In one of the largest concerts ever held at the General Assembly of the United Nations, August 28 will see Maestro Long Yu assemble his Shanghai Symphony Orchestra to represent China in a musical celebration to mark 70 years since both the ending of World War Two and the establishment of the UN itself. All of the chief Allied WW2 powers will be represented in the concert, which also will include America's MasterVoices choir (formerly the Collegiate Chorale, the choir which performed at the official opening of the UN building), Russian-born violinist Maxim Vengerov (playing Schindler's List), 12-year-old Chinese piano prodigy Sirena Wang, and singers Ying Huang (China), Sarah Fox (UK), Aurhelia Varak (France), Vadim Gan (Russia), David Blalock (USA) and Christopher Magiera (USA). The concert is part of a tour of the Americas by the orchestra, and will also take in two venues in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Aug 30, 31), and one in Buenos Aires, Argentina (Sept 2).
"It is a concert in which the music we play is about memories and about new beginnings" says Long Yu, "World War Two was of course a great tragedy, as well as a victory over evil, which must be remembered, while the birth of the UN from out of the wreckage of that war was a new beginning for the world. So Tchaikovsky's Andante Cantabile is contemplative, healing, Barber's Adagio is a piece of hushed mourning, as of course is John Williams's Theme from Schindler's List. Then Beethoven's Choral Fantasy is a work of genesis, one that eventually culminated in the magnificent Ninth Symphony and its 'Ode To Joy' - but in this exuberant early work we can hear the seeds of that utopian vision, which is very appropriate for a forum created around the ideal of nations talking and collaborating, rather than fighting." The new work, Shanghai 1937, is by the Chinese composer Zou Ye (Long Yu recently initiated the Compose 20:20 project, to bring new Western works to China, and new Chinese works to the West).
Nor does the sense of history that attends this event elude its conductor. "Speaking for myself and the players as well as the management of the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, to be able to represent our country in the spirit of the great things achieved by the allies and the founders of the United Nations seven decades ago, is an immense privilege. To be part of a cultural message from artists of China, the US, UK, France and Russia that we hope represents the renewal of those ideals is an honor to be cherished. And it also feels appropriate that this concert is part of our wider tour of the Americas - as much as we are bringing in artists from different nationalities to our concert halls, we musicians are also ourselves physically travelling from country to country, to help strengthen the bonds that bind nations, and people, together."
The orchestra will also be joined by nine students from the Shanghai Orchestra Academy, an initiative created with international cooperation with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.
Notes for Editors:
* The Shanghai Symphony Orchestra is China's oldest symphony orchestra, founded in 1879 as the Shanghai Public Band (under conductor and flautist Jean Remusat). Between these years and the end of World War Two, some European musicians came to the orchestra as section leaders, bringing with them their knowledge of European performance styles - after World War Two, however, the Europeans gradually left creating opportunities for the most talented Chinese musicians. In 1956 the orchestra, already informally known as "the best in the Far East", renamed itself the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra. Xieyang Chen took over the artistic leadership, creating and filling the role of music director. He was succeeded by the current incumbent, Long Yu.
The SSO has performed around the world. It was the first Chinese orchestra to play Carnegie Hall, in 1990, the first to play the Berlin Philharmonie (2004), the first to give a concert in New York's Central Park (2010). Last year, it inaugurated its new, world-class concert venue in Shanghai, Symphony Hall, ingeniously built underground for urban planning reasons. And it also recently created a major new popular classical music festival - MISA (Music in the Summer Air) - with joint artistic directors Long Yu and Charles Dutoit.
In 2014 the SSO and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra launched the NYPO's Shanghai Orchestra Academy and Residency Partnership, a joint endeavour of both orchestras that included the founding of the Shanghai Orchestra Academy (SOA) which opened in September 2014, and the NYPO's four-year performance residency in Shanghai.
* Maestro Long Yu is Music Director of the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, also of the Guanzhou Symphony Orchestra, the Artistic Director and co-founder of the China Philharmonic Orchestra, and Principal Guest Conductor of the Hong Kong Philharmonic. He is also Founding Artistic Director of the Beijing Music Festival, co-founder of the Shanghai MISA Festival and incoming Principal Guest Conductor of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra.
He helped spearhead the establishment of the New York Philharmonic's Shanghai Orchestra Academy and Residency Partnership (see above) and is an honorary member of the International Advisory Board of the New York Philharmonic. Other China ‘firsts’ include bringing the first-ever performances of Wagner’s Ring cycle in the country, presenting its first-ever Mahler cycle, releasing the first album of Chinese music on a major recording label (Dragon Songs, alongside Lang Lang, for DG), and bringing the first-ever Chinese orchestra to play at the Vatican. Last year, he led the China Philharmonic as the first Chinese orchestra ever invited to play at the BBC Proms. The Shanghai Symphony under his baton was the first orchestra other than the New York Philharmonic to perform on Central Park's Great Lawn.
He has commissioned new works from many of today’s leading composers, among them Tan Dun, Krzysztof Penderecki, Philip Glass, John Corigliano, Guo Wenjing and Ye Xiaogang and has created a five-year initiative, Compose 20:20, to bring new Chinese works to the West and new Western works to China.
He was recently awarded the Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur from the French governnment, only the third Chinese national ever to receive it. This award marked a highlight of an impressive 2014 season for Maestro Long Yu. Last July, starry concerts in Shanghai and Beijing coincided with his 50th birthday, and colleagues including Lang Lang, Alison Balsom and Maxim Vengerov performed, with new works composed by Tan Dun, Qigang Chen and John Williams. At the same time, he led the Shanghai Symphony into their new home, a state-of-the-art venue built mostly underground, acoustically designed by Yasuhisa Toyota.
Long Yu regularly conducts important orchestras and opera houses in the West such as the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Orchestre de Paris, Chicago Symphony, BBC Symphony, Teatro La Fenice, Hamburg Staatsoper and Philadelphia Orchestra. He was previously honored to be appointed a Chavelier dans L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in France, and a L’onorificenza di commendatore from the Republic of Italy.
In August 2015 he led the China Philharmonic on a tour of the old Silk Road trade route, taking in coutries such as Athens, Turkey and Iran - making China the first of the P5+1 negotiating partners to send an orchestra to Tehran following the much-discussed nuclear agreement (they played Dvorak's New World Symphony, among other repertoire).