By Ninette Cheng
Northwest Asian Weekly
One of China’s finest orchestras, the Shenzhen Symphony, will perform a special Chinese New Year special in Seattle on Feb. 25.<!–more–>
The 2015 Chinese New Year Concert, featuring China Shenzhen Symphony Orchestra, in collaboration with the Seattle Symphony and Stanford University, will be playing at Benaroya Hall to celebrate the Year of the Ram.
This marks the first time a Chinese symphony has performed in Seattle and the debut of the Shenzhen Symphony in North America, according to Austin Huang, producer of the Chinese New Year concert.
The event will feature conductor Jindong Cai, legendary pianist Yin Chengzong, and Chinese pipa virtuoso Zhao Cong.
Cai joined the Stanford faculty in 2004 as the first holder of the Gretchen B. Kimball Director of Orchestral Studies Chair. He has held positions as assistant conductor with the Cincinnati Symphony and the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, working closely with conductors Jésus López-Cobos, Erich Kunzel, and Keith Lockhart.
Zhao Cong plays the ancient Chinese pipa, a four-stringed instrument sometimes referred to as the Chinese lute. She won her first important award at 13. Zhao was later recruited as first pipa soloist of the Central Orchestra for Chinese Music in Beijing and has toured in over 20 countries and performed for a dozen heads of state.
Huang named pianist Yin Chengzong as one of the reasons this concert is a must-see.
Yin began learning piano at 7 years old and gave his first recital at the age of 9. He studied piano in the preparatory school of Shanghai Conservatory of Music. In 1962, he was the second-prize winner at the International Tchaikovsky Competition.
“Yin became the first to bring the piano into the New Peking Opera,” Huang said. “He is one of the major composers for the famous Chinese piano concerto ‘Yellow River.’ He was one of the first original performers.”
Yin will be performing “Yellow River” at the event.
“Next year is the 70th year anniversary of World War II and the year ‘Yellow River’ concerto was composed,” Huang said. “It’s the kind of music that motivates and inspires.”
Huang also sees the Chinese New Year Concert as a turning point for Chinese music, Seattle, and the Chinese and American cultural interactions.
“Symphonic music today globally encounters a lot of competition because of this new age of music, pop, jazz, rap,” He said. “There’s also the modernization of electronics, creating electronic music. All of these bring competition to symphonic music.
One-hundred years ago, entertainment and opportunities were very limited. The symphonic theater was one of the places they can entertain themselves.”
Now, music halls can struggle to fill the seats for symphonies, Huang said.
“The audience and the symphonic music hall become older and older in age,” he said.
“To recruit a young audience is crucial to symphonic music development.”
Huang also feels the concert holds cultural significance as a chance for American audiences to better understand the Chinese culture both artistically and for economic and political purposes.
“The difference between countries has really shortened because of all these new technologies,” Huang said. “Geographically, we are still different, but economically and technologically, we are closer.”
Huang points out that the United States and China are global competitors and feels that arts and culture can help bridge a better understanding of China for Americans.
“Our generations need to be exposed and understand other cultures, especially from your largest competitor.”
Huang is confident the concert will be a success because Western-style symphonies have played Chinese symphonic music in Seattle before and it was well received.
“The melody is different,” he said. “I think it’s always good to have something different. I think people will love it.” (end)
The 2015 Chinese New Year Concert, featuring China Shenzhen Symphony Orchestra, will be performing at Benaroya Hall on Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2015 at 7:30 p.m. To purchase tickets, call 866-833-4747.
Ninette Cheng can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.