San Diego Symphony debuts at Carnegie before setting off for China

Updated: 2013-10-29 08:21

By KELLY CHUNG DAWSON in New York (China Daily USA)

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San Diego Symphony marks its 103rd season this evening with a debut concert at New York’s Carnegie Hall featuring acclaimed pianist Lang Lang, ahead of a historic tour of China that will include stops in Beijing, Shanghai and San Diego’s sister city in China, Yantai.

“We’re extremely excited to perform at one of the greatest concert halls in the world, and also to begin our first international tour,” said the symphony’s music director and principal conductor Jahja Ling. “We view ourselves as ambassadors for culture, and of course every great musician dreams of performing at Carnegie. This is an important moment for the orchestra, and it gives us confidence to continue growing.”

Ling, who has conducted other orchestras at Carnegie Hall, is the first and only conductor of Chinese descent to serve as music director of a major orchestra in the United States. He will lead the San Diego Symphony in a performance of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 featuring Lang Lang; Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5 and Night Parade, an original commission by composer David Bruce.

Ling first met Lang when the pianist was only 16 years old, in an audition at Carnegie Hall, Ling recalled. Ling immediately hired him to do a show with the Cleveland Orchestra, for which Ling also serves as musical director.

“I’ve always treated him as a little brother,” Ling said of Lang Lang. “He’s 31 now, and we’ve played all over the world together. Since we met at Carnegie Hall, to play together again at the same hall is a chance for us to bring back those memories and honor our long friendship.”

Lang Lang, whose performance in the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics was seen by more than 4 billion people, was named one of TIME Magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2009. He is also the youngest member of Carnegie Hall’s Artistic Advisory Board, and sits on Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute Advisory Council.

The San Diego Symphony’s tour of China will begin this weekend with two performances in Yantai, featuring the world-renowned violinists Joshua Bell and Augustin Hadelich. On Tuesday the orchestra will perform with Bell again in Shanghai, before traveling onto Beijing for two final performances on Thursday and Friday featuring Hadelich.

The trip represents a “giant leap onto the international stage”, said Edward B. “Ward” Gill, chief executive officer of the San Diego Symphony, in an official statement. “These performances have taken years of planning and we are so pleased with the artistic and personal relationships we have forged over time. We are confident of the orchestra’s ability to perform magnificently and look forward to building a bridge of goodwill on this China Friendship Tour.”

The San Diego Symphony joins numerous other orchestras who have toured China in recent years, in an attempt to broaden visibility and appeal to a quickly growing market.

“There’s an incredible amount of interest in classical music now in China, and there are the resources to bring big symphonies over,” Ling said. “That makes it an exciting market for American orchestras.”

Many Chinese musicians have also made their careers in the US, and are pleased to now have the opportunity to return for performances in China, he said. Under Ling’s stewardship, the San Diego Symphony has also released recordings of works by Chinese composer Bright Sheng.

“I’m pleased to be among people like Bright Sheng, Yo-Yo Ma and Tan Dun, who are all doing well today,” he said. “My feeling is that in the US, people are interested in people of all backgrounds, as long as you’re good. In America they give you the opportunity to show what you have inside, so we’ve been able to find success. For us, there’s special pride in going back to China now.”