Culture\Music and Theater

Strings with wings

By Chen Nan | China Daily | Updated: 2017-03-06 07:14

As a child, music gave Chu Yibing the power to soar like a bird. The famous cellist says he's eager to share that sensation in the upcoming Super Cello festival, Chen Nan reports.

Cellist Chu Yibing celebrated his 50th birthday with an audience of thousands including his musician friends in Beijing with a two-day event featuring recitals, workshops and movies in February 2016.

"I was exhausted at the end of the day. But it was a fabulous birthday," recalls the cellist.

"From breakfast to dinner, we were surrounded by music. It was all about communication. Everyone had a great time."

This year, Chu will bring the festival back to Beijing and extend the two-day event into four days. Titled Super Cello, the event will be held from April 28 to May 1 at the National Library Arts Center, with 13 recitals, 12 master classes, workshops and exhibitions presented by 21 cellists from 14 countries.

"There is no first class, second class or third class. Audiences just come and sit, or stand anywhere they want," says Chu.

Strings with wings

"It's like an amusement park. You can leave and return at any time as long as you show your ticket."

The guest musicians include Israeli-born and Germany-based cellist Gavriel Lipkind, who attended the Super Cello festival last year; French cellists (and father and son) Roland Pidoux and Raphael Pidoux, who are both professors of Paris Conservatoire, where Chu graduated; and Swiss cellist Wen-Sinn Yang, who is a professor at the Academy of Music and Theater in Munich.

Other highlights over the four days will be the Brussels Chamber Orchestra, the Golden Buddha Jazz Band (led by Kong Hongwei, Chu's classmate from the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing) and the China National Symphony Orchestra, which will give the closing performance under the baton of French conductor Philippe de Chalendar.

Chu is regarded as one of the greatest cellists of his generation.

He was born in Beijing to musicians Zhu Yongning and Wang Yaoling, both teachers at the capital's Central Conservatory of Music.

He started learning the cello at age 8 and went to Europe to pursue his music studies in 1983.

Six years later, he became the principal cellist of Switzerland's Basel Symphony Orchestra.

After nearly two decades of living and working in the West, he returned to China in 2004 as the head cello teacher for the Central Conservatory of Music.

"I hope to do something for Chinese music students. Their teamwork skills are as bad as those of Chinese football players," says Chu.

"The first thing is to teach them the importance of chamber music."

Chu formed his cello ensemble in 2005, dedicating most of his time to chamber music. In the past few years, Chu has toured the country with the ensemble, performing in places where the cello is rarely heard.

In 2015, he and his team visited locations along the ancient Silk Road and performed works by Bach, Debussy and Mahler.

The destination venues included Qinghai Lake in Northwest China's Qinghai province.

Chu and his team also played amid natural settings in nearby Gansu province, including the Yadan National Geological Park that features landforms created by winds from the Gobi Desert.

"When I was a child, I was very imaginative. I played my instrument on the balcony, imagining that I was a bird or that I was running after a cloud," says Chu.

"I guess my relationship with music comes from within. I am eager to express. It's a psychological thing."

Three young cellists - Jonathan Roozeman, William Hagen and Shen Ziyu - from the Kronberg Academy, an international cultural institution in Germany, will perform at the Super Cello festival.

"Chu plays an important part in our music family. Music is a universal language and keeps us connected," says Raimund Trenkler, who has been Kronberg Academy's managing director and artistic director since the institution was founded in 1993.

According to Chu, many children who are learning cello attended the music festival last year with their parents.

Besides recitals and master classes, these young people will be offered an open stage at the lobby of the National Library Arts Center to display their talent this year.

"They can play whatever they want. It will be so much fun," says Chu.

Speaking of the influence of the event, Zhu Wei, a veteran media personality who's also Chu's friend, says: "Chu gathers musicians of different schools together and shares music with audiences without many boundaries.

"The most important thing, for Chu, is to connect the audience with music. You feel touched by music and have a good time during the festival, which is what Chu wants."

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 Strings with wings

Chu Yibing's Super Cello workshops and master classes draw a crowd of youngsters and their parents last year. Provided To China Daily

 Strings with wings

Chu introduces his upcoming Super Cello festival at a Beijing media event. Jiang Dong / China Daily

(China Daily 03/06/2017 page20)

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