It’s a busy week for the San Francisco Symphony. As well as the Bernstein Centennial performances, there are the Diá de los Muertos celebrations on Saturday, and on Sunday the organization hosts the debut performance at Davies Symphony Hall of the China National Center for the Performing Arts Orchestra, part of a six-city US tour which celebrates the Centre’s 10th anniversary season.
Led by Lü Jia, the Orchestra plays Chen Qigang’s Luan Tan, Lou Harrison’s Concerto for Pipa with String Orchestra, with soloist Wu Man, and Brahms’ Symphony No 4.
Currently Artistic Director of the Santa Cruz de Tenerife Symphony Orchestra and Opera Director of the China National Opera House. Lü Jia is also Musical Director and Principal Conductor of the Macao Orchestra – a post which he’s held since 2008 – and Honorary Dean of Dalian Arts College in China. He has led performances in concert halls across Europe, the Americas and Australia, and appeared in some of the world’s leading opera houses, including the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich, the Deutsche Oper Berlin, and La Scala in Milan.
Lü Jia has held the positions of Music Director of the Arena di Verona, and Principal Conductor for the Trieste Opera, the Tuscany Regional Orchestra in Florence, the Lazio Chamber Orchestra in Rome, and Sweden’s Norrköping Symphony Orchestra. He has also guested for the Hallé and Bournemouth Symphony orchestras in England, the Dortmund Opera House in Germany, and the Milan Giuseppe Verdi Symphony Orchestra in Italy.
The soloist in Sunday’s performance is the premier pipa virtuoso, Wu Man, described by Gramophone magazine as “…. a muse for all manner of contemporary composers, from Tan Dun to Terry Riley”, who is credited with introducing traditional Chinese music to new audiences, and whose work, says Musical America, “… is part of a big step in the evolution of Western classical music. Thanks to her, the pipa is no longer an exotic curiosity, let alone a complete mystery”.
Soloist, educator and composer, Wu Man was appointed to the role of Visiting Professor of three major Chinese conservatories – the Shanghai Conservatory, the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing – where she studied – and the Zhejiang Conservatory in her hometown. She has premiered hundreds of new works for the pipa – the lute-like instrument which dates back around 2000 years in Chinese history – and has also initiated a number of multimedia projects to preserve China’s ancient musical traditions and to introduce them to the world. She was awarded The Bunting Fellowship at Harvard in 1998, and was the first Chinese traditional musician to receive The United States Artist Fellowship in 2008. Wu Man was named Musical America’s 2013 Instrumentalist of the Year – the first time that a player of a non-Western instrument has been honored with this award – and she was the first artist from China to perform at the White House.
In this performance, Wu Man celebrates the centennial of American composer Lou Harrison with the Concerto for Pipa which he wrote for her, and which she premiered in 1997 in honor of the composer’s 80th birthday. It’s described as a colorful work which represents his ability to blend the sounds of Western music with those of the countries on the other side of the Pacific from his West Coast home.
The opening work of the concert is Qigang Chen’s Luan Tan – a tribute to the composer’s son who lost his life at the age of 29. Qigang Chen describes this work as “energetic and happy …. positive, dynamic and full of life” – as was his son. Luan Tan was premiered by Xian Zhang and the Hong Kong Philharmonic on April 17, 2016, and receives its first US performances during this tour.
Lü Jia leads the China National Center for the Performing Arts Orchestra, with soloist Wu man, at Davies Symphony Hall on Sunday November 5 at 8.00 pm. For more information and tickets, visit the San Francisco Symphony website.
Sources of information: