Philadelphia Orchestra Concludes Successful Tour of China

by Madonna

After a fruitful sojourn in China, members of the renowned Philadelphia Orchestra have returned to the United States, concluding their visit with a departure from Shanghai on Sunday morning.

This tour marked a significant milestone, as the Philadelphia Orchestra was the inaugural U.S. orchestra to venture into China’s cultural landscape in 1973, following the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. Since that historic moment, the orchestra has made a total of 13 visits to China.

Commencing their recent journey in Beijing on November 10, the orchestra graced the stage of the National Centre for Performing Arts before embarking on performances in Tianjin and Suzhou, Jiangsu province. The tour culminated in a memorable concert at Shanghai Tech University on Friday night, followed by a collaborative performance with students from China Welfare Institute Children’s Palace on Saturday. The final act unfolded at a chamber concert in the Shanghai Library East, featuring masterpieces like Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet K. 581, two movements from Dohnanyi’s Serenade in C major for String Trio, and Chinese composer Chen Yaoxing’s evocative “Galloping Horse.”

Reflecting on the significance of this journey, Ryan Fleur, the executive director of the Philadelphia Orchestra, conveyed, “It was very important for us to ensure our presence in China for the 50th anniversary of our inaugural visit in 1973. Music has the power to convey thoughts and ideas that words alone can’t. That sentiment we take very seriously. It embodies the work and connections we have with the people of China. That drives every activity that we do, whether we are giving a lecture, coaching students, or performing alongside Chinese students and professional musicians.”

Fleur emphasized the orchestra’s commitment to building deep, long-term strategic partnerships in China, describing it as “absolutely key.” He added, “When we come back to China, we are picking up conversations. In this case, many conversations we were having in 2019 and now we are continuing them again.”

Having made 14 visits to China since joining the Philadelphia Orchestra in 2012, Fleur, along with veteran violinist Davyd Booth, who participated in the company’s inaugural visit to China in 1973, marveled at the rapid development of the country. They shared impressions of the spectacular urban lighting, the high-speed train connecting Beijing to Shanghai in four-and-a-half hours, and the remarkable growth in China’s classical music scene.

Booth expressed his deep satisfaction, stating, “The Philadelphia Orchestra travels all over the world, but there is nowhere else in the entire world that we have developed a close relationship as we have with China. I can’t begin to tell you how thrilled and happy I am to think that we played a part in helping to strengthen the friendship between our two countries.”

Highlighting the reciprocal nature of cultural exchanges, Booth mentioned the visits of Chinese orchestras to Philadelphia and the collaborative performances of U.S. and Chinese musicians. He likened the 1973 concert to planting a seed that has flourished and continues to thrive.

Back in Philadelphia, the orchestra annually presents a Chinese New Year Concert, featuring a Chinese repertoire to represent the local Chinese American community, according to Fleur. Notably, among the orchestra’s musicians is Ni Haiye, the principal cellist, reflecting the growing presence of Chinese instrumentalists.

With the ongoing development of music education in China, Fleur anticipates a continued increase in the number of musicians from China joining the Philadelphia Orchestra in the years to come.

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