BRUSSELS, Feb. 14 (Xinhua) -- By adding fresh and fashionable elements to its traditional repertoire, a Chinese orchestra has charmed Europeans who have a discerning ear for good music.
The Shanghai Chinese Orchestra wrapped up its debut concert in Brussels Tuesday evening with a surprising rendition of Flight of the Bumblebee, one of the most celebrated classical pieces in pop culture by Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.
The Chinese version featured a number of ancient instruments such as zhongruan, a plucked string instrument, and erhu, a two-stringed bowed musical instrument, each boasting centuries of history but rather unfamiliar to the Western audience.
The effort certainly paid off, as the unconventional interpretation was met with waves of applause and cheers at the packed concert hall of Belgium's prestigious Bozar art center.
"I have listened to hundreds of different versions of Flight of the Bumblebee. This was the most special," local orchestral music enthusiast Patrick van den Belt told Xinhua.
According to Luo Xiaoci, director of the orchestra, such adaptation is only one aspect of its ambitious plan to break the boundaries between Chinese and Western classical music, and get a share of the European market for orchestral performance.
Brussels was the third stop of the orchestra's ongoing four-country tour in Europe, which kicked off a week ago in London's Barbican Center.
The audience's response to the tour so far has been "beyond expectation," said Luo, an accomplished musician and composer herself, adding that 2,400 tickets to the concert at Philharmonie de Paris sold out one month in advance.
Meanwhile, the Paris concert was streamed live on Medici.tv, an online classical music streaming platform, being watched by over 31,000 people.
With most of the instruments used dating back centuries ago, Chinese orchestra began to take shape in the 1920s after applying the principles of Western symphony orchestra to structure musical legacy from the the country's past.
Founded in 1952, the Shanghai Chinese Orchestra is China's first orchestra specializing in traditional instruments and pieces.
The Europe tour brings together Grammy-winning Chinese-German conductor Muhai Tang and around 70 acclaimed musicians and young talents in the traditional Chinese music scene.
The 90-minute repertoire, premiered in 2016 and adjusted for the tour, is a mixed list of centuries-old folk tunes and contemporary pieces, with distinctive modern-day twists.
For instance, Dancing Phoenix, one of the best known concerti in Chinese orchestra, is modernized with elements from Jazz and World Music.
"It's humorous, it's vibrant, it's fun. It definitely broke the stereotype of traditional Chinese music for me," said Louis Peeters, a student of the Royal Conservatory of Belgium.
"We scaled down the performance in accordance with the facilities of the venues, and adjusted some of the pieces to the tase of European audience, but it remains a complete, original repertoire that we are proud to present," said Luo.
In the past, overseas concerts of traditional Chinese music were usually equipped with a moderator who would guide the audience through all the instruments that they had never seen before, but Luo chose not to do so.
"There is no moderator. We want to see if Chinese traditional music would be able to speak to people without explanation," she said. "After the success of the first two concerts in London and Paris, I know we have the answer."
The revamped repertoire, as her orchestra's many other projects to engage foreign composers and artists, is paving the way for a world tour in the near future, she added.
Wu Jiatong, a senior concert planner behind the orchestra's Europe tour, has been promoting traditional Chinese music overseas for years, and he believes that there is a place in the global concert industry for Chinese orchestra.
"My expectation has always been that the audience would stand up to applaud, and they did," said Wu.
After Brussels, the Shanghai Chinese Orchestra will continue its tour in five cities in Germany until Feb. 23.