NEW YORK (Nov. 11, 2017) — The New York Philharmonic will celebrate the Lunar New Year, welcoming the Year of the Dog with a Gala and Concert led by Long Yu in a program that will include Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy with pianist Serena Wang and the Farmers’ Chorus of the Yunnan Province, both in their New York Philharmonic debuts, and Li Huanzhi’s traditional Spring Festival Overture.
The Gala event on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018, will include a pre-concert champagne reception from 6 to 7 p.m.; the concert at 7:30 p.m., and a seated dinner immediately following the performance. Gala dress will be traditional Asian attire or black-tie.
The Honorary Gala Chairmen are Mr. and Mrs. Maurice R. Greenberg. The Gala Co-Chairmen are Angela Chen, Guoqing Chen and Ming Liu, Misook Doolittle, Agnes Hsu-Tang and Oscar L. Tang, and Shirley Young. Starr International Foundation is the Presenting Sponsor of the Lunar New Year Gala.
This will be the first time that the Farmers’ Chorus of the Yunnan Province has appeared outside China. Created 15 years ago in the mountains of southern China, the chorus comprises 50 farmers of the Miao ethnicity, all of whom learned Western vocal techniques from preceding generations, who in turn were taught by Christian missionaries in the 1930s.
The New York Philharmonic has welcomed the Lunar New Year with an annual celebration since 2012. A portion of the Gala’s proceeds will help fund the acclaimed Philharmonic Schools activities at P.S. 120 in Flushing, Queens, an elementary school that is attended by a large population of Asian-Americans and recent immigrants from Asia.
Conductor Long Yu is music director of the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, principal guest conductor of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, and artistic director and chief conductor of the China Philharmonic Orchestra. He is the founder and artistic director of the Beijing Music Festival, and co-director of the MISA Shanghai Summer Festival. He is marking his 16th season as music director of the Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra, where he made his debut in 1993; since being named music director in 2003, he has presided over the orchestra’s European and Egyptian tours, including performances at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, Conservatoire de Luxembourg, Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw, and the Cairo Opera House. He has collaborated with soloists including Alison Balsom, Sumi Jo, Lang Lang, Yo-Yo Ma, Mischa Maisky, Maxim Vengerov, and Yuja Wang. Long Yu has conducted orchestras and opera companies throughout the world, including the New York, Los Angeles, Munich, Hong Kong, and Tokyo philharmonic orchestras; Chicago, Montreal, National, Cincinnati, Bamberg, NDR, Melbourne, Sydney, BBC, and Singapore symphony orchestras; Berlin and MDR Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestras; and The Philadelphia Orchestra, Orchestre de Paris, and Hamburg Staatsoper. In 2008, for the first time in history, the China Philharmonic Orchestra performed under the baton of Long Yu at the Vatican in the Hall of Pope Paul VI, a concert attended by Pope Benedict XVI that marked a giant step in bringing Eastern and Western cultures closer together. In the 2017–18 season, aside from his work in China, he returns to the New York Philharmonic, Orchestre de Paris, London’s Philharmonia Orchestra, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Zurich’s Tonhalle Orchestra, Orchestre du Capitole de Toulouse, and Orchestre national de Lyon. Born in 1964 into a musical family in Shanghai, Long Yu studied at the Shanghai Conservatory and the Hochschule der Künste in Berlin. In 1992 he was appointed principal conductor of the Central Opera Theatre in Beijing and served as its conductor for three years. He created opera productions for the Urban Council of Hong Kong for five years. In 1998 he led the creation of the Beijing Music Festival and has since been its artistic director. Long Yu led the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra on a New York Philharmonic Concerts in the Parks program on Central Park’s Great Lawn in 2010; he has conducted the New York Philharmonic’s annual Lunar New Year Concert and Gala since 2012, when he made his New York Philharmonic debut.
Born in San Francisco in 2004, Serena Wang (also known as Wang Yalun) made her concerto debut at age six performing Haydn’s Piano Concerto No. 11 with the Shenzhen Symphony Orchestra, led by Zhang Guoyong, at the Third Beijing International Piano Festival. She has appeared with the China Philharmonic Orchestra; China NCPA Orchestra; Shenzhen, Shanghai, Vancouver, and Guangzhou symphony orchestras; Israel and Hong Kong Philharmonic orchestras; and the Orquesta Juvenil Universitaria Eduardo Mata. She has worked with conductors including Zubin Mehta, Gustavo Rivero Weber, Long Yu, Guoyong Zhang, Jia Lu, Yang Yang, and Qiyuan Zhu. First prize winner at China’s Second National Youth Piano Competition in Xiamen and Japan’s 15th Asia Chopin Piano Competition, she has performed in Russia, Finland, Italy, Switzerland, Israel, United States, Singapore, China, Japan, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. She made her debut recording on Channel Classics at age nine performing solo works by Mozart, Chopin, Liszt, Poulenc, Shostakovich, Tan Dun, and Zhaoyi Dan. In the 2016–17 season she joined the China Philharmonic Orchestra’s North American tour and performed with the Shanghai and Guangzhou Symphony Orchestras, Hong Kong Philharmonic, and with Guoyong Zhang and the Qingdao Symphony Orchestra. She also appeared at Italy’s 54th International Piano Festival of Bergamo and Brescia and performed in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Haifa with Zubin Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. In 2017–18 she returns to the International Piano Festival of Bergamo and Brescia, joins Zubin Mehta on the Israel Philharmonic’s China tour in Suzhou and Harbin, makes her debuts with the New York Philharmonic and London’s Philharmonia Orchestra, and returns to the Guangzhou and Kunming Symphony Orchestras. Serena Wang began studying piano with Sumi Nagasawa in California in 2008. She returned to China with her family and continued her studies with Dan Zhaoyi in Chengdu in 2010. She currently studies with Meng-Chieh Liu in Boston. This performance marks Serena Wang’s New York Philharmonic debut.
Created 15 years ago in the mountains of Southern China, the Farmers’ Chorus of the Yunnan Province, led by choirmaster Guangyuan Long, comprises 50 farmers of the Miao ethnicity. None have ever received any professional training, instead absorbing the Western Baroque and bel canto singing traditions introduced by Christian missionaries in the 1930s by word of mouth over the course of generations. Based at the Xiaoshuijing village church, the choir tours greater China and collaborates with international ensembles, including the Russian Philharmonic Orchestra. Since its inception, the choir, which performs in ethnic dress indigenous to this part of the Yunnan Province, has received widespread recognition across China. Among its numerous awards are first prizes in the inaugural China Western Choral Festival, First Yunnan Nie Er Music Week, First Kunming Nie Er Cup Chorus Festival, and First National Farmers’ Chorus Festival in Guangzhou. In 2008 the chorus represented the Yunnan province as the only Miao ensemble in the CCTV Young Singers’ Match; along with a top prize, the chorus received invitations to perform at Beijing’s National Centre for the Performing Arts and the Central Conservatory of Music. The chorus has also appeared at UNESCO’s Humanity Photo Awards 2011, the Opening Ceremony of the second Nie Er Music and Chorus Week in Shanghai Grand Theatre, the Beijing Television Spring Festival Gala, the Shanghai Spring International Music Festival, and the Jianshui Charity Concert, and made two appearances on the popular television show Mama Miya on Shanghai Dragon TV. The Miao reside primarily in Xiaoshuijing, a small Fumin county village of 158 families. Missionaries introduced Christianity in 1937, and today an estimated 80% of the village population identifies as Christian. In 2007 Xiaoshuijing was designated the Pilot Village of New Rural Construction in Kunming, aiming to increase agricultural production and improve living standards. This performance marks the New York Philharmonic debut of the Farmers’ Chorus of the Yunnan Province.
Li Huanzhi (1919–2000) composed Spring Festival Overture in 1955–56 as a cheerful depiction of the Spring Festival, the term used in China for what is known in the U.S. as the Lunar New Year. The piece has become immensely popular throughout China — performed in arrangements for various groupings of Chinese instruments, Western instruments, or combinations of the two — and is also well known well beyond that country: in 2007, it was one of 30 musical selections sent into outer space aboard Chang’e No. 1, China’s first lunar-probe satellite, which beamed this music back to earth. Andre Kostelanetz led the Orchestra’s first performance of this piece in May 1972; it has been performed annually as part of the Lunar New Year celebrations since January 2012, conducted by Long Yu.
When Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827) conducted and performed the now-infamous premiere of his Choral Fantasy in December 1808 at the legendary Akademie benefit concert at Vienna’s Theater an der Wien, it was, for everyone involved, too much of a good thing executed under the most difficult circumstances. Hastily composed — uncharacteristic for Beethoven — and under-rehearsed, it “simply fell apart,” according to Beethoven’s secretary Anton Schindler. Polished after the premiere, the Choral Fantasy combines piano and orchestra with voices singing a text written by either Christoph Kuffner or Georg Friedrich Treitschke (the authorship is disputed). The work comprises a solo piano introduction, a set of variations, and a chorale finish. The theme woven throughout is based on Beethoven’s 1795 song “Gegenliebe” (“Requited Love”), and foreshadows the famous chorale theme in the final movement of the Ninth Symphony. The solo piano portions are constructed in a free-variation style that tips its hat to Beethoven’s keyboard improvisation skills — he did not notate the solo piano portion in its entirety until 1809. The New York Philharmonic first performed the work in January 1877, led by Leopold Damrosch with pianist Bernard Boekelman and the Oratorio Society of New York; the Orchestra most recently performed it in February 2001, led by then Music Director Kurt Masur with pianist Jonathan Biss and the Berlin Radio Choir.
Starr International Foundation is the Presenting Sponsor of the Lunar New Year Gala.
* * *
Citi. Preferred Card of the New York Philharmonic.
* * *
Emirates is the Official Airline of the New York Philharmonic.
* * *
PurePoint Financial. Season Sponsor of the New York Philharmonic.
* * *
Programs are supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the New York State Council on the Arts, with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.
Single tickets for the Lunar New Year Concert and Gala start at $35. Tickets may be purchased online at nyphil.org or by calling (212) 875-5656, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Monday through Friday; 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Saturday; and noon to 5:00 p.m. Sunday. Tickets may also be purchased at the David Geffen Hall Box Office. The Box Office opens at 10:00 a.m. Monday through Saturday, and at noon on Sunday. On performance evenings, the Box Office closes one-half hour after performance time; other evenings it closes at 6:00 p.m. To determine ticket availability, call the Philharmonic’s Customer Relations Department at (212) 875-5656. (Ticket prices subject to change.)