The National Center for the Performing Arts will soon launch its annual China Orchestra Festival. The event showcases and promotes symphony orchestras and Chinese music.
From April 8 to May 7, the festival, in its seventh year, will present 21 concerts featuring 22 symphony orchestras from 14 provinces across the country.
According to Gong Jicheng, vice-president of the NCPA, more than 50 music works by composers spanning the generations will be performed. These include the Yellow River Cantata by composer Xian Xinghai (1905-1945) and the symphonic work Ice and Snow Carnival composed by Tang Jianping for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games. The festival will also mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China.
A concert featuring the Wuhan Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Shao En will open the festival on April 8. Wuhan was the city hit hardest by COVID-19 in China. It went through a lockdown of nearly 80 days and April 8 marks a year since the government lifted the lockdown.
To pay tribute to the people who fought against the epidemic in Wuhan in 2020 and to celebrate the city's triumph, a music piece, titled Reborn From the Fire, will be staged during the opening concert.
"Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have canceled many concerts. Now, we feel grateful that we could go back to the concert halls and enjoy music," says Gong.
On April 10, 85-year-old conductor Bian Zushan will lead the symphony orchestra of the National Ballet of China in a concert featuring selections from the classic Chinese ballet The Red Detachment of Women composed by Wu Zuqiang and Du Mingxin and music works by composer Guan Xia, including Symphonic Ballade and Hope and Pursuit from Symphony No 1.
"I've witnessed the development of the classical music scene of the country, which is vibrant and exciting. Chinese classical music works have distinctive Chinese styles, which are unique and gradually gaining recognition worldwide," says Bian.
He was orphaned at the age of 13 after his father died. His new home was an orphanage in Shanghai, where he learned to play the piano.
"I fell in love with classical music works because I was touched by the emotions. When I look back, it's true that classical music has changed my life," says Bian, who graduated from Shanghai Conservatory of Music and was the principal conductor of the symphony orchestra of the National Ballet of China.
During the concert at the NCPA on April 10, Zhang Yi, the current principal conductor of the symphony orchestra of the National Ballet of China, will share the stage with Bian.
China's first female conductor, Zheng Xiaoying, at 92, will perform with the symphony orchestra of Xiamen Municipal Opera and Dance Drama Troupe on April 16 with Chinese composer Liu Yuan's The Echoes of Hakka's Earth Buildings, an original music piece which Zheng has been performing and promoting during the past two decades.
"For me, a great classical work is shared by the general public rather than just appreciated by musicians or experts. The Echoes of Hakka's Earth Buildings is such a music piece, which I've performed home and abroad for about 75 times," says Zheng."It portrays the history of the Hakka people, which has not been performed in the capital during the past 10 years."
Zheng adds that it will be the first time the symphony orchestra of the Xiamen Municipal Opera and Dance Drama Troupe performed in the capital.
"It's crucial for a symphony orchestra to perform in front of a new audience. That's the platform the China Orchestra Festival has been offering for Chinese symphony orchestras," Zheng adds.
Other highlights will see the China National Symphony Orchestra, which has been performing at the annual festival since it started, the Xi'an Symphony Orchestra, the NCPA Orchestra and the Liangshan Symphony Orchestra, which was founded in 2013 and is based in Xichang, capital of the Liangshan Yi autonomous prefecture, Sichuan province.
On April 17 and 18, the Xi'an Symphony Orchestra will perform two concerts combing classical music with traditional Chinese poems.
On April 22, conductor Li Xincao will lead the China National Symphony Orchestra. Their presentations will include composer Zhang Chao's orchestral work, Breaking Dawn for Sunset, composer Yang Fan's piece Days of Glory for mezzosoprano and orchestra and composer Jiang Ying's Journey for a Century, a music piece for pipa, orchestra and mezzo-soprano.
The festival will also launch a variety of art education activities on and offline for the first time, with musicians sharing stories of their works.