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Philadelphia Orchestra returning to China
By Zhang Qian

THE Philadelphia Orchestra, an old friend of China, will come again this month, bringing concerts to five cities as part of its global tour.

A local concert will be staged at Shanghai Grand Theater on May 25, conducted by Yannick Nezet-Seguin. The other concerts will be in Beijing, Macau, Shenzhen in Guangdong Province and Changsha in Hunan Province.

The Philadelphia Orchestra has developed a long-time relationship with China since 1973, when it visited China together with then President Nixon. It marked the first time a well-known orchestra from overseas had visited China.

Tan Dun’s “Nu Shu” (“Women’s Script”), a commissioned work for the orchestra, will be played as the opening piece for most of its concerts in China, so as to present a Chinese work to Chinese audiences.

But that won’t happen in Shanghai. The local concert will be composed of Mozart’s Symphony No. 41 in C Major “Jupiter” and Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 since the “Women’s Script” was presented by the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra in the city already last year.

“The ‘Women’s Script’ is a very special piece that involves multimedia presentation that combines music, painting, video and audio materials. We see a very touching story in the piece, and we appreciate Tan’s efforts in preserving the cultural legacy for future generations,” says Craig Hamilton, vice president of the orchestra.

The orchestra is confident in presenting a multimedia concert, given its tradition of being a pioneer in using new media — the first orchestra to have a concert recorded and broadcast on radio, television and the Internet.

It will launch another first at the concert in Shanghai, this time cooperating with Shanghai Grand Theater and a local media group. The concert will be broadcast live on the Internet (www.yunbomedia.com) via six or seven different cameras. The audiences online can choose the angles in which to view the concert, such as from the conductor’s angle, a look at the string section, from the front seats, or a view of the whole stage.

“It will be a very fresh new experience,” says Hamilton, “and that’s what we always aim to bring — to surprise the audiences with new elements, add additional layers to the music, and help the audience to appreciate music in a different way.”

The orchestra is planning more cooperation with China as part of its 5-year residency program that it signed with the National Grand Theater in 2013. That includes bringing concerts to more second-tier cities each year, cooperating with more local musicians, and presenting more Chinese orchestras in the US.

The orchestra just commissioned a work with the Hangzhou Symphony, which it plans to premiere in the US in the near future before bringing it back to China.

“We have determined that Chinese symphonies are just as talented as those in the rest of the world,” says Hamilton. “For a long time, Chinese symphonies have been paying to be heard, but we want to set a new model by presenting them in the right way, just like we do for other musicians.”

As a frequent visitor to China, the orchestra has witnessed the quickly growing market for classical music here, and it impressed Hamilton that the Chinese audience members often bring their entire families.

“It is interesting that our orchestra visited China in 1973 — when the rest of the world held back — and now, when the whole world is invited to China, we are still here,” says Hamilton.

Date: May 25, 7:30pm

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