Chicago Tribune: Shanghai Symphony Brings 140-Year Tradition to America

Chicago Tribune
Howard Reich

When the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra makes its Chicago-area debut Aug. 16 at the Ravinia Festival, no one will be prouder of the occasion than its music director, Long Yu.

For to him, the Shanghai ensemble will be more than just a visitor from the other side of the world – it will be bringing with it a legacy stretching back to 1879, when it was established under a previous name.

“This is the first orchestra not only in China, but in the Far East,” says Yu, speaking by phone from Hong Kong.

“A lot of work was premiered in Asia by the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra. For example, Beethoven’s Ninth (Symphony), (Stravinsky’s) ‘Firebird’ – all those pieces premiered in Shanghai.”

In effect, adds Yu, this orchestra “introduced most of the classical music to China and to Asia.”

That in itself is significant, but all the more considering the dramatic growth of classical music in China and elsewhere in Asia. We may lament the shrinking and aging of the classical audience in the United States, with only the most celebrated soloists and ensembles able to fill large concert halls and festivals that routinely sold out in the mid-20th century. But in China and environs, the music seems to be on a perpetual rise.

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