Biennal festival celebrates ingenuity of viola

Zhang Qian
Zhang Qian
The "Viva La Viola" show is ongoing through to Friday, presenting six concerts as well as a series of workshop and seminars at Shanghai Concert Hall and the conservatory.
Zhang Qian
Zhang Qian

THE “Viva La Viola” show is ongoing through to Friday, presenting six concerts as well as a series of workshop and seminars at Shanghai Concert Hall and the conservatory.

The biennial festival by the Shanghai Conservatory of Music was initiated in 2007, as a way to popularize viola in China.

Performers for the festival usually involves students and teachers of viola major at Shanghai Conservatory of Music and the primary and middle schools affiliated to it.

More than 200 viola students and teachers will participate at this year’s festival, including 80-year-old Chinese viola professor Shen Xidi who has worked in viola education for nearly 60 years.

Viola master Nobuko Imai from Japan will present a viola quartet concert at Shanghai Concert Hall, as the festival closing performance.

The programs include Bach’s “Chaconne for Four Violas,” Garth Knox’s Marin Marias Variations on “Folies d’Espagne” for a Viola Quartet, as well as a list of adaptations of works by Debussy, Mozart and Piazzolla.

Shen first majored in violin but was attracted to viola after an occasional participation in a string quartet, and then later fully devoted herself to viola playing and education.

“The warm voice and emotional expressiveness of the viola hooked me to the instrument,” says Shen. “While the violin is more suitable for demonstrating dazzling playing skills, the viola delivers emotion better.”

Though the viola was introduced to China 100 years later than the violin, its education has gradually developed in the past few decades.

Imai still remembers her first visit to Shanghai many years ago and being shocked by so many viola students attending her master class, who considered the viola being such a non-mainstream international instrument.

“The students were very young, and they could already play works by Paganini,” says Imai. “It was so impressive.”

With limited viola ensemble works available, the festival keeps presenting at least four new viola pieces, either new creations or new adaptations each time, together with about eight pieces from classic repertoire, according to Lan Hancheng, professor of the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, who is also the main organizer of the festival.

“We will also intentionally introduce some of the new viola programs to local audiences that have been recently staged abroad,” says Lan.

Biennal festival celebrates ingenuity of viola

• Nobuko Iami Viola Quartet

Date: November 16, 7:30pm

Venue: Shanghai Concert Hall

Address: 523 Yan’an Rd E.

Tickets: 80 yuan

Tel: 400-891-8182

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