Prestigious Chinese orchestra to give first UK tour to celebrate 60th anniversary

One of China’s most prestigious orchestras, the Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra, undertakes its first UK tour under the baton of its esteemed Music Director, Long Yu, hailed by The New York Times as ‘the Chinese Karajan’ and the ‘Titan’ of China’s Western classical music scene.

Since its founding in 1957, the Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra has become one of the ‘shining stars’ among China’s increasingly distinguished orchestras. It is the only Chinese symphony orchestra to have toured and performed on five continents and one of the first Chinese orchestras to establish a full concert season at home: over the past twenty years it has steadily built a strong following, transforming the cultural life of the city, and is now attracting large and enthusiastic audiences for its wide-ranging performances at its home, the Xinghai Concert Hall on the banks of the Pearl River.

The GSO’s first UK tour, part of its fifteenth international tour, celebrates both the orchestra’s sixtieth anniversary and the 45th anniversary of the establishment of full diplomatic relations between the UK and China, symbolising the ever-strengthening ties between the two nations. 

The tour is led by the GSO’s Music Director Long Yu, credited for transforming the development of classical music in China. Remarkably, Mr. Yu directs all three of China’s leading orchestras, including the China Philharmonic, Shanghai Symphony as well as the GSO. He is also the founder and president of the highly-regarded Beijing Music Festival and one of the world’s busiest conductors, renowned for his high standards; energetic musicianship; rigorous selection of the best players; and disciplined rehearsal style. Long Yu is also celebrated for his extraordinary leadership skills, political acumen and consummate fund-raising abilities, which together with his artistic talents, have made him one of the most influential and powerful musicians working in China and abroad.

In London and Birmingham Long Yu conducts the GSO in music which brings together East and West with UK premieres of two works commissioned by the Orchestra from two leading contemporary Chinese composers alongside iconic works by Britten and Stravinsky. In Manchester, the same programme is conducted by Jing Huan, who has been the Resident Conductor of the orchestra since 2013 after making her critically-acclaimed debut leading the ensemble alongside soloist Maxim Vengerov. The soloists include Shanghai-born international cellist Jian Wang and Lei Jia on sheng, the traditional bamboo woodwind instrument.

A particular highlight of the programme is the atmospheric and melodic Duo for cello, sheng and orchestra, originally composed for Yo-Yo Ma and Wu Tong by renowned film composer Zhao Lin. Zhao Lin’s contemplative concerto tracks his subject’s physical and spiritual relationship to his surroundings, with the cellist as melodic human protagonist and the sheng’s ornamental presence representing the divine. Ye Xiaogang’s Guangdong Music Suite, also commissioned by the GSO, is inspired by the musical culture of the Pearl River delta and its environs which is home to the orchestra. The programme is completed by Britten’s Four Sea Interludes and Stravinsky’s The Firebird suite in the 1919 version.

14 May, London, Cadogan Hall

15 May, Manchester, Bridgewater Hall

16 May, Birmingham, Symphony Hall

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