NEW YORK (Jan. 5, 2016) – The New York Philharmonic, in collaboration with CAMI Music, will celebrate the Chinese New Year for the fifth consecutive year, this time welcoming the Year of the Monkey with a program of music by Chinese composers and a work inspired by China, celebrating the cultural heritage of China and honoring the Chinese-American community at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 9, 2016.
Long Yu — music director of the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, artistic director and chief conductor of the China Philharmonic Orchestra, artistic director of the Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra, and founding artistic director of the Beijing Music Festival — will return to the Philharmonic to conduct the Chinese New Year Concert for the fifth consecutive season.
This year’s program will feature Maxim Vengerov performing Chen Gang and He Zhanhao’s The Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto and Kreisler’s Tambourin chinois, and Principal Harp Nancy Allen performing the New York Premiere of Tan Dun’s Nu Shu: The Secret Songs of Women, symphony for 13 micro films, harp, and orchestra. The Spring Festival Overture, Li Huanzhi’s traditional work celebrating the Chinese New Year, will once again open the concert.
Nu Shu: The Secret Songs of Women is based on the language Nüshu, a disappearing vocal tradition created by and for women in Hunan, China, in the 13th century, and is performed with a screening of 13 micro films, derived from the composer’s field recordings, that tell stories of Nüshu women. Tan Dun said of the work: “The slow disappearance of the Nüshu tradition and culture has troubled me for many years. … I wanted to do the field research, anthromusicology study, collect the songs of Nüshu and eventually compose a new symphonic concerto piece for the world and for my home village, to continue the tradition and to create a future from the past.”
The Philharmonic’s salute to the Year of the Monkey will also include a free outdoor event the afternoon of the concert at 4:30 p.m. on Lincoln Center’s Josie Robertson Plaza featuring the Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company performing the traditional Dragon Dance, as well as public school students from the National Dance Institute performing folk-inspired dances.
Gala events will include a pre-concert champagne reception from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m., which will include a traditional Dragon Dance by the Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company; the concert; and a seated dinner immediately following the performance. Gala dress will be traditional Chinese attire or black-tie. The Honorary Gala Chairmen are Mr. and Mrs. Maurice R. Greenberg, H.E. Ambassador Liu Jieyi, and H.E. Consul-General Zhang Qiyue. The Gala Co-Chairmen are Angela Chen, Guoqing Chen and Ming Liu, Agnes Hsu-Tang and Oscar L. Tang, and Shirley Young. The Starr International Foundation is the Presenting Sponsor of the Chinese New Year Gala.
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 Chinese-Americans and recent immigrants from China.
The New York Philharmonic is partnering with the China Central Academy of Fine Arts for 2016 Happy Chinese New Year Fantastic Art China, a series of U.S.–China artistic Chinese New Year celebrations throughout New York City including fireworks over the Hudson River and a festive lighting of the Empire State Building.
As music director of the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, Long Yu played a central role in the establishment of the Shanghai Orchestra Academy and Residency Partnership, a joint endeavor of the New York Philharmonic and Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, a cornerstone and founding component of the New York Philharmonic Global Academy.
Conductor Long Yu is music director of the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, artistic director and chief conductor of the China Philharmonic Orchestra, artistic director of the Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra, and founding artistic director of the Beijing Music Festival. He shares the position of artistic co-director of the MISA Festival with Charles Dutoit, bringing classical music to the young people of Shanghai. Long Yu was born in Shanghai in 1964 into a family of musicians. His grandfather Ding Shande, a renowned composer, encouraged him to study at the Shanghai Conservatory and the Hochschule der Künste in Berlin. Upon returning to China Mr. Yu was appointed principal conductor of the Central Opera Theatre in Beijing. He has been named a Chevalier dans L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, and received the Montblanc Cultural Foundation’s 2002 Arts Patronage Award and the title of L’onorificenza di commendatore from the Italian government in 2005. In 2014 Mr. Yu and the China Philharmonic became the first Chinese conductor and the first Chinese orchestra to play at the BBC Proms in a televised performance at London’s Royal Albert Hall viewed by millions of people across the U.K. He performs regularly with ensembles and opera companies including the Orchestre de Paris; BBC, Chicago, Singapore, and Sydney symphony orchestras; Hamburg Staatsoper; Maggio Musicale Fiorentino; The Philadelphia Orchestra; and the New York, Los Angeles, Munich, and Hong Kong Philharmonic orchestras. Long Yu played a leading role in establishing the Shanghai Orchestra Academy through a partnership between the New York Philharmonic and Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, with collaboration from the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. In 2014 the Philharmonic named Long Yu an honorary member of the International Advisory Board, established to support the Philharmonic’s activities abroad, including the New York Philharmonic Global Academy. Mr. Yu’s first appearance with the Philharmonic was leading the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra on a New York Philharmonic Concerts in the Parks program on Central Park’s Great Lawn in 2010, and he first led the Orchestra in January 2012, conducting the inaugural Chinese New Year Concert. He most recently led the Orchestra in the February 2015 Chinese New Year Concert and Gala.
Nancy Allen joined the New York Philharmonic in June 1999 as Principal Harp, The Mr. and Mrs. William T. Knight III Chair. She maintains a busy international concert schedule and heads the harp departments of The Juilliard School and the Aspen Music Festival and School, and she appears regularly with The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. Ms. Allen performed the U.S. Premiere of Siegfried Matthus’s Concerto for Flute, Harp, and Orchestra, alongside Principal Flute Robert Langevin and led by Music Director Emeritus Kurt Masur in May 2000. She has collaborated with soprano Kathleen Battle, clarinetist Richard Stoltzman, and guitarist Manuel Barrueco, and with flutist Carol Wincenc and Philharmonic Principal Viola Cynthia Phelps in their trio, Les Amies. She has appeared on PBS’s Live From Lincoln Center with The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, as well as with Ms. Battle, and has performed as a recitalist for “Music at the Supreme Court” in Washington, D.C. Ms. Allen’s recording of Ravel’s Introduction and Allegro with the Tokyo Quartet, flutist Ransom Wilson, and clarinetist David Shifrin received a Grammy Award nomination. She can also be heard on the Sony Classical, Deutsche Grammophon, and CRI labels. Nancy Allen is a native of New York, where she studied with Pearl Chertok and undertook private lessons in piano and oboe. In 1972 she both studied with Lily Laskine in Paris and entered The Juilliard School to study with Marcel Grandjany. Ms. Allen won the Fifth International Harp Competition, in Israel, in 1973 and was later awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Solo Recitalist Award. Her students hold positions in prominent orchestras around the world. Nancy Allen made her Philharmonic debut in November 1998 performing Frank Martin’s Petite symphonie concertante alongside Philharmonic pianist Harriet Wingreen and harpsichordist Lionel Party, led by Colin Davis; most recently she performed Mozart’s Flute and Harp Concerto, alongside Principal Flute Robert Langevin and led by Lorin Maazel, in October 2011.
Li Huanzhi (1919–2000) composed The 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 Chinese New Year or 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 Chinese New Year celebrations since January 2012, conducted by Long Yu.
He Zhanhao (b. 1933) and Chen Gang (b. 1935) composed The Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto (1959) while they were students at the Shanghai Conservatory. While much of the piece nods to traditional Chinese opera and the violin technique calls upon that of the Chinese Erhu, the two-string fiddle, stylistically the work reflects both Eastern and Western influences. A programmatic work based on the ancient legend of lovers Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai, the single-movement concerto is broken into three sections, each corresponding to a part of the progressing tale: Falling in Love, Refusing To Marry, and Metamorphosis.
Violinist Fritz Kreisler (1875–1962) composed numerous short works to perform in his recitals, and while many of them bore the hallmarks of European influence, his 1910 Tambourin chinois stands apart. But though it sounds like it’s directly inspired by Chinese music — utilizing a pentatonic scale and parallel fifths — its composition predates his visit to China. Kreisler explains: “I don’t mind telling you that I enjoyed very much writing my Tambourin Chinois. The idea for it came to me after a visit to the Chinese theater in San Francisco — not that the music there suggested any theme, but it gave me the impulse to write a free fantasy in the Chinese manner.” Kreisler joined Walter Damrosch and the New York Symphony (which merged with the Philharmonic Society of New York in 1928 to create the New York Philharmonic) in January 1916 as soloist for two performances of Tambourin chinois; the work’s most recent Philharmonic performance was on New Year’s Eve 2013, when Aleksey Igudesman performed his arrangement of the work as part of Igudesman and Joo’s appearance with the Orchestra, led by Alan Gilbert.
Tan Dun’s (b. 1957) Nu Shu: The Secret Songs of Women, symphony for 13 micro films, harp, and orchestra (2013) reflects the composer’s interest in moving image, sound, and history to craft a multimedia anthropological study of a disappearing language and phonetic script — exclusive to women — from Tan Dun’s native Hunan Province. The composer collected more than 200 hours of field recordings, which include the vanishing stories and sounds of Nüshu and its women. Each of the 13 movements focuses on a different micro film created from these recordings. Tan Dun’s choice of the harp reflects not only what he considers the instrument’s feminine sound and its style of playing (which honors the Nüshu women), but also its distinct physical shape, similar to one of Nüshu’s characters.
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The Starr International Foundation is the Presenting Sponsor of the Chinese New Year Gala.
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Programs are supported, in part, by public funds from 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.
Tickets for these concerts 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.)
For information about purchasing tables or tickets to the Gala (including pre-concert reception, concert, and post-concert dinner with the artists), please contact the Office of Special Events at [email protected], or 212-875-5366.