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Marching to its own tune
By Zhang Qian

THE Shanghai Spring International Music Festival is famous for cultivating young musicians and the premiers of original works that soon become very famous.

Now in its 30th year, the festival takes place from April 28 to May 18 and Lu Zaiyi, president of the Shanghai Musicians Association, a major sponsor of the festival, says they still focus on providing a stage for emerging talents.

"Encouraging new works and providing a stage for new talents has been the core principle of the historic festival since its birth and we still insist on that as our doctrine. It makes us unique among the various festivals that have popped up over the years," Lu says.

Baritone Liao Changyong, now the vice president of the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, says the festival furthered his career and continues to help many talented students in the conservatory. Well-known pianist Sun Yingdi and violinist Huang Mengla have also benefited greatly from the festival.

Original works

At the past 29 festivals, more than 700 original works were performed and a number of them have since become "masterpieces."

This year's festival includes more than 50 music and dance performances.

Baritone Liao Changyong, soprano Huang Ying, pianist Sun Yingdi and violinist Huang Mengla will cooperate with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra for the opening ceremony, which is being conducted by Yu Long.

As usual, some overseas groups have been invited. Bastille Opera House from France, Percussion Trio of Paris Opera House and the Austro-Hungarian Haydn Orchestra will add extra color to the festival.

Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse, Bastille Opera House and the Wurttemberg Chamber Orchestra will either cooperate with Chinese musicians or present Chinese works during the festival.

Lu says the festival's name stems from the word spring, which "always brings positive images like energy, growth and prosperity."

Shanghai Spring was selected as it is expected to be a "breeding ground" for more Chinese musicians, and, of course, it is staged every spring, Lu adds.

In the early years, all the works staged during the festival were new creations and musicians and composers considered it a great honor to participate.

Lu says the emergence of the market economy in the 1980s, which injected much vitality into many industries in China, changed things and that musicians' seemed to have less enthusiasm for the festival.

"Musicians with fixed salaries in old times created for passion, but now all the works are often related to price. It is inevitable," Lu says, adding that they receive fewer voluntary submissions each year.

Still, he says they will continue to spearhead the push for original works.

"We have to adapt to the new situation, but we will never give up that principle to promote young musicians and original works. It is not only important for the festival, but also for the music industry in Shanghai and China."

New series

Apart from keeping open the tradition of seeking out new pieces that is open to the public, the committee also commissions work from experienced composers to ensure new pieces each year. The New Dream of the Sea Concert series started in 2007 is a prime example and has proven popular.

The organizers now also accept adaptations of old pieces as new works. For example, this year's opening ceremony will end with a new version of "Toast to Our Motherland," which was composed by Guan Xia in 1997. The Prague Symphony Orchestra will present the symphonic poem "Yun," created by Chinese musician Xu Shuya in 2009, at the closing ceremony.

"A nation's art history consists of all the good original works," Lu says. "We encourage new creations and we also cherish what is created at the festivals."

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