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.
“A Happy Excursion” had a fitting companion in Tchaikovsky’s emotive “Pathétique” Symphony. The [New York] Philharmonic musicians can probably play this overprogrammed piece in their sleep; in the past, it has occasionally felt as if they were doing just that. But under Mr. Yu’s baton, they summoned surprising extremes, leavened occasionally with the brisk lightness of a Tchaikovsky ballet.
Though [Isaac Stern] died at age 81 in 2001, his spirit lives on in the Shanghai Isaac Stern International Violin Competition, a bi-annual international violin competition to be held starting Aug. 10 with winners to be announced on Sept. 1. The $100,000 first prize is the largest in the world for a violin competition.
Michael Landers and Ariel Hsing, table tennis champions in their early 20s, are featured as the Ping-Pong-playing soloists in Andy Akiho’s energetic concerto “Ricochet,” which will have its American premiere on Tuesday as part of the Philharmonic’s Lunar New Year gala. And yes, this is the first time a Ping-Pong table has been onstage at David Geffen Hall.
First, a disclaimer: I have been an admirer of Long Yu’s conducting skills – not that he can do no wrong, but that he can usually make up for it by delivering tension, energy and contrast in whatever is at hand. Friday evening’s collection of variations with the Hong Kong Philharmonic was a case in point.