Members of the China National Center for the Performing Arts (NCPA) Orchestra perfom at the Symphony Center in Chicago, the United States, Oct. 28, 2017. A sold-out concert performed here Saturday by China NCPA Orchestra caught the attention of the whole audience by showcasing a unique combination of Western and Chinese music.(Xinhua/Wang Ping)
by Jian Ping
CHICAGO, Oct. 29 (Xinhua) -- A sold-out concert performed here Saturday by China National Center for the Performing Arts (NCPA) Orchestra caught the attention of the whole audience by showcasing a unique combination of Western and Chinese music.
The concert, performed at the Symphony Center in Chicago, started with Chinese composer Zhao Jiping's Violin Concerto No. 1, with Ning Feng as the soloist.
Zhao's piece was commissioned by the orchestra and just had its world premiere in Beijing a couple of weeks ago, said Lu Jia, music director and chief conductor of the NCPA Orchestra.
"Zhao's music is fantastic," Lu said, in praise of its harmonious combination of Western music with Chinese elements.
Zhao is one of the best-known composers in China. He gained his international fame for his music scores in films, such as "Farewell My Concubine," directed by Chen Kaige in 1993, and "Raise the Red Lantern" and "To Live," directed by Zhang Yimou in 1991 and 1994 respectively.
The concert also features the use of pipa, a four-stringed Chinese musical instrument, with Wu Man, a world-renowned pipa virtuoso, as the soloist. Wu played American composer Lou Harrison's "Pipa Concerto with String Orchestra," which was commissioned for her in 1997.
"I'm so thrilled to play it with China NCPA Orchestra in the United States," she told Xinhua.
Wu said she had played Harrison's piece hundreds of times with foreign orchestras in Europe and the United States, but Saturday night's concert marked her first time to play it with a touring Chinese orchestra outside China.
"I feel very honored," she said, adding that the concert's characteristic use of pipa made her feel "a major change" in her efforts in introducing traditional Chinese musical instruments to Western audiences.
The audience so enthusiastically greeted Wu's performance that she had to return to the stage with an encore of "White Snow in Spring," a famous traditional pipa score that enabled her to demonstrate more playing skills.
"We carefully selected from Chinese music that spans over half a century," said Patrick Ren, managing director of China NCPA Orchestra. "We are staging our performances at the best venues in the United States for this tour."
Chicago is the first leg of the current tour of the NCPA Orchestra. The orchestra will make its debut at Carnegie Hall in New York City, and will stop by in Philadelphia, San Francisco and Chapel Hill.
Besides the repertoire in Chicago, the orchestra will perform Chen Qigang's "Reflect d'un temps disparu" and Yin Chengzong and Chu Wanghua's Piano Concerto "Yellow River" in other cities.
The concert concluded with Johannes Brahms' Symphony No. 4 in E minor with two more encores, and finished with Bao Yuankai's familiar tune of "Bamboo Melody."
"This is my first time to hear pipa," said Jordi Pedrola, "It feels very natural and harmonious, generating a very positive emotion."
"I'm very impressed by the musicians' skills," said Joseph Mastron, a graduate student at the University of Chicago, "The performance was wonderful and I very much enjoyed it."
This is the second time that China NCPA Orchestra has staged at the same venue. In 2014, it made its debut tour in North America at the Symphony Center, which has 2,000 seats.
"Different from three years ago, our musicians are much more experienced and our repertoire much larger," Lu told Xinhua.