On October 28, China’s National Center for the Performing Arts (NCPA) Orchestra kicked off a six-city tour of the United States with a performance at the Symphony Center in Chicago. The sold-out concert presented a combination of Western and Chinese music, starting off with Chinese composer Zhao Jiping’s Violin Concerto No. 1, played by international competition winner Ning Feng, followed by pipa virtuoso Wu Man playing American composer Lou Harrison’s “Pipa Concerto with String Orchestra” and Bao Yuankai’s “Bamboo Melody.” The repertoire also featured the Western classics Symphony No. 4 by Brahms and Symphony No. 2 by Sibelius. The orchestra went on to play concerts in New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Chapel Hill.
Zhao Jiping is one of the most famous composers in China, gaining international attention for his musical scores in films such as “Farewell My Concubine,” “Raise the Red Lantern” and “To Live.” He is known for combining Chinese instruments and regional opera with Western orchestras. Lou Harrison was known as a maverick composer who blended Eastern and Western musical traditions well before hybrid music was popular.
The tour was inspired by the NCPA’s 10th anniversary. Located in the center of Beijing, the building represents the cultural life force of the city, and the orchestra hopes to showcase the diversity and depth of Chinese music and musicians for the United States. Maestro Lu Jia carefully selected its concert repertoire to place equal emphasis on Eastern and Western music and blend classical works with contemporary pieces. More than just a performing body, the NCPA orchestra is also an example China’s burgeoning interest in classical music, desire to connect with the rest of the world, and its ongoing musical exchange with America.
Rebecca Chen is a graduate student at Georgetown University and a research intern at the East-West Center.