On December 13 the Central Conservatory of Music Symphony Orchestra of Beijing (CCOM) will make its U.S. debut at Carnegie Hall. Under the baton of noted conductor Feng Yu, who is also the Central Conservatory’s president, the orchestra will perform contemporary Chinese compositions for modern symphony orchestra and traditional Chinese instruments. The eight composers are all are on the Conservatory’s faculty.
Says conductor Feng Yu, this concert “exemplifies the creative concept of the Central Conservatory of Music, which is rooted in national creation, embracing the world, embracing the future, and presenting the artistic style of the Central Conservatory of Music.”
Feng Yu has served as chairman of the China Conducting Society and vice chairman of the China Artistic Education Promotion Association. The author of Chinese Modern Pedagogy for Conducting, he has had breakthrough success conducting both Chinese and Western operas. He has collaborated with renowned symphony orchestras in Europe, including as principal guest conductor of the Rome Symphony Orchestra from 2011 to 2014, as well as in China.
Since its founding in 2016, the CCOM has performed more than 100 concerts of Chinese and international repertoire. The works on the Dec. 13 program will, among other things, offer insight into ways a Chinese sensibility can be expressed through the modern symphony orchestra. Six of them will be U.S. premieres.
Presented by MidAmerica Productions (MAP), the Carnegie Hall concert opens MAP’s 37th Annual Concert Season. MAP General Director and Music Director Peter Tiboris says of the CCOM, “I conducted them on a visit to China earlier this year, and was very impressed with their focus and preparation. The Central Conservatory is the best of its kind in China, and compares favorably with its counterparts around the world.”
Speaking of the selections on the Dec. 13 concert program, Tiboris noted that “the composers represent not only the best of the best in China; this is some of the most interesting music being written today.”
The internationally acclaimed instrumental soloists include bamboo flute players Linfeng Fan and Ya Dai; sheng player Yang Zheng; marimba player Jingli Zhang; and pipa player Qiang Zhang. (The sheng is a reed instrument with a cluster of bamboo pipes; the pipa is a somewhat lute-like string instrument.)
The program includes works by Danbu Chen, Guoping Jia, Jianping Tang, Ping Chang, Weiya Hao, Wenchen Qin, Wenjing Guo, and Xiaogang Ye. They represent, in Tiboris’ words, “the best of the best in China.”
To note just some of them:
Xiaogang Ye is founder and artistic director of the Beijing Modern Music Festival. His piano concerto Starry Sky was heard worldwide at the opening ceremony concert of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Guoping Jia founded the Ensemble ConTempo Beijing, the first Chinese modern music ensemble that combines Western and Eastern instruments.
The New York Times called Wenjing Guo “the only Chinese composer who has never lived abroad but established an international reputation.” His concerto for erhu (two-stringed Chinese fiddle) and orchestra, for example, was performed at the Juilliard School’s Focus Festival in 2018. He has been commissioned to write a piano concerto for the Beijing Olympic Winter Games in 2022.
Weiya Hao, head of the CCOM’s composition department, has been a visiting scholar at the Conservatorio Santa Cecilia in Rome and at Columbia University in New York. He was recognized worldwide for his new ending to Puccini’s opera Turandot, which he composed for the premiere season of the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing.
Still, the composers are relatively unfamiliar names to U.S. audiences. A concert like this is a welcome step toward familiarizing American concertgoers with the broad spectrum of the best in modern Chinese music. Tickets are available online, by phone via CarnegieCharge at 212-247-7800, and at the Carnegie Hall Box Office.