I recently had the pleasure of conducting the orchestra in Shenzhen, China. Shenzhen is an ultra-modern city just across the border from Hong Kong, which remains a special administrative region of China, with its own immigration regulations. One typically flies into Hong Kong and is greeted by a driver who manages to navigate the left hand side of the road through Hong Kong and the New Territories, then upon crossing the border, eases into the right (correct??) side of the road in Shenzhen!
I was a little apprehensive about the trip, going to a non-tourist center, to conduct what most consider one of the top orchestras in China. But the trip was a major success! The Orchestra is quite young (I was reminded that the first graduating class from Chinese conservatories, post Cultural Revolution, occurred in the 80’s. But what struck me was the universality of the personnel. I rehearsed them in English very successfully. Several players had studied at my alma mater, CCM, and one fellow had done a long stint at the Lancaster Festival, just down the road from Westerville! There were several Europeans although the complexion was predominantly Asian. I was met with a schedule of four days of back to back rehearsals, which seemed excessive, but I quickly realized that the players truly rely on the rehearsal time to assimilate the music. They listen to each other with acute attention, and precision. They seemed to respond very well to me, and there is already talk of re-engagement.
I took a program of Prokofiev’s music from Romeo and Juliet (a suite I have adapted from both of Prokofiev’s extractions and some of the complete ballet) as well as the Lalo Rhapsody Espagnole with Yang Tianwa, an amazing violinist born in Beijing but living now in Frankfurt.
The acoustically superb Shenzhen Concert Hall, like everything else in the city, is ultra modern, and the audience was attentive, gracious, and quite young! I was told the numbers were a little off because my concert conflicted with the World Cup finals on TV! So football seems to rule everywhere!
I had been to China a number of times, and it has been extraordinary to watch the evolution of style, taste, and affinity for Western Art. Ironic that the day I landed, our government imposed $2billion in tariffs against the Chinese. So I did what little bit I could to assuage Sino/US relations. I hope I did some good!