It’s unusual to find a Chinese classical orchestra visiting the UK, and even more of a surprise to find that one of them is celebrating its 60th anniversary by coming here. But that’s the case with the Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra. On its current short British tour it plays at the Bridgewater Hall on Monday (15th May).
The Guangzhou Symphony is said to be the only Chinese orchestra to have toured and performed on five continents, and it’s one of the first Chinese orchestras to establish a full concert season at home. Its real story seems to begin just 20 years ago, since when it has built a strong following for performances at its home, the Xinghai concert hall on the banks of the Pearl River inGuangzhou.
Its resident conductor is Jing Huan, formerly a conducting assistant for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and assistant conductor of the São Paulo State Symphony (she also conducts the GSO’s youth orchestra). The GSO’s Music Director is Long Yu, who directs all three of China’s leading orchestras – the China Philharmonic and Shanghai Symphony as well as the GSO – and is also founder and president of the Beijing Music Festival.
At the Bridgewater Hall, Jing Huan conducts the GSO in music including UK premieres of two works commissioned by the orchestra from leading Chinese composers.
Film composer Zhao Lin’s Duo features as soloists Shanghai-born international cellist Jian Wang and Lei Jia on sheng, the traditional Chinese bamboo woodwind instrument. It was originally composed for Yo-Yo Ma and Wu Tong and premiered in 2011.
Ye Xiaogang's Guangdong Music Suite was inspired by the musical culture of the Pearl River delta, home to the orchestra, and written in 2005.
The programme is completed by Britten’s Four Sea Interludes and Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite, in the 1919 version.