Shanghai Symphony Orchestra——A Symphonic Poem in Three Centuries

Along with Western art introduced to China, the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra was established. After a history of three centuries, the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra now presents a new image to the world.

Along with Western art introduced to China, the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra was established. After a history of three centuries, the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra now presents a new image to the world.

Spirit of Pioneering

In 2008, the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra’s council setup the Musical Director position and hired Long Yu to became the first Music Director of the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra. Long Yu has many relationships with top-notch orchestras all over the world. The orchestra implemented a new system which manages both the foundation and council, which represents the beginning of a remarkable new era of SSO.

The core of SSO is professionalism, and the goals are to become the top in China, the best in Asia, and the most important influence in the world. The orchestra plans to promote reform by multi-pronged approach. SSO introduced a system of employment contracts, recruited excellent musicians on the global scale, gathered world-famous performers together in the form of artists-in-residence, guest performer and concert master. The orchestra invited many world-class masters to reinforce the foundation of music seasons and guarantee high quality symphonies. In recently years, a large number of conductors performed with SSO, including Kurt Masur, Riccardo Muti, Sir Neville Marriner, Charles Dutoit, Christoph Eschenbach, Zubin Mehta, Alan Gilbert, Neeme Järvi, Myung-Whun Chung, Mikhail Pletnev, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Michel Plasson, Krzysztof Penderecki, Paavo Järvi, Jacek Kaspszyk, Osmo Vänskä, Fabio Luisi and so on; violinists Pinchas Zukerman, Vadim Repin, Shlomo Mintz, Maxim Vengerov, Midori, Sarah Chang, Cho-Liang Lin, Lv Siqing; 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, Krystian Zimerman, Lang Lang, Yuja Wang, Li Yundi; “The Man With the Golden Flute”- James Galway, Clarinetist Sabine Meyer, drummer and multi-percussionist Martin Grubinger.

Along with traditional symphony, the orchestra is also involved in large vocal performances such as opera and oratorio. In the 2014-15 concert season, the orchestra brought Elektra, Carmina Burana, and Elijah with outstanding domestic and foreign singers and chorus.

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, Zhu Jian-er, 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. SSO has performed more than 10 pieces of his symphonies and recorded his complete orchestral works with enthusiasm. In May 2002, SSO participated in the publication of the first Chinese personal symphonic collection Zhu Jian-er 10 Symphonies Sinfonietta. The SSO has also created a showcase for Chinese composers to present their music works to the world, including “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 so on. The orchestra achieved international successes by working with Tan Dun on the original soundtracks of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and The Banquet, The Map (multimedia symphonic work), as well as Nu Shu (micro film symphonic work). In the 2015-16 Music Season, Chinese composer Qigang Chen will be the artist-in-residence of this season. He will bring Shanghai audiences Instants d'un Opera de Pekin for opening concert. Also, Chen is going to perform 9 masterpieces including Un temps disparu for Erhu and Orchestra, La nuit profonde for Jing Hu, Jing Er Hu and orchestra, Iris dévoilée, Wu Xing, Er Huang, L’eloingement, Luan Tan, and Yuan.

Spirit of Innovation

SSO has opened up two great music brands - the Shanghai New Year Concert and Music in the Summer Air Festival.

Since December 31st in 2009, SSO invited maestros Riccardo Muti, Kurt Masur, Mikhail Pletnev, Alan Gilbert, Christoph Eschenbach and Paavo Järvi to conduct New Year Concerts from 2010 to 2015. Concerts were broadcasted live to the world via CCTV, Dragon TV and Phoenix TV, offering a great opportunity for world-wide audiences to enjoy the splendor of masters while presenting the cultural image of Shanghai.

After the Shanghai New Year Concert, Music in the Summer Air Festival has become the focus of the next musical exploration of SSO. In 2010, Shanghai Symphony Orchestra and Shanghai Municipal Education Commission successfully held the first large outdoor classical music festival together in Shanghai. The festival was co-directed by Long Yu and Charles Dutoit. In the past six years, the festival invited New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, West–Eastern Divan Orchestra, Violinists of the Berliner Philharmoniker, 12 Brass Players of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, the State Hermitage Orchestra of Russia, Macao Youth Orchestra and so on; Daniel Baremboim led the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, and Natalia Gutman made their Chinese debut; Ivo Pogorelich, Jian Wang, Chris Botti, Xuefei Yang, Li Yundi, Ying Huang, Changyong Liao, Wei Song, Song Zuying, Sumi Jo, Zhang Liping , Zhang Jianyi, Chen Sa, Zbigniew Preisner, Mariza, Ute Lemper, Jessye Norman, Laura Fygi, Steve Reich, Paco Peña and many other musicians. Therefore, Shanghai audiences were able to enjoy music from many top international artists and orchestras every summer.

Going Globe Wide

With help from professional organizations, SSO has visited many countries and regions in Asia, Americas, and Europe, so that the orchestra was able to expand to international markets. SSO made its debut at Carnegie Hall of New York to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the hall in 1990. The orchestra also performed at the Berlin Philharmonic Hall to celebrate the 125th Anniversary of the SSO in 2004. SSO visited 11 cities in the USA in 2003, made its Europe tour during Sino-French Culture Year in 2004, held a Spanish tour in 2005, and performed at the Musikverein (Golden Hall) in Vienna in 2007. In 2009, under the leadership of current Music Director Long Yu, the orchestra toured North America to perform 12 concerts. In its international tours, SSO successfully integrated Chinese traditional elements into Western symphonies, created new performance form and promoted Chinese culture, which was really enjoyed by both Eastern and Western audiences. In March 2010, Music Director Long Yu led the orchestra performing at the 14th Beethoven Festival in Warsar and Łodz, Poland. In July 2010, Long Yu led the orchestra in a joint concert with the New York Philharmonic in Central Park, New York, promoting the 2010 Shanghai Expo. In July 2012, Long Yu led the orchestra in two concerts at the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival, respectively in Kiel and Hamburg. In January 2014, Long Yu led the SSO on a tour through Europe again, which received consistent praises from local audiences in Munich, Nuremberg, Cologne, Amsterdam and other cities. In the summer of 2015, Shanghai Symphony Orchestra expanded their influence in the Americas, including New York, Rio de Janeiro, and Buenos Aires.

Giving Back To Society

Promoting the popularity of high art is SSO’s obligation and is the way that SSO gives back to its “mother city”-Shanghai. It is also a powerful method of Urban Cultural Contextualism. With the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra Hall officially put into use in September 2014, the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra carries centuries of dreams into reality, and starts the new orchestra-venue integration model. The SOA – a joint-initiative between the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic and the Shanghai Conservatory of Music will hold the first orientation for their new students. The SSO chamber concert which started in 1984 and held regularly since 1991 will be passed on into the new Chamber Hall.

With the continuous modernization and internationalization of the world; the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra will be led by Shanghai Urban Spirit, Chinese national will, and international trends. SSO will always pursue high-quality performance, good international reputation, and art-oriented philosophy as a professional standard.

After 135 year history, the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra will continue to always practice its mission - "Music Connecting Worlds". Therefore, SSO has become the promoter and builder of East-West cultural exchanges and Asian music education, and continues a three century old glorious dream.