Quest to bring classical music to the masses

The Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra's newly announced 2018-19 season is aimed at popularizing classical music and bringing it to the people.

The Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra’s newly announced 2018-19 season is aimed at popularizing classical music and bringing it to the people, offering almost 40 programs through next September.

They will range from popular Western classics such as Mahler’s symphony to pieces from Austrian composer Anton Brucker — rarely heard in China — to recent creations by Chinese composers such as Yu Jingjun and Gong Tianpeng.

“I hope that the season will be not only a regular platform for the orchestra to challenge and improve itself, but also a channel for popularizing classical music among ordinary residents,” says Zhang Yi, the Philharmonic’s new artistic director.

A series of big pieces will be staged as part of the “Masters and Classics” section of the season, including Mahler’s Symphony No.1 and No.6, Bruckner’s Symphony No. 8 and No.9, Prokofiev’s Symphony No.5, Strauss’ “Don Quixote” and a concert version of Verdi’s “The Lady of the Camellias.”

“With our successful China premiere of Bruckner’s Symphony No.6 last year, we are planning to present all of Bruckner’s symphony works within three years,” says Sun Hong, the orchestra’s vice president.

The orchestra will be the first to bring Bruckner’s works to China.

Quest to bring classical music to the masses
Ti Gong

The Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra announces 2018-19 season with almost 40 programs through next September.

As a local symphony orchestra, the Shanghai Philharmonic always leaves a quarter of its season’s programs to Chinese works, as part of its obligation to nurture local culture, according to Sun.

Six special concerts of Chinese works will be staged, with themes like the orchestra’s post-90s composer-in-residence Gong Tianpeng’s Symphony No.8, Chinese film and TV music, innovative Chinese symphony theater “The Flute” and the 60th anniversary of the violin concerto “Butterfly Lovers.”

The world premiere of “Chinese Version of Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra” by Chinese composer Yu Jingjun is a highlight of the season.

It is a commissioned work by the Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra to help popularize the idea of orchestra among young people, as well as paying tribute to Benjamin Britten who created “Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra” in 1946.

“I’ve tailored the Chinese version for the Chinese youth. ‘The Jasmine Flower,’ as an everybody-knows Chinese melody, is used as a theme in the work. I hope the Chinese elements in the Western symphonic language will help popularize symphony among the young people in China,” says Yu.

The 17-minute “guide” is a crafty piece, according to Zhang Yi of the orchestra.

“The ‘Jasmine Flower’ is not only known to the Chinese, but Western audiences as well thanks to the opera ‘Turandot’,” says Zhang. “It is not difficult to play, which makes it possible to be tried by many more orchestras including those of the young.”

In this season, the orchestra will also premiere Chinese composer Zhao Jiping’s “Chant on Reed Marshes,” Lu Qiming’s symphonic Overture “Thunderstorm” (revised edition), Wang Jianmin’s “Fantasy Ballade” (orchestra version) and Min Huifen and Qu Chunquan’s “Poeme” (orchestral version).

In addition, the Shanghai Philharmonic will join the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra at its New Year Concert in Philadephia in January, staging not only Western classics but also Chinese composer Gong Tianpeng’s “Peking Fantasy” together.

“It will be an interesting Sino-US conversation in music, to mark the 40th anniversary of establishment of Sino-US diplomatic relations,” says Sun, vice president of the orchestra.

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