Explore the Festival
Full Calendar ›
Browse Artists ›
Focus on
Ancient Paths ›
Modern Voices ›
Ways to Buy
Save 15% or More on
Festival Tickets
Buy a Three-Concert
Package and Save
Blog Archive
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

A New Era in Shanghai

Shanghai Symphony Orchestra

The night before I left for China, I found myself sitting in front of a music journalist I know from Shanghai, so I thought I'd pump her for information about the "new" Shanghai Symphony Orchestra. Even before the season's opening night, the 130-year-old orchestra was being touted as entering a significantly new era under its new Music Director Long Yu. My friend, Eva Yu (no relation)—who is Managing Editor of Music Lover magazine—devotes most of her time to international artists, but she said she cleared her schedule to see the symphony's opening concert last month with Lang Lang playing Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2.

Nearly a decade ago, Long Yu made history in China by creating the China Philharmonic Orchestra, partly by luring players from the China National Symphony Orchestra, partly by auditioning extensively abroad. Ever since his Shanghai music directorship was announced, the maestro has been quite upfront about his plans to do the same there.

Earlier this year, the orchestra auditioned both in Germany and in America. This was not only to attract the largest talent base possible, but also to convince young Chinese-born players graduating from Western conservatories that they could have credible employment back home. I'd heard that quite a few new faces were in this season's Shanghai Symphony lineup.

"There were a lot of young faces," Eva confirmed. "Lots of new energy in the playing." For a Western comparison, it was more like the Berliner Philharmoniker than the Vienna Philharmonic, she added, the biggest improvement coming in the sections that have been traditionally weak among orchestras in China. "The brass playing in particular," she said, "was much better than before."

Posted by Ken Smith

© 2001-2009 Carnegie Hall Corporation

Chinese Translation (Traditional Characters)
Chinese Translation (Simplified Characters)