Sheer delight: 'Music in the Summer Air'

The Shanghai Symphony Orchestra's "Music in the Summer Air" festival returns on July 2 for its 10th year, with 23 concerts in two weeks.

The Shanghai Symphony Orchestra’s “Music in the Summer Air” festival returns on July 2 for its 10th year, with 23 concerts in two weeks and guest performances by the New York Philharmonic and BBC Symphony Orchestra.

“We are marking the event’s 10th anniversary, and I am both excited and nervous,” said Wang Xiaoting, the orchestra’s program director. “Quite a few music festivals around the world were canceled last year — nearly 20 in North America alone. So it’s fortunate that we are still going strong after 10 years, and hopefully that will continue for the next 10 years as well.”

Rather than mark the10th anniversary with extravaganza events, orchestra officials have chosen to continue their lower-profile tradition of focusing on music and educational outreach. 

This summer’s festival concerts will be held at the Shanghai Symphony Hall, the Shanghai Urban Music Lawn and the outdoor area near the Shanghai Concert Hall. 

Most of the concerts will be also available through online streaming across different sites.

The New York Philharmonic, under the baton of Jaap van Zweden, returns for a fifth consecutive year to open the music festival. Pianist Seong-Jin Cho, the first South Korean to win the International Chopin Piano Competition, will join the orchestra in a program that includes Mozart, Brahms, Shostakovich and Beethoven.

BBC Symphony Orchestra will be reunited with its conductor-laureate Andrew Davis in a program that will include excerpts from Elizabeth Maconchy’s “Overture: Proud Thames,” folk songs by China-born composer Huang Ruo and the world premiere of composer Raymond Yiu’s “Chocolate.”

The Shanghai Symphony Orchestra will also present some of its latest “crossover” pieces, or music that traverses genres, at the closing concert on July 15.

After that, the orchestra begins a world tour that includes its debut at the BBC Proms in London.

The two-week festival here has something for everyone. It will feature young performers, world-renowned musicians, ethnic instruments, new compositions and reinterpreted traditional works. 

The concerts at the Shanghai Urban Music Lawn are known for their diversity. On July 9, Iraq’s Maqam Ensemble will present a program focused on Middle Eastern music — from Tchaikovsky’s “Arabian Dance” to the Arabic jazz piece “Magic.”

On July 5, Chinese pipa player Wu Man will do “crossover’ pieces with ukulele player Daniel Ho, bassist Brandon Wong and percussionist Randy Drake. The program will include music from France, China, Spain, Zimbabwe and Mexico.

Sheer delight: 'Music in the Summer Air'
Ti Gong

The festival has ventured into live performances of movie music, from Western masterpieces to 1980s Chinese animation.

The summer festival debuted a decade ago as an outreach educational program sponsored by the Shanghai Symphony and the city’s education commission.

“From the very beginning, its aim was to engage young people and introduce them to the world of classical music,” said Zhou Ping, director of the Shanghai Symphony. 

“Over the years, it has become not only a stage for very classic sounds, but also a place where adventurous new works debut and music crosses over into other genres.”

Zhou cited the festival’s venture into live performances of movie music, from Western masterpieces like “Space Odyssey 2001” to 1980s Chinese animation.

Over the years, the festival has built up a loyal public following and inspired young musicians. 

“I was so impressed with how the masters work, how they re-interpret musical notes with accuracy, understand emotions, and inspire the imagination,” said Wu Kaiyuan, junior at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music whose first contact with renowned musicians came during the 2011 summer festival.

“The experience encouraged me to continue in music,” he added.

Wu, now home for summer vacation, said he will be attending the festival concerts again this year. 

“It feels like part of my life — music and “Music in the Summer Air,” he said. “Plus, there are some very good concerts every year.”


Date: July 2-15

Venues: Shanghai Symphony Hall, Shanghai Urban Music Lawn

For more information: 400 821 0522

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