Shanghai Symphony Orchestra is the earliest and best-known ensemble of its kind in Asia. It is a keeper of Western orchestral traditions in China and a passionate champion of Chinese new music. Since the 1970s, the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra has been touring extensively abroad. In 1990, the orchestra made its debut at Carnegie Hall in New York; in 2003, it performed in 11 cities in the US; in 2004, it toured Europe to celebrate the Sino-French Cultural Year. In 2005 SSO became the first Chinese orchestra to play in the Berliner Philharmonie; this historical performance marked the ensemble’s 125th anniversary and enjoyed great success with the audience and the critics. In 2009 SSO came back to North America to open Carnegie Hall’s Ancient Paths, Modern Voices festival of Chinese culture, which was followed by a highly successful coast-to-coast tour of the United States. In 2010 the orchestra became a cultural ambassador of the World Expo 2010 Shanghai and delivered a riveting performance to 100,000 New Yorkers on the Great Lawn of Central Park.
Originally known as the Shanghai Public Band, it developed into an orchestra in 1907, and was renamed the Shanghai Municipal Council Symphony Orchestra in 1922. Notably under the baton of the Italian conductor Mario Paci, the orchestra promoted Western music and trained Chinese young talents very early on in China, and introduced the first Chinese orchestral work to the audience. It is hence reputed as the “the best in the Far East.” The history of Shanghai Symphony Orchestra may be referred as the history of China’s symphonic music development.
Ever since its foundation, the SSO has established working relations with world-famous musicians, among them conductors Kurt Masur, Riccardo Muti, Alan Gilbert, Neeme Järvi, Myung-Whun Chung, Charles Dutoit, Mikhail Pletnev, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Michel Plasson, Krzysztof Penderecki, Christoph Eschenbach, Sir Neville Marriner, Maxim Vengerov, Jacek Kaspszyk, Lan Shui; violinists Pinchas Zukerman, Gil Shaham, Midori, Vadim Repin, Shlomo Mintz, Sarah Chang, Chantal Juillet, Joseph Silverstein, Yu Lina, Cho-Liang Lin, Vera Tsu, Zhang Haochen, Xue Wei, Lv Siqing, Huang Mengla, cellists Yo-Yo Ma, Jian Wang, Mischa Maisky, Lynn Harrell, Li-Wei Qin, and pianists Fou Ts’ong, Yin Chengzong, Gary Graffman, Rudolf Buchbinder, Elena Bashkirova, Lang Lang, Yuja Wang, Dang Thai Son, YUNDI, Kun-Woo Paik, Katia & Marielle Labèque, Clarinetist Sabine Meyer among others. Moreover, the orchestra has also held successful concerts with internationally renowned vocalists like José Carreras, Plácido Domingo, Renée Fleming, Jianyi Zhang, Ying Huang, Changyong Liao, Shenyang, Andrea Bocelli, Deborah Voigt and many others. In 2011, the orchestra co-commissioned with the New York Philharmonic One Sweet Morning from the composer John Corigliano and performed its Asian premiere in May 2012.
The SSO has also created a showcase for Chinese composers to actively present to the world their compositions, which include those by the “new-generation” composers like Tan Dun, Qigang Chen, Bright Sheng, Zhou Long, Chen Yi, An-Lun Huang, Xu Shuya, Guo Wenjing, Qu Xiaosong, Ye Xiaogang, Tang Jianping and Zhao Lin. The orchestra achieved international success by working with Tan Dun on the original soundtracks of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and The Banquet, as well as The Map (a multimedia symphonic work). The SSO also places serious emphasis on the performance and promotion of works by contemporary Chinese composers and has maintained good relationships with them. For instance, the SSO has performed and recorded Zhu Jian'er’s complete symphonies and orchestral works with enthusiasm in 2002. Mr Zhu, winner of the Lifetime Honorary Medal of the China Golden Bell Award, is the first and only Chinese composer who has published recordings of his complete symphonies and orchestral works.
Spanning three different centuries, the Shanghai Symphony has now embraced a new era; it has held over ten thousand concerts, including premiere performances of several thousand musical works, and has collaborated with many guest artists (conductors, soloists and vocalists) of world renown. The orchestra has gained a reputation as the most authoritative explainer of Chinese symphonic compositions while promoting them with every possible endeavor. The Shanghai Symphony has become increasingly influential both at home and abroad, after most recently completing the audio and video recordings of such excellent music as: Zhu Jian’er’s Symphonies, Tan Dun’s multimedia concerto The Map, and music for the prize-winning film (Oscar and Grammy Awards) Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
Since 2010, the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra has held the annual Music in the Summer Air (MISA) festival, the first of its kind in Shanghai. The festival was co-directed by Long Yu and Charles Dutoit, Music Director of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Chief Conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Apart from the Shanghai Symphony and the Royal Philharmonic performing as orchestras in residence, the festival has invited a fine line of orchestras and ensembles including West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, Violinists of the Berliner Philharmoniker, the State Hermitage Orchestra, Russia, Macao Youth Orchestra, Southern Taiwan Pops Orchestra, Canzone Trio, Amsterdam Jazz Ensemble, Blake, Buffalo Rome, as well as first-class artists including Ivo Pogorelich, Jian Wang, Chris Botti, Xuefei Yang, YUNDI, Ying Huang, Changyong Liao, Wei Song, Song Zuying, Sumi Jo, Zhang Liping, Zhang Jianyi, Chen Sa, Zbigniew Preisner, Mariza, Jessye Norman, Ute Lemper and Laura Fygi. Daniel Baremboim, conducting the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, and Natalia Gutman also made their Chinese debut in MISA.
2014 witnessed the official launch of the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra Hall and the inauguration of the Shanghai Orchestra Academy (SOA). Under the orchestra-venue integration model, it is proud of its continued commitment to the exchange between Chinese and Western cultures and a world-class musical experience. The SOA – a joint-initiative between the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic and the Shanghai Conservatory of Music – held its inauguration ceremony in September 2014. In collaboration with the Shanghai Municipal Education Commission and the Shanghai Education Center for Art and Technology, Shanghai Symphony Orchestra launched the MAP (Music Advancing Program) in 2010, having already presented a diversity of chamber concerts and an interactive collection of musical events in local middle schools and universities.
The SSO also hosts the biennial Shanghai Isaac Stern International Violin Competition (SISIVC), which was launched in September 2015 with the first live competition taking place in August 2016.
Maestro Long Yu is currently Music Director of the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra.