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Tales of China and the Silk Road in music

“A Pursuit of Dream on the Silk Road” will be presented as the closing performance at the Shanghai Oriental Art Center.

“A Pursuit of Dream on the Silk Road” will be presented as the closing performance at the Shanghai Oriental Art Center.

THE curtain goes up on the 34th Shanghai Spring International Music Festival next weekend, telling stories of China and the legendary Silk Road through music.

The festival, with a history stretching back more than 40 years, will run from April 28 to May 18. So far, the schedule includes more than 39 shows and events.

Encouraging new works and providing a stage for new talent have always been a core principle of Shanghai Spring, says You Cun, an official with the Shanghai Federation of Literary and Art Circles, one of the organizers.

And telling good stories of China is a major theme for the original works.

The festival will open with the concert “Story of China,” comprising solely of original works by composer Ye Xiaogang at the Shanghai Symphony Hall next Friday. The concert will premiere Ye’s new symphony suite “Dunhuang” based on frescoes in the Mogao Grottoes.

“Dunhuang is the first image that occurred to us when we discussed a new work about the Silk Road,” says Zhou Ping, president of Shanghai Symphony Orchestra who commissions the work. “The statues and grottoes there helped record the glamorous cultural clashes between China and the West, and we consider it also a good way to tell the story again to the world — this time by symphony.”

Besides “Dunhuang,” Ye’s other well-known works such as “Mount Emei,” “Song of Sorrow and Comfort,” “Star Light” and “Light of the Himalaya” which also premiered in Shanghai will be presented again at the concert.

Young talent such as pianist Song Siheng, violinist Huang Mengla and bass-baritone Shen Yang will participate, together with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra and the Shanghai Opera House Choir.

The theme of the Silk Road will run through the festival with a series of concerts, including “Friendship Beyond Frontiers” featuring traditional music by musicians from the 10 nations of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on May 14-15; “Melody-Rhythm,” an exchange concert between the Shanghai Conservatory of Music and the Belarusian Stage Academy of Music on May 13; and multimedia symphonic theater “A Pursuit of Dream on the Silk Road” as the closing performance at the Shanghai Oriental Art Center on May 18.

“A Pursuit of Dream” is an innovative work by musicians of the Shanghai Conservatory of Music.

“Dream” combines classical symphony tradition with contemporary multimedia art and ethnic and folk art of China and the world, as well as contemporary musical creation concepts.

All five movements generate the artists’ impression of the legendary Silk Road, with natural and cultural landscapes as basic elements, says Lin Zaiyong of the Shanghai Conservatory of Music.

The festival will also highlight musical legacies from southwest China, says You. Popular traditional music from Sichuan, Yunnan and Guizhou provinces as well as Chongqing Municipality will be staged.

“It will be our first trial for such a presentation at the festival,” says You. “If it is well received this time, the program may be expanded to more regions with characteristic musical legacies in the following years.”

A concert version of the opera “The Spring River Flows East,” which will be staged on May 16-17 at the Shanghai Oriental Art Center, pays homage to the renowned Chinese soprano Zhou Xiaoyan (1917-2016) who made a great contribution to Chinese opera.

As always, audiences will also get to see top artists from both home and abroad, such as composer Tan Dun and baritone Liao Changyong.

Overseas artists include composer Krzysztof Penderecki from Poland, Britain’s King’s Singers Choir and the Chamber Music Society of the Lincoln Centre from the United States.


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