions. Last October, the orchestra commissioned the Melbourne composer Julian Yu to create an opening piece for this China Tour.
"The six-minute piece combines traditional Chinese musical elements with some Australian folk tunes that are familiar to Chinese people. Both Chinese and Australian listeners can easily figure out their familiar tunes from the short delightful symphonic work," Yu told China Daily on a telephone interview from Melbourne.
Before setting off for the China tour, Bamert conducted the West Australian Symphony Orchestra which gave two warming up concerts in Perth on May 4 and 5. As the opening piece of the concerts, Yu's "New Upbeat" has won wide acclaim from the local audience.
The 49-year-old Beijing-born Yu is the two-time winner of Australia's highest award, the Paul Lowin Orchestra Prize. He learned composition at Beijing's Central Conservatory of Music and the Tokyo College of Music.
Since emigrating to Australia in 1985, he has studied Western music in depth while exploring how to inherit the Chinese musical tradition in different ways. Instead of borrowing the external sounds and modes of Chinese music, he has tapped into its inner structures.
Yu's music is said to be "delicate and intricate, but can be vigorous and rhythmical," according to critics in Australia, who also believe that his music represents "a unique fusion of Asian and Western cultures and is not confined by national or ethnic boundaries."
In December 2002, the Melbourne Symphony commissioned him to write a piece for the orchestra's China trip. Called "Willow and Wattle," it involved Chinese and Western themes featuring solos on the Chinese stringed instruments, erhu and jinghu.
The festival will also feature the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary of its founding.
On March 14, Chinese leading conductor Li Xincao, resident conductor of the China National Symphony Orchestra, was invited to take the baton to perform at one of the celebration concerts at Tokyo's Suntory Hall.
The 26-year-old Chinese violinist Huang Mengla was also featured at that concert, playing his trademark piece Paganini's "Violin Concerto No 1."
Two months later, led by its resident conductor Norichika Limori, the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra and Huang will give two concerts in the Beijing festival.
In 2002, Huang won the first prize at the prestigious Paganini International Violin Competition in Italy, where he also was awarded the Renato De Barbieri Memorial award for the best interpretation of Paganini's caprices and the Mario Ruminelli Memorial award.
The young Shanghai-born violinist has been hailed as the "Chinese Paganini" by the press.
Huang began to study the violin when he was 4 and entered Shanghai Conservatory at the age of 8. His rare talent was immediately recognized by the renowned violinist Yu Lina with whom he has studied since.
In December 2004, Huang signed a contract with Universe, following the steps of the prodigy pianists Lang Lang and Li Yundi and famous cellist Wang Jian, to become the fourth Chinese classical musician under the world-renowned label.
In addition to Tchaikovsky's "Violin Concerto No 1," the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra's two different programs for the two nights are both a treat for the concert-goers.
On Thursday, the concert will start with the Chinese piece "The Good News Spreads from Beijing to Borderland Village" followed by "Wedding March" by the renowned Japanese composer Ikuma Dan (1924-2001). The piece was created for the wedding of Crown Prince Akihito and Princess Michiko in 1959.
The second half features the overture of the music "Candide" composed by Leonard Bernstein's and Italian composer Ottorino Respighi's "Pines of Rome."
Friday night will feature music by the other famous Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu (1930-96). Takemitsu explores the compositional principles of Western classical music and his native Japanese tradition both in isolation and in combination. He first came to wide attention when his "Requiem for String Orchestra" (1957) was praised by Igor Stravinsky. And this time, the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra brings the very piece to Beijing.
The second half includes the overture of Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro" and Tchaikovsky's "Symphony No 4 in F Minor."
(China Daily May 8, 2006)