The New York Philharmonic Orchestra and its new music director, Lorin Maazel, will thrill Beijing's classical fans tonight.
The concert at the Poly Theatre, also featuring 20-year-old Chinese pianist Lang Lang, is expected to be another highlight of the fifth Beijing Music Festival, which started on Friday.
The audiences will be treated to Modest Mussorgsky's "Night on the Bare Mountain," Sergei Rachmaninoff's "Piano Concerto No 2" and Jean Sibelius' "Symphony No 2."
When the Philharmonic's new music director lifted his baton to conduct on September 18, the opening night of the 2002 to 2003 season, he was already a familiar face. The 72-year-old had conducted the orchestra more than 100 times previously.
Maestro Maazel's connection to the Philharmonic began on August 5, 1942, when, as a boy of 12, he conducted the orchestra at its summer home at Lewisohn Stadium, an outdoor venue on the campus of City College in upper Manhattan.
This auspicious debut took place just four years after he began studying conducting and just eight years after his formal musical education began with piano and violin lessons.
The young maestro returned to conduct Lewisohn Stadium concerts in 1943 and 1944.
Maazel, who had been making a name for himself in Europe, returned to New York to make his New York Philharmonic subscription concert debut conducting eight performances in December 1962 during the orchestra's inaugural season at the Lincoln Centre.
Between that auspicious subscription debut and his debut as music director this season, Maestro Maazel returned to the Philharmonic podium nine times.
His most recent appearance prior to being named music director was in November 2001, when he conducted four performances with the orchestra.
His Philharmonic appearances over the years punctuated a brilliant conducting career at the helm of several major orchestras in the United States and Europe, including as artistic director and chief conductor of the Deutsche Opera Berlin (1965-71), music director of the Cleveland Orchestra (1972-82) and music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony (1988-96) and at the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra from 1993 until this summer
Maazel was born in the French capital Paris of United States parents in 1930. His possession of perfect pitch and a photographic memory were discovered when he was 4 years of age. His musical studies began the next year with violin and piano.
He also studied conducting in Pittsburgh with Vladimir Bakaleinikoff and appeared publicly for the first time at age 8, leading a university orchestra.
In 1939, at the age of 9, he conducted the Interlochen Orchestra at the New York World's Fair, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic in the Hollywood Bowl, sharing a programme with Leopold Stokowski.
Between the ages of 9 and 15, he conducted most of the major US orchestras.
At the age of 16, Maazel entered the University of Pittsburgh to study languages, mathematics and philosophy. While a student, he was a violinist with the Pittsburgh Symphony, served as apprentice conductor during the 1949-50 season, and organized the Fine Arts Quartet of Pittsburgh.
In 1951, he studied baroque music in Italy on a Fulbright Fellowship, and began conducting leading European orchestras.
He has conducted at most international festivals such as Salzburg, Edinburgh and Lucerne, and at opera houses such as the Metropolitan Opera, La Scala, Paris Opera, and London's Covent Garden.
The New York Philharmonic, the oldest symphony orchestra in the United States and one of the oldest in the world, has played a leading role in US musical life since its founding in 1842.
Each year, the philharmonic performs some 200 concerts for live audiences of nearly 1 million, and more than 30,000 people attend Philharmonic open rehearsals.
On February 17 this year, the philharmonic performed its 13,500th concert, a milestone unmatched by any other orchestra.
The appearance in tonight's concert of the pianist Lang Lang reflects the core theme of "Chineseness" at this year's Beijing Music Festival.
Yu Long, the festival's artistic director, said: "Lang is one of the best young pianists in the world today and he is the pride of China."
At 20 years of age, Lang has established himself as one of the most exciting and moving pianists in the world.
The Chicago Tribune hailed him as "a phenomenal talent" and the New York Times considered him "stunning."
He has performed with many of the world's leading orchestras including the Cleveland Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, London Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, and the North German Radio Symphony Orchestra of Hamburg.
Last June, his performance with the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing won great acclaim from audiences and critics.
Born in Shenyang in Northeast China's Liaoning Province, Lang began piano studies at the age of 3.
Since the age of 5, he has won numerous awards, including first prize at the second Tchaikovsky International Young Musicians' Competition and, more recently, the first ever Leonard Bernstein Award for distinguished musical talent.
(China Daily October 16, 2002)