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About the Author
Ken Smith currently divides his time between New York (where he writes for Gramophone magazine) and Hong Kong (where he serves as the Asian–performing arts critic for the Financial Times). He is Co–Music Director of the recordings Dong Folk Songs and Miao Music for China's MediaFusion Group, and he won an ASCAP–Deems Taylor Award in 2008 for his liner notes to Gil Shaham's recording of The Butterfly Lovers Concerto for Violin. Ken is also the author of Fate! Luck! Chance!, published in 2008 by Chronicle Books.

Ancient Paths, Modern Voices Blog

Catching Up with Long Yu

You'd think it would be difficult to keep up with someone like Long Yu, who in addition to his new post as Music Director of the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra also maintains music directorships of the Guangzhou Symphony, the China Philharmonic, and the Beijing Music Festival (where he seemed to be omnipresent, though usually in the background).

Actually, that commuter path—the equivalent of Boston to Washington to Miami and back—is all too common among business people in China today. That point was driven home once again when I ran into a Hong Kong friend in the lobby of Beijing's Poly Theatre.

Michelle Garnaut, the Melbourne-born restaurateur whose flagship M on the Fringe was just rated Time Out's Best Restaurant in Hong Kong, also garnered a piece in the New York Times last weekend for her recently opened Capital M in Beijing. Partly because of her own passion for music, Michelle's restaurants also attract a disproportionate number of musicians. Fringe has practically been a canteen for principal players and guest soloists at the Hong Kong Philharmonic.

In honor of her recent two-city media blitz, Michelle invited me to Capital M for a bite, where we ran into … Long Yu. Our conversation about the opening of the Shanghai Symphony season, as well as recent concerts by the Guangzhou Symphony (she also has a pied-à-terre facing the Xinghai Concert Hall, the orchestra's home) seemed to have summoned the man himself.

Long Yu was still hovering over an after-dinner glass of wine. It was the longest I'd seen him in one place, so of course I had to go over and ask him about the dramatic "new" Shanghai Symphony.

"There aren't so many new faces," he said. "Only about 25." Only later did it sink in that, in an orchestra of 83 musicians, more than a quarter of the personnel was playing together for the first time. "They are all Chinese—well, no. We also have two Russian musicians, playing the tuba and the trumpet."

Posted by Ken Smith

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