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Friday, October 13, 2017, 12:36
Classical composition captures the sounds of Beijing
By Chen Nan
Friday, October 13, 2017, 12:36 By Chen Nan

Pianist Yuan Fang performs with the NCPA orchestra Ode to Beijing for Piano and Orchestra at the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

There are many ways to experience Beijing - such as through music.

Composer Du Mingxin has condensed the city's sounds into his latest piece, Ode to Beijing for Piano and Orchestra, which premiered at the capital's National Center for the Performing Arts on Oct 10.

Pianist Yuan Fang performed the piece with the NCPA orchestra to a long ovation when the conductor walked onstage afterward.

"I was excited at first and then felt challenged when I was commissioned to compose Ode to Beijing because so many pictures of Beijing appeared in my head," Du says.

The 89-year-old spent a month creating the work using handwritten notes.

The language of classical music is Western. But audiences will instantly feel the Chinese style upon hearing the work

Zhao Jiping, composer

Du is celebrated for such masterpieces as the 1964 Red Detachment of Women ballet and the symphonic version of the Peking Opera, Women Generals of the Yang Family.

He has integrated the classic Peking Opera piece Ye Shen Chen and popular Beijing folk songs into the latest tune.

He selected pianist Yuan to debut the piece, as she has done for other works by Du, including Dream of Potala Palace for Piano and Orchestra.

"She has a solid technique," Du says.

Yuan was born in Shenzhen and started learning piano at age 4.

The 35-year-old came to Beijing at age 11 to study at the Central Conservatory of Music's affiliated middle school.

She spent years learning under German pianist Gerhard Oppitz while majoring in piano and chamber music at the Munich's University of Music and Performing Arts, starting in 2001.

"I lived in a hutong (alley) near Beijing's Central Conservatory of Music when I was 11 and was preparing for my entrance exam for the Central Conservatory of Music's affiliated middle school," she recalls.

"Ode to Beijing reminds me of my days of in the hutong. I was into the score when I got it in September. The piece is full of the capital's color and brings back lots of memories."

Yuan returned to China to become a piano professor at the conservatory in 2008. She is now an independent pianist based in Shenzhen.

She will perform with the Shenzhen Symphony Orchestra, the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, the China Philharmonic Orchestra and the Hangzhou Philharmonic Orchestra from October through November.

The Oct 10 recital also premiered young composer Li Bo's Fei Han and renowned composer Zhao Jiping's Violin Concerto No 1, featuring violinist Ning Feng.

"This is my first violin concerto. I've been imagining it for more than 20 years," Zhao says.

He is celebrated for scoring movie soundtracks for such famous film directors as Zhang Yimou and Chen Kaige.

"The language of classical music is Western. But audiences will instantly feel the Chinese style upon hearing the work," Zhao says.

The NCPA's vice-president, Li Zhixiang, says: "The NCPA showcases Chinese composers' new works every year to positive audience feedback. We've remained dedicated to promoting original Chinese material since the NCPA was founded 10 years ago."

The recital also introduced excerpts from original Chinese opera productions, including arias from Lan Huahua and Jinsha River.

The NCPA commissioned composer San Bao to write the opera, Genghis Khan, scheduled to be staged in 2018. The NCPA Chorus's tenor Wang Cong and soprano Li Xintong performed excerpts at the recital.

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