The New York Philharmonic will present two programs honoring its strong ties to China, both led by Long Yu: the China Philharmonic Orchestra will perform at David Geffen Hall on December 11, 2016, and the New York Philharmonic will perform its sixth annual Chinese New Year Concert and Gala, January 31, 2017. Both programs celebrate the cultural exchange between China and the U.S., particularly the Philharmonic’s connections to China.
The New York Philharmonic will present the China Philharmonic Orchestra, led by Long Yu, its Music Director, at David Geffen Hall on December 11, 2016, at 3:00 p.m. The program will feature Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2, with Julian Rachlin as soloist, and Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5.
Long Yu co-founded the China Philharmonic Orchestra in 2000, and has since served as its artistic director and chief conductor. The orchestra’s appearance at David Geffen Hall, presented by the New York Philharmonic, is part of its 2016 Tour of the Americas.
Chinese New Year Concert and Gala
The New York Philharmonic will celebrate the Chinese New Year for the sixth consecutive year, this time welcoming the Year of the Rooster with a program of music by Chinese composers and a work inspired by China, celebrating the cultural heritage of China and the West, and honoring the Chinese-American community, on Tuesday, January 31, 2017, at 7:30 p.m. Long Yu will conduct the Chinese New Year Concert for the sixth consecutive season.
This year’s program will feature two soloists making their Philharmonic debuts: trumpet player Alison Balsom in the U.S. Premiere of Chen Qigang’s Joie Éternelle (Eternal Joy), for trumpet and orchestra — which was written for her and which she premiered with the China Philharmonic Orchestra in 2014 — and soprano Sumi Jo in “Signore, ascolta!” from Puccini’s Turandot, “Ah, vous dirai-je, maman” from Adam’s Le Toréador, and three Chinese folk songs for soprano and orchestra: “Little Path,” Huang Zi’s “Three Rose Wishes,” and Li Qingzhu’s “I Live Beside the Yangtze River.” The program will also feature Concertmaster Frank Huang performing Saint-Saëns’s Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso; Ravel’s Boléro; and the Spring Festival Overture, Li Huanzhi’s traditional work celebrating the Chinese New Year, which will once again open the concert. This program replaces the previously announced World Premiere of Xu Shuya’s The Light of Summer and U.S. Premiere of Andy Akiho’s Ricochet, Concerto for Ping Pong, Violin, Percussion, and Orchestra.
Gala events will include a pre-concert champagne reception from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m.; the concert; and a seated dinner immediately following the performance. Gala dress will be traditional Chinese attire or black-tie. The Honorary Gala Chairmen are Mr. and Mrs. Maurice R. Greenberg, H.E. Ambassador Liu Jieyi, and H.E. Consul-General Zhang Qiyue. The Gala Co-Chairmen are Angela Chen, Guoqing Chen and Ming Liu, Agnes Hsu-Tang and Oscar L. Tang, and Shirley Young. Starr International Foundation is the Presenting Sponsor of the Chinese New Year Gala.
A portion of the Gala’s proceeds will help fund the acclaimed Philharmonic Schools activities at P.S. 120 in Flushing, Queens, an elementary school that is attended by a large population of Chinese-Americans and recent immigrants from China.
Chinese conductor Long Yu is artistic director of the Beijing Music Festival and the China Philharmonic Orchestra, music director of the Shanghai and Guangzhou Symphony Orchestras, co-director of the MISA Shanghai Summer Festival, and principal guest conductor of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra. He played a leading role in establishing the Shanghai Orchestra Academy through a partnership between the New York Philharmonic and Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, with collaboration from the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. In 2014 the Philharmonic named Long Yu an honorary member of the International Advisory Board, established to support the Philharmonic’s activities abroad, including the New York Philharmonic Global Academy. Long Yu frequently conducts the world’s leading orchestras and opera companies, including the New York, Los Angeles, Tokyo, and Munich philharmonic orchestras; Chicago, Montreal, National, Cincinnati, Bamberg, Berlin Radio, Leipzig Radio, NDR, Sydney, BBC, and Singapore symphony orchestras; and The Philadelphia Orchestra, Orchestre de Paris, and Hamburg Staatsoper. In 2008, for the first time in history, the China Philharmonic Orchestra performed under his baton at the Vatican, attended by Pope Benedict XIV. In 1992 Long Yu was appointed principal conductor of the Central Opera Theatre in Beijing; he was involved in planning the Chinese New Year concert series later that year and served as its conductor for three consecutive years. He created opera productions for The Urban Council of Hong Kong for five years. In 1998 he led the creation of the Beijing Music Festival and has since been its artistic director. In 2005, with the provincial government’s support, he built up the Canton International Summer Music Academy and became its chairman for the following three years. He also established the MISA Shanghai Summer Music Festival in 2010 and, later that year, the Canton Asian Music Festival. Born in 1964 into a musical family in Shanghai, Long Yu received his early musical education from his grandfather, composer Ding Shande, and went on to study at the Shanghai Conservatory and the Hochschule der Künste in Berlin. He received the Arts Patronage Award of the Montblanc Cultural Foundation (2002), Chevalier dans L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (2003), and the Atlantic Council’s Global Citizen Award, and was a 2016 inductee to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Long Yu is currently vice-president of Chinese Musicians Association and a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. Long Yu’s first appearance with the Philharmonic was leading the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra on a New York Philharmonic Concerts in the Parks program on Central Park’s Great Lawn in 2010, and he first led the Orchestra in January 2012, conducting the inaugural Chinese New Year Concert. He has since led each annual Chinese New Year Concert and Gala.
CHINA PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA (December 11, 2016)
The China Philharmonic Orchestra (CPO), established in 2000, has experienced exponential growth, becoming China’s top orchestra and a leading figure in Asia with an international reputation. The CPO was named among the ten most inspiring orchestras in the world by Gramophone in 2009. The CPO actively pursues innovative methods and platforms to promote classical music to a wider audience; in the last 16 years it has presented more than 3,000 compositions — many in their World and Chinese Premieres — in more than 1,000 performances before millions of audience members. The orchestra has traveled more than one million kilometers on its domestic and international tours, the equivalent of circling the world 20 times. In the past two seasons the orchestra has toured along the Silk Road and to Maritime Silk Road countries, and made its Russian debut last July. The 2016 Tour of the Americas, the CPO’s third tour to the United States, includes concerts at the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts at the University of California, Davis; Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco; Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles; Memorial Hall at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Strathmore Hall in Bethesda, Maryland; and Tilles Center for the Performing Arts at Long Island University. The orchestra will also make appearances in Canada and Cuba.
Violinist Julian Rachlin has established close relationships with many of the most prestigious conductors and orchestras. He is also praised as a viola player and conductor, and has been recognized for his educational outreach and charity work as UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. Highlights of Mr. Rachlin’s 2016–17 season include engagements with the Munich Philharmonic and Zubin Mehta, St. Petersburg Philharmonic and Yuri Temirkanov, Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and Gianandrea Noseda, a North America tour with the China Philharmonic Orchestra and Long Yu, and his return to the BBC Proms with Filarmonica della Scala and Riccardo Chailly. Additionally, Mr. Rachlin performs his second season as principal guest conductor of the Royal Northern Sinfonia and will conduct the China, Luxembourg, and Royal Liverpool philharmonic orchestras; Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana; and State Academic Symphony Orchestra of Russia. Born in Lithuania in 1974, Julian Rachlin immigrated to Vienna in 1978. He studied violin with Boris Kuschnir at the Vienna Conservatory, and with Pinchas Zukerman. After winning the Young Musician of the Year Award at the 1988 Eurovision Competition, he became the youngest soloist ever to play with the Vienna Philharmonic, making his debut conducted by Riccardo Muti. At the recommendation of Mariss Jansons, Mr. Rachlin has been studying conducting with Sophie Rachlin. He has been on the violin faculty at the Music and Arts University of the City of Vienna since September 1999. His recordings for the Sony Classical, Warner Classics, and Deutsche Grammophon labels have received great acclaim. Julian Rachlin plays the 1704 “ex Liebig” Stradivari, on loan to him courtesy of the Dkfm. Angelika Prokopp Privatstiftung. His strings are kindly sponsored by Thomastik-Infeld. Mr. Rachlin made his New York Philharmonic debut in April 2004 performing Krzysztof Penderecki’s Metamorphosen, conducted by Lorin Maazel, who also led his most recent appearance, in Saint-Saëns’s Violin Concerto No. 3 in May 2007.
CHINESE NEW YEAR CONCERT AND GALA (January 31, 2017)
Trumpet player Alison Balsom, named Gramophone Artist of the Year in 2013, is a three-time winner of Germany’s ECHO Klassik Award, three-time honoree at the Classic BRIT awards (two of which were for Female Artist of the Year), and recipient of the Nordoff Robbins O2 Silver Clef Award. She has performed with conductors including Pierre Boulez, Lorin Maazel, Roger Norrington, and orchestras including the Orchestre de Paris, Philharmonia Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, The Philadelphia Orchestra, and London Philharmonic Orchestra. In 2009 she appeared as soloist at the BBC’s Last Night of the Proms, and she regularly collaborates with leading chamber ensembles including the Academy of Ancient Music, il pomo d’oro, and The English Concert. In 2013 Ms. Balsom conceived and then became creative producer and protagonist of the critically acclaimed production Gabriel at Shakespeare’s Globe in London, featuring music by Purcell and Handel. She recently presented a TED Talk, Music as a Healer, and a lecture at Somerville College, Oxford University, on women in the arts. Ms. Balsom is a passionate advocate of the importance of music education and is an ambassador for the BBC Ten Pieces project. She has had numerous concertos written for her, and has given the World Premieres of Guy Barker’s Lanterne of Light at the BBC Proms and Chen Qigang’s Joie Éternelle with the China Philharmonic Orchestra, led by Long Yu, in July 2014; she has also performed Bramwell Tovey’s Songs of the Paradise Saloon. Highlights of Ms. Balsom’s 2016–17 season include residencies at Wigmore Hall in London and Cambridge Corn Exchange; concerto performances with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre National de Toulouse, and Zurich Chamber Orchestra; and European tours with the Basel Chamber Orchestra, il pomo d’oro, and The Balsom Ensemble. Alison Balsom was a BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist, which subsequently led to regular performances with all of the BBC orchestras. She studied at the Paris Conservatoire and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. She is now an honorary fellow and visiting professor at the Guildhall School, and has received honorary doctorates from Anglia Ruskin University and the University of Leicester. Ms. Balsom teaches master classes worldwide, including at The Juilliard School and Curtis Institute of Music. She has recorded exclusively with EMI Classics (now Warner Classics) since 2001. This performance will mark Alison Balsom’s New York Philharmonic debut.
Frank Huang joined the New York Philharmonic as Concertmaster, The Charles E. Culpeper Chair, in September 2015. The First Prize Winner of the 2003 Walter W. Naumburg Foundation’s Violin Competition and the 2000 Hannover International Violin Competition, he has established a major career as a violin virtuoso. Since performing with the Houston Symphony in a nationally broadcast concert at the age of 11 he has appeared with orchestras throughout the world including The Cleveland Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphony, NDR Radio Philharmonic Orchestra of Hannover, Amadeus Chamber Orchestra, and the Genoa Orchestra. He has also performed on NPR’s Performance Today, ABC’s Good Morning America, and CNN’s American Morning with Paula Zahn. He has performed at Wigmore Hall (in London), Salle Cortot (Paris), Kennedy Center (Washington, D.C.), and the Herbst Theatre (San Francisco), as well as a second recital in Alice Tully Hall (New York), which featured the World Premiere of Donald Martino’s Sonata for Solo Violin. Mr. Huang’s first commercial recording — featuring fantasies by Schubert, Ernst, Schoenberg, and Waxman — was released on Naxos in 2003. He has had great success in competitions since the age of 15 and received top prize awards in the Premio Paganini International Violin Competition and the Indianapolis International Violin Competition. Other honors include Gold Medal Awards in the Kingsville International Competition, Irving M. Klein International Competition, and D’Angelo International Competition. In addition to his solo career, Mr. Huang is deeply committed to chamber music. He has performed at the Marlboro Music Festival, Ravinia’s Steans Institute, Seattle Chamber Music Festival, and Caramoor. He frequently participates in Musicians from Marlboro’s tours, and was selected by The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center to be a member of the prestigious CMS Two program. Before joining the Houston Symphony as concertmaster in 2010, Frank Huang held the position of first violinist of the Grammy Award–winning Ying Quartet and was a faculty member at the Eastman School of Music. He is an alumnus of the Music Academy of the West, now a partner in the New York Philharmonic Global Academy, and serves on the faculties of The Shepherd School of Music at Rice University, also a New York Philharmonic Global Academy partner, and the University of Houston. Mr. Huang made his New York Philharmonic solo debut leading and performing Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons and Piazzolla’s Four Seasons of Buenos Aires, as well as leading Grieg’s The Last Spring in June 2016. He reprised the Vivaldi and Piazzolla later that month, leading a chamber orchestra of Philharmonic musicians from the violin at the Free Indoor Concert in Staten Island as part of the free Concerts in the Parks, Presented by Didi and Oscar Schafer. Most recently, he performed Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1, led by Pablo Heras-Casado, in October–November 2016.
Soprano Sumi Jo is the highest-selling classical singer in the world, with more than 50 recordings to her credit, including the Grammy Award–winning recordings of Richard Strauss’s Die Frau ohne Schatten with Georg Solti for Decca London and Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera for Deutsche Grammophon under Herbert von Karajan. She performed at the Sochi Winter Olympics and for the Pope in Korea, and appeared (as herself) in Paolo Sorrentino’s film Youth starring Michael Caine; her performance of the film’s signature song, David Lang’s simple song #3 earned her Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations. Ms. Jo appeared with the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra in October 2015, and with Elina Garanca to open the new Guangzhou Opera House. The soprano has toured with the Academy of Ancient Music, performed New Year’s Day concerts with the Orchestra della Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, gala concerts in Moscow, St. Petersburg, London, Krasnoyarsk, Latvia, and Almaty in Kazakhstan, and recitals at the Sala São Paulo, Strasbourg Opera House, Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall, Paris’s Théâtre du Châtelet, the Czech Republic’s Smetanova Litomysl Festival, and in South Korea, Tokyo, and Australia. Sumi Jo’s engagements in 2016–17 and beyond include appearances in Canberra, Sydney, and Melbourne, Australia; a solo gala concert tour of Asia, performing with the Hong Kong Philharmonic, Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra, China Philharmonic Orchestra, and Shanghai Symphony Orchestra; a charity recital at the Cultural Center of the Philippines; a tour with the Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse; and recitals in Clermont-Ferrand and Montreal. She will join the distinguished jury for the 2017 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition. This performance will mark Sumi Jo’s New York Philharmonic debut.
Repertoire, China Philharmonic Orchestra
In the months following the October Revolution, prospects in Russia did not look promising to Sergei Prokofiev (1891–1953). After raising money and obtaining a passport, he took off for America in March 1918, and thus began a nearly two-decade-long concert tour throughout the West. By 1935 Prokofiev was tiring of this restless existence; he would continue to travel as conductor and pianist until the outbreak of war in 1939, but a yearning to settle in his homeland led to his repatriation in 1936. The Violin Concerto No. 2 was composed in 1935 for the French violinist Robert Soëtens, and represents the last of Prokofiev’s Western European commissions. From its opening measures to a Spanish-tinged finale, the work represents the “new simplicity” that the composer was exploring during the time. The concerto was first performed by the Philharmonic in 1946, led by Artur Rodziński, featuring Patricia Travers, and was most recently performed in June 2013, with Leonidas Kavakos as soloist and Lionel Bringuier conducting.
Following the Soviet regime’s angry and ominous denunciation of his opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District and his ballet The Limpid Stream, Dmitri Shostakovich (1906–1975) found himself in a very dangerous situation. His next work would have to satisfy the cultural authorities if he was to avoid imprisonment, deportation, or death. That work was to be the Symphony No. 5 (1937), described publicly after its successful premiere as “a Soviet artist’s practical, creative reply to just criticism” — a phrase that Shostakovich may well have planted in the press himself as part of the effort to rehabilitate his reputation. In the symphony, he very deliberately retreated from his earlier modernism to pursue a more populist, politically acceptable idiom. The work is composed on a heroic scale, with an expansive slow movement, lively scherzo rhythms, and an opening that recalls Beethoven. “The theme of my Symphony is the stabilization of a personality,” he said. “In the center of this composition — conceived lyrically from the beginning to end — I saw a man with all his experiences. The finale resolves the tragically tense impulses of the earlier movements into the optimism and joy of living.” But many listeners have also sensed in it, beneath the surface, a suppressed expression of the oppressive realities of its creation. The Philharmonic first performed the symphony during a June 1941 Stadium Concert led by Dimitri Mitropoulos, and most recently, in January 2015, led by Long Yu.
Repertoire, Chinese New Year Concert
Li Huanzhi (1919–2000) composed The Spring Festival Overture in 1955–56 as a cheerful depiction of the Spring Festival, the term used in China for what is known in the U.S. as Chinese, or Lunar, New Year. The piece has become immensely popular throughout China — performed in arrangements for various groupings of Chinese instruments, Western instruments, or combinations of the two — and is also well known well beyond that country: in 2007, it was one of 30 musical selections sent into outer space aboard Chang’e No. 1, China’s first lunar-probe satellite, which beamed this music back to earth. Andre Kostelanetz led the Orchestra’s first performance of this piece in May 1972; it has been performed annually as part of the Chinese New Year celebrations since January 2012, conducted by Long Yu.
Based on Garlo Gozzi’s play of the same name, Giacomo Puccini’s (1858–1924) final opera, Turandot, is set in China, and follows the story of Prince Calaf, who is in love with Princess Turandot, and has to solve three riddles in order to marry her — knowing that one wrong answer results in death. Though Calaf successfully answers the questions, she refuses to marry him. He says that she does not yet know his name, but if she learns it by dawn, he will die. Unfinished at the time of Puccini’s death in 1924, it was completed in 1926 by Franco Alfano based on the sketches Puccini left behind. Arturo Toscanini (Philharmonic Music Director from 1928 to 1936) conducted the World Premiere of Turandot at Milan’s Teatro alla Scala; the first performance presented only what Puccini had finished, and the second night included what Alfano had added. The Orchestra’s first presentation of a selection from the opera was during a July 1952 Stadium Concert, when Alfredo Antonini conducted the Finale of Act I; Andrea Bocelli joined Alan Gilbert and the Orchestra in September 2011 for the Philharmonic’s most recent presentation of a selection from Turandot, “Nessun dorma.”
Chinese composer Qigang Chen (b. 1951) composed Joie Éternelle, for trumpet and orchestra, in 2014. The title, which translates to “Eternal Joy,” is drawn from the melody Qu Pai (“Eternal Joy”), which is part of the Kun opera tradition, one of the classic Beijing Opera forms. A delicate tune, Chen first heard it used in Tang Xian Zu’s Peony Pavilion when he was a child, and explains that “subsequent encounters with the tune as an adult have always evoked childhood memories. I have decided to use the original title of Eternal Joy because it also seems to me to have a quasi-religious connotation.” He explains that when he received the commission for Joie Éternelle, “I thought it was the perfect opportunity to reincarnate this unforgettable tune with the sound of the trumpet, a very Western instrument. By doing so, I hope to fully explore the expressive range of the instrument, from the exquisite to the muscular.” The concerto received its World Premiere at Beijing’s Poly Theatre in July 2014 by Alison Balsom and the China Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Long Yu.