China Philharmonic Orchestra
It has been twenty years since the inception of China Philharmonic Orchestra (CPO) amid miraculous development. Devoted to becoming China’s top orchestra as well as a leading figure in Asia with international reputation, the CPO has achieved an astonishing leap forward and won wide attention home and abroad during its nineteen seasons. The CPO sets an example for the infinite potential of Chinese artistic development, cultural rejuvenation and economic boom, as witnessed by the rest of the world.
And so be it and how true is sweet necessity. In the spring of 2009, the CPO was named Most Inspiring Orchestras by Gramophone online, joining the glittering array of ten fellow orchestras including Berliner Philharmoniker, London Symphony Orchestra and New York Philharmonic Orchestra.
By present the CPO has presented more than 6,000 music compositions in its more than 1,000 performances in the forms of concerts, operas, cantatas, incidental music, ballets, chamber music, musicals, film/TV music, multi-media and crossover with Chinese national instruments. The CPO has worked with more than 1,000 guest artists and attracted millions of audiences. Its domestic and international tours accumulated more than one million kilometers, an equivalent of circling the world 20 times. The CPO works with China Central Television closely and have filmed more than 500 hundred concerts and music shows as well as recorded music of more than 100 TV shows.
Yet one cannot comprehend the CPO’s accomplishment without perceiving its exciting and enormous social frame, i.e. the Great Rejuvenation of the Chinese Nation. Many artists and managers work together to fulfill their dreams with zealous passion, perseverance and determination. This makes it possible to lead the great symphonic music course in China to a better and merrier destination.
With the patronage of leaders of CCP and Chinese Government, China Philharmonic Orchestra was founded based on China Broadcasting Symphony Orchestra on May 25, 2000, administered by the National Radio and Television Administration. Currently, Li Nan serves as the President while Long Yu is the Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of the orchestra. As one of the youngest and most dynamic symphony orchestras in China, the CPO takes pride in professionalism, a role model to be followed by its Chinese peers. The founding of the CPO is a monumental event in the history of Chinese orchestras becoming professional and international. As the first Chinese orchestra to collaborate and release titles with an international recording label, the first Chinese orchestra to hold large-scale overseas and even global tours, the first Chinese orchestra to travel on a diplomatic mission, the first Chinese orchestra to appear on a top-tier summer festival, the CPO has broken many rules in terms of operation and management and its experiences are widely learned by its Chinese piers. In the past 20 years, the number of professional Chinese orchestras is grown from less than 20 to more than 100, and the development of the industry is greatly benefited from the experiences of the CPO.
On December 16th, 2000, Long Yu conducted the CPO in the inaugural concert at Poly Theatre in Beijing to huge acclaim. In the past nineteen subscription seasons since September 2001, musicians and orchestra managers attained unprecedented artistic standards with endeavor and wisdom under the leadership of Long Yu and successive presidents.
Highlights of the inaugural season from September 2001 to July 2002 include the world premiere of Philip Glass’ Cello Concerto, Berlioz’s La Damnation de Faust and Women General of Yang Family, a symphony poem in Peking opera style commissioned by CPO. In the following season, Long Yu conducted the China premiere of Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 (Symphony of a Thousand) with nearly a thousand domestic and visiting artists on the stage. It is a milestone in the music history in China. That season also offered Beethoven’s complete symphonies and concertos cycle as well as most of his overtures as part of the “Immortal Beethoven” concert series, highlighted by the closing concert of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 conducted by Long Yu in a most convincing approach. For the first two ambitious seasons the CPO qualifies itself as one of the leading orchestras in Asia. The CPO also presented the complete symphony cycle of Mahler’s symphonies in the first three seasons.
Forthcoming seasons boast of commemorating concerts devoted to Dvorák (100th Anniversary), Mozart (250th Anniversary), Shostakovich (100th Anniversary), Mendelssohn (200th Anniversary), Haydn (200th Anniversary of his death) and Karajan (100th Anniversary). Following the orchestra’s completion of its first Mahler symphonies cycle from 2001 to 2004, China Philharmonic performed 8 of his symphonies and many lieders from the end of 2010 to 2011, a tribute to the 100th anniversary of the composer’s death. In 2013 China Philharmonic performed in a co-production of Richard Wagner’s Parsifal produced by Beijing Music Festival and Salzburger Osterfestspiele commemorating the 200th anniversary of the opera master’s birth. In the years of 2014 and 2015 the orchestra presented concerts celebrating the 150th anniversary of the births of Richard Strauss and Jean Sibelius respectively. In Season 2017-2018, a series of concerts to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Leonard Bernstein was held to honor the great Maestro of the past century. The Season of 2019-2020 and Season 2020-2021 celebrates the 250th anniversary of Beethoven and 110th anniversary of the death of Gustav Mahler respectively.
The China Philharmonic Orchestra’s New Year’s Concert has been broadcasted on CCTV for 19 consecutive years and hundreds of millions of audiences watch this live concert annually.
In view of CPO’s artistic and managerial integrity, music lovers and sponsors from all walks of life have generously supported this orchestra with monetary and moral contributions. Together they form the strong backbones of the CPO.
In the past twenty years, the CPO has presented numerous premieres that are virtually nowhere to be found elsewhere in China, forging its own style which is known by its audience as “the Sound of China Philharmonic” through extensive artistic involvement.
An active promoter of China’s contemporary music, China Philharmonic has established its tradition of presenting concerts dedicated to Chinese music during each of its seasons and commissioning domestic and overseas composers for new works.
Important premieres encompass Women General of the Yang Family by DU Mingxin on May 20th, 2002, Oriental Sun by Guo Wenjing on October 17th 2002, Les Cinq Elements, Iris dévoilée and Reflet d'un temps disparu by Chen Qigang on October 17th 2002, When Cranes Fly Home by John Sharpley on March 2nd 2003, “Resurrection” Piano Concerto by Krzysztof Penderecki on August 29th 2004 with the composer on the podium and Dmitri Alexeev on the keyboard.
Other essential world premiere are credited to the CPO: The Song of the Earth after Mahler’s namesake by Chinese composer Ye Xiaogang at Poly Theatre on February 18th 2005, Qiao's Grand Courtyard by Zhao Jiping in June 26th 2007, The Lofty Kunlun Mountains by Ye on September 1st 2007 commissioned by the CPO, tone poem This Land So Rich in Beauty by Guo Wenjing on September 23rd in the same year. The CPO presented a typical and well-acclaimed “East Meets West” concert on October 24th during the 10th Beijing Music Festival, featuring a double bill world premiere of Tan Dun’s Four Secret Roads of Marco Polo and Penderecki’s Symphony No. 8 “Lieder der Verganglichkeit”.
On October 17th, 2010, China Philharmonic gave world premiere performance of Peter Ruzicka’s Hölderlin Symphony during the 13th Beijing Musi Festival. Tan Dun’s Youth, Symphonic Poem of 3 Notes and Concerto for Orchestra was premiered by China Philharmonic on the same music festival two years later. Zhao Lin’s Duo, a concerto for Cello and Sheng co-commissioned by China Philharmonic, Shanghai Symphony and Guangzhou Symphony was performed by China Philharmonic on November 9th, 2013. China Philharmonic’s playing was also heard on April 22nd, 2014 as the soundtrack (composed by Zou Ye, the orchestra’s composer-in-residence) when a digitally remastered version of China’ early silent film classic Goddess featuring Ruan Lingyu was premiered. On July 1st, 2014, Chen Qigang’s Joie Eternelle, Tan Dun’s Longli-ge-Long and John Williams’ Scherzo were all premiered on a very special “Long Yu and His Friends” gala. In November 2016, the CPO premiered Chen Yi’s piano concerto “The Four Spirits” with pianist Clara Yang. In October 2017, Zou Ye’s vocal symphony “Winter by the Neva River” was premiered. In May 2019, Yu Jingjun’s Variation on a Beethoven Theme was premiered and in October of the same year, Zhou Long’s Last Sacrifice, Aaron Ziegman Tango Manos Concerto and Ye Xiaogang’s Song of Farewell were premiered in a special commissioned works concert.
During the years between 2000 and 2006, China Philharmonic collaborated with Deutsche Grammophon and released 3 CDs, making itself the first Chinese orchestra to work with a major label and release recordings internationally. In 2012, China Philharmonic Orchestra released a 100-CD box-set of live recordings of its previous seasons. 213 compositions from 105 performances were featured in this box-set, among them Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, Handel’s Semele, Mahler’s Symphonies No. 1, 3, 5, 6, 7 and 9, Bruckner’s Symphonies No. 4, 8 and 9, just to name a few. This miraculous product swept China’s record awards during 2012 and 2013, and was regarded as a must-have among collectors.
Discovering innovative methods and platforms to promote classical music, China Philharmonic filmed musical movie The Butterfly Lovers during the summer of 2014, the first movie of its kind ever produced in China. During the summer of 2015 the orchestra further filmed The Yellow River, a musical movie that contains two celebrated musical compositions, The Yellow River Cantata and The Yellow River Piano Concerto. It was directed by Teng Wenji and featured artists including Long Yu, Lang Lang, Pu Cunxin and Wang Xiufen. This movie is in cinema nationally since September 2015. During the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, the CPO joined forces with Lang Lang, Siqing Lü, Jian Wang and Han Xiaoming and presented a special “Ode to the Flag across the Screens” TV program and brough the power of music to the people fighting the pandemic across the country.
The CPO is the active and frequent advocate of Chinese music in the global sphere. With Long YU and his fellow
conductors SHI Shucheng, YANG Yang and XIA Xiaotang, the orchestra is involved in a wide range of tours ever since. The CPO toured in Taipei, Taichung, Hsinchu and Kaohsiung in September 2001.In June 2002, the CPO toured North and Latin America with Long Yu and Penderecki conducting two performances at the Casals Festival in Peuto Rico, followed by sensational bay area concerts in San Jose and Los Angeles etc. In September 2002, the CPO toured Japan and Korea followed by a European tour in the following September including Opéra National de Paris, Teatr Narodowy in Warsaw and Wiener Musikverein goldener Saal.
In December 2004 as invited by the government of Italy, the CPO shared the stage at the Congress Hall in Rome with Leo Nucci and Barbara Frittoli in the Christmas concert. The concert was transmitted live in Europe via RAI and won high esteem.
February to April 2005 came the historic moment of the CPO when the orchestra launched an unprecedented world tour under the baton of Long Yu covering 22 cities in US, Canada, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, UK, highlighted by concerts in Lincoln Centre, Barbican Centre and Berliner Philharmonie with positive reviews from New York Times, Times and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
To commemorate the 250th anniversary of Mozart, the CPO as the only Asian orchestra joined the live transmitted concert rally on January 27th, 2006 with Berliner Philharmoniker, Wiener Philharmoniker, New York Philharmonic and Czech Philharmonic Orchestra.
In May 2008, the CPO was invited to play at the Paul VI Audience Hall in Vatican to over 8,000 audience including Holiness Pope Benedict XVI with a programme of Mozart Requiem and Chinese folk tune Jasmine Flower, and his Holiness Pope Benedict XVI greeted to Chinese people and blessed Beijing Olympic Games after the concert. International and domestic press hailed the concert as an ice breaking music venture.
In October 2010, invited by the Ministry of Culture, the CPO gave a tour concert in Rome during Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited Italy on the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between Italy and China and for the inauguration of the Chinese Cultural Year in Italy. Dedicating to Italian audience a high standard concert, the CPO appeared on the stage of the Teatro dell'Opera di Roma with a unique program, a combination of the classics of Chinese culture, Peking Opera and of Italian opera. Premier Wen Jiabao and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi attended the opening concert, jointly giving witness on the Sino-Italian cultural exchange event. Premier Wen Jiabao has also met the musicians of the CPO and taken pictures at his hotel before the concert.
In April 2011, promoted by the CAMI Music, the CPO, under the directing of Mr. Long Yu, toured in the West Coast area again in the United States, giving concerts in San Francisco, Davis, Santa Barbara, Costa Mesa, Northridge, San Diego, Palm Desert and other places. Those sold-out concerts made a stir among audiences. It is worth mentioning that this is the most successful international tour for the CPO; A success in box office is a great encouragement for the Chinese Symphony Orchestras.
In February 2012, Chinese Culture Year had been launched in Berlin and China Philharmonic Orchestra gave a concert in Konzerthause Berlin as the opening concert, which was highly praise by the media as “the real sound of a German orchestra”.
In July 2014, the CPO was invited by the BBC Proms to perform as the first orchestra from China to play in a world class music festival.
The August of 2015 saw China Philharmonic Orchestra’s historical 7-concert “Tour of the Silk Road” which covered 6 major cities in 5 countries that sit along the ancient Silk Road: Tajikisitan, Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, Iran and Greece. The Tour was culturally significant and was praised by international media including The Washington Post.
In November of 2015, China Philharmonic Orchestra tours Japan for the first time in 13 years, giving concerts in Tokyo Opera City Concert Hall and Karuizawa Ohga Hall.
In May 2016, China Philharmonic Orchestra further launched “2016 Tour of the Maritime Silk Road” that included
Indonesia, Sri Lanka and India. By giving concerts at Jakarta’s Aula Sinfonia, Colombo’s Nelum Pokuna theatre and
Mumbai’s NCPA, China Philharmonic Orchestra became the first Chinese music group that reached its artistic footsteps onto “One Belt, One Road” region.
In July 2016, China Philharmonic Orchestra made its Russian debut in the city of Irkutsk, performing a concert with Chinese and Russian symphonic works and was enjoyed by an audience that included Chinese Vice-Prime Minister and the Governor of Irkutsk.
From November to December 2016, the China Philharmonic Orchestra triumphantly launched the “2016 Tour of the Americas” which included Canada, the United States as well as Republic of Cuba into its itinerary, after a 5-year absence from the continent. The orchestra became the very first Chinese orchestra to ever step on the soil of Cuba, after greatly welcomed performances in North America that were warmly praised by leading medias including the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicles. Its artistic standard is thus proven yet again in the mainstream market of classical music.
In November – December of 2017, the “2017 Tour of Asia” brought the China Philharmonic Orchestra to Singapore Esplanade, Kawasaki Concert Hall and Suntory Hall in Japan, and NPAC Concert Hall in Taipei, China.
The China Philharmonic Orchestra’s 2018 Tour of Russia in June - July brought the orchestra to the musical cities of Moscow and Saint Petersburg. In August 2019, the orchestra visited Russian again in a 3 concerts series during the Far East Festival in Vladivostok and Ussuriysk.
In June 2019, the China Philharmonic Orchestra launched Tour of Korea and Japan. Its appearances in Seoul, Tokyo and Osaka were overwhelmingly received, especially the Osaka concert which was only a few days before the G20 Summit.
In October 2019, the China Philharmonic Orchestra’s “Tour of the Mediterranean’s” went to Athens, Lisbon and Madrid. Its footsteps along the Silk Road has thus reached the very end of the Eurasia continent.
In January 2020, the China Philharmonic Orchestra launched Tour of Middle and Eastern Europe. Its concerts at Pecs (Hungary), Sofia (Bulgaria), Belgrad (Serbia) and Bucharest (Romania) are well received. As these concerts were held right before the Chinese New Year, the orchestra also brough best wishes to the audiences as well as Chinese people overseas.
An artistic organization with national importance, the China Philharmonic Orchestra fulfills its social responsibility by performing symphonic concerts in multiple universities all over China annually since 2006. Furthermore, under guidance from the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the Ministry of Finance, the orchestra visits primary schools in poverty and rural areas every year for volunteer works and donations and participates other charitable events enthusiastically. The honorable behaviors of China Philharmonic Orchestra are highly regarded by the society.
The soul of an orchestra is its musicians. Many of the founding 120 musicians of China Philharmonic have retired or chosen different career paths, yet new recruitments maintained and further raised the orchestra’s standard to higher levels. These young musicians are deeply touched by the orchestra’s spirits and have become the core of this artistic ensemble.
A distinctive style of the orchestra has been established during its first twenty years, and “the Sound of China Philharmonic” is widely recognized as the extravagant yet elegant, structurally marvelous yet melodically lyrical, and deeply emotional. The past twenty years encompasses all the emotional elements found in music, regardless joy, pain, hardships or ups and downs. However, this is the moment to celebrate the orchestra and its great course immortalized by the deceased and the being, the old and the young, the knowledge and the philistine, the maestro and the rising stars. The CPO pays homage to them for all their contributions.
Thanks to all our persistent companions!