World's oldest orchestra starts its China tour from Shanghai

Ma Yue
German conductor Christian Thielemann is leading the Staatskapelle Dresden for two concerts in Shanghai, which is the first stop of their China tour.
Ma Yue

German conductor Christian Thielemann and the Staatskapelle Dresden began their China tour this week in Shanghai, staging two concerts at the Shanghai Oriental Art Center as part of the ongoing China Shanghai International Arts Festival.

The Staatskapelle Dresden, the world's oldest orchestra, is celebrating its 475th anniversary. This is also Thielemann's final season as the orchestra's main conductor.

On Wednesday evening, they performed "Der Schwanendreher" by Paul Hindemith and "An Alpine Symphony" by Richard Strauss.

World's oldest orchestra starts its China tour from Shanghai
Ti Gong

Christian Thielemann and the Staatskapelle Dresden

The programs for the second performance on Thursday evening are the same as for the Dresden 475 Year Jubilee Program: Weber's "Jubilee Overture," Wagner's "Tannhäuser Overture," Strauss' "Also sprach Zarathustra," and Strauss' "Der Rosenkavalier Suite."

Thielemann's massive stature and adorable actions on stage have earned him the moniker "big bear" from his Chinese fans.

"I like this nickname," Thielemann said.

Thielemann said he felt responsible rather than pressured when working with an orchestra with such a rich and illustrious history.

"It's the oldest orchestra in the world that is playing constantly, and I have the responsibility to develop them," he said. "While respecting the tradition, I also choose new repertoires for them, including Italian opera repertoires and some contemporary compositions."

World's oldest orchestra starts its China tour from Shanghai
Ti Gong

A performance at Shanghai Oriental Art Center

Thielemann worked as an assistant to maestro Herbert von Karajan in 1979, who provided him with much inspiration and encouragement. Thielemann, on the other hand, feels that a conductor must "be oneself."

"Don't strive to copy or be someone else. Chemistry is important in conducting. It's about persuading people that we're on the right track to achieve a goal," he explained.

Thielemann stated that when conducting the orchestra's seasoned players, he always strove to be convincing by making meticulous preparations and demonstrating his professional talents and excellence as a maestro conductor. In addition, he expects complete concentration from the musicians at each concert because he can slightly change his musical style depending on the conditions.

Despite his hectic schedule, Thielemann said that he would want to spend more time experiencing other cultures in various countries and seek tranquility through art and nature.

World's oldest orchestra starts its China tour from Shanghai
Ti Gong

Christian Thielemann and viola player Lawrence Power

"The hotels and airports are identical, but the history and culture are not. I can already tell that Beijing and Shanghai are not the same. I wish I had more time to try different foods."

During his brief visit to Shanghai, Thielemann found time to explore Zhujiajiao and the woodland park in the suburban Qingpu District.

"We have wonderful forests and trees in Germany, and this (Qingpu Park) is wonderful," he said. "When I stop conducting, I would love to travel around China, to see more cities and the terracotta."

Performance info

Date: November 2, 7:30pm

Tickets: 380-1980 yuan

Venue: Shanghai Oriental Art Center 上海东方艺术中心

Address: 425 Dingxiang Road, Pudong New Area 浦东新区丁香路425号

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