Together, to the sound of music

Updated: 2011-10-28 11:43

(China Daily European Weekly)

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Together, to the sound of music
Many Chinese artists have had the opportunity to perform at Vienna's Golden Hall, one of the top concert venues in the world. [Provided to China Daily]

Arts used to build China-Austria ties

During the past 40 years, China and Austria have used culture to communicate on many occasions.

One such occasion was when Song Zuying, one of China's most famous sopranos, gave a recital at the Golden Hall in 2003.

Vienna's Golden Hall at the Musikverein, founded in 1870, is considered to be one of the top three concert halls in the world. Said to be the "Golden Sound in the Golden Hall", Musikverein's beautifully ornate auditorium combined with its exquisite sound truly make this a world-class concert hall. Holding a concert at the venue is also regarded as a great honor and a landmark in the careers of many artists around the world.

Song performed signature songs such as Beautiful Life and Spice Sister as well as Jasmine, one of the most famous Chinese folk songs in the Western world. Under the baton of Li Xincao, chief conductor of the China National Symphony Orchestra, the concert also featured erhu artist Song Fei and bamboo flutist Zhang Weiliang.

Song's triumphant performance there made her the first soprano with a traditional Chinese vocal style to give a recital in the Golden Hall.

"The Austrian audience impressed me greatly, as I had not expected that foreigners would love Chinese traditional songs so much. They called me 'Chinese jasmine'," Song said in an interview about her performance there.

Since then, many famous Chinese artists, including sopranos Tan Jing and Lei Jia, tenor Wang Hongwei, pop singer Li Yugang and pianist Lang Lang, have had the opportunity to perform at the venue, wowing audiences by weaving together traditional and modern Chinese culture.

The Oriental Jasmine Girls Band from Sichuan province, southwestern China, held a concert there this year. It performed Chinese folk songs with traditional Chinese instruments such as the erhu, lute, dulcimer and flute. The band members, dressed in costumes with patterns of jasmine flowers, also sang classic Chinese songs such as the Night of Grassland. Austrian baritone Thomas Weinhappel joined the leading singer, Ma Xuanzi, to sing All I Ask of You from the musical Phantom of the Opera.

During the past few years, Chinese artists have also toured Austria, showcasing traditional and modern Chinese culture.

The China Tibet Cultural Festival opened in 2006, an exhibition of more than 200 photos selected from 150,000 pictures by 100 photographers from 19 countries. Tibetan folk songs and dances have also been performed for Austrian audiences, which received wide acclaim.

A unique concert, the Chinese Calligraphy Concert, took Vienna on a magical journey from traditional Chinese calligraphy to Chinese music at Hofburg Palace in June. Li Binquan, a member of the Chinese Calligraphers Association, wrote poetry to the rhythm of classical music from different dynasties, integrating history and culture.

Popular contestants from the TV show China's Got Talent, including armless pianist Liu Wei who won last year's competition, also visited Austria during a world tour, which started early this year.

The China Central Chinese Orchestra performed at the 91st Salzburg Music Festival in August, which was the first time a traditional Chinese music group played at the world-renowned event.

The orchestra presented music from both China and the West, including The Moon Over a Fountain and Swan.

Orchestra president Xi Qiang says that Chinese music uses beautiful melodies to express some of the characteristics of traditional Chinese culture.

When Salzburg Mayor Heinz Schaden met with the orchestra, he says he hopes the Austrian audience would have a better understanding of China's long musical history after its performance.

And on Jan 25, a Chinese New Year concert will be held at the Golden Hall as a prelude to Austria's Year of China, which marks the 40th anniversary of the establishment of China-Austria diplomatic ties, according to the Chinese embassy in Vienna.

President Hu Jintao said in a statement that the Year of China activities would serve as a platform to deepen exchanges between the people of the two countries.

"I believe cooperation in holding Year of China activities will further enhance mutual understanding and friendship, promote bilateral exchanges and cooperation, and contribute to the diversities of culture and growth models around the world," Hu said.

Chinese performance companies are now eyeing Austria, hoping to introduce Chinese arts to its audiences.

China Heaven Creation International Performing Arts Company joined the Vienna City Hall on Oct 20, which is the first Sino-Austrian cultural joint venture. The joint venture company, which has successfully produced the martial arts show The Legend of Kungfu, focuses on the planning and implementation of various cultural activities, including drama, music, acrobatics and stage performances.

Cao Xiaoning, CEO of the company, said that he hopes to promote cultural communication between China and Austria and bilateral cooperation in the fields of culture, artistic creation and performances through new platforms.

He also said that the foundation of the Sino-Austrian joint venture is to recreate Chinese cultural products, particularly performances, and introduce them to the European market.

Besides performances, other cultural events have also been held to enhance the communication between the two countries.

In 2006, Chinese filmmakers, including Huang Jianxin, attended China Movie Week in Vienna.

China's famous Shaolin Temple, known to the West as the place of origin of kungfu, opened a new cultural center in Vienna in October. Thomas Fiedler, former chairman of the Buddhist Association in Austria, said the opening of the new Shaolin Cultural Center of Austria will help Westerners learn more about Shaolin and about the Buddhist culture.

The first event to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the establishment of China-Austria diplomatic ties, Meet in Vienna-Austria-China Art Festival, will be held Jan 1 to Feb 5 across Austria.