Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra’s centenary concert in China draws people closer with music

todayNovember 28, 2023 5

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Members of the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra take a group photo at the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing on November 14, 2023. Photo: Courtesy of the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra

As the symphonic ­version of My Motherland, which was adapted from the 1956 Chinese movie Battle on Shangganling Mountain score, was performed, the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra (BPO) from Serbia stunned audiences with an amazing encore, ­marking a climactic end to their performance at the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) in Beijing on Tuesday.

After the Philadelphia Orchestra from the US wrapped up their two-night stint at the NCPA concert hall, the BPO took over the venue and held a splendid concert, celebrating the orchestra’s establishment centenary.

This is the BPO’s second visit to China, 23 years after the first, led by famous Estonian conductor Neeme Järvi.

Järvi used his rich experience, which he said was “a lifetime of preparation,” to complete a wonderful performance that overshot the allotted time by 40 minutes.

“We have performed in Xi’an [in Northwest China’s Shaanxi Province] and Weifang [in East China’s Shandong Province] before. In Xi’an, the theater and acoustic equipment there were very good, and this is something worth learning from for us,” Järvi told the Global Times in an exclusive interview after the conclusion of rehearsals on Tuesday.

The BPO China tour, which kicked off on November 4, is set to conclude on November 19. On the penultimate day ahead of their grand finale, the orchestra will mount a performance at the Shanghai Grand Theatre, as part of the Shanghai International Music Festival. 

The concert was unveiled in Verdi’s La forza del destino, Overture, and closed with Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique, Op. 14.

Talented 25-year-old violinist Giovanni Andrea Zanon also joined Tuesday evening’s concert, much to the delight of audiences with his performance of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D major. Zanon represented Italy, the host of the next Winter Olympics, in the “eight-minute” performance at the closing ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, playing the Italian national anthem for the world audience.

Members of the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra perform at the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing on November 14, 2023. Photo: Courtesy of the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra

Members of the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra perform at the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing on November 14, 2023. Photo: Courtesy of the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra

A witness of ties 

The Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra was founded in 1923 by Stevan Hristic, famous composer and conductor in Serbia. In the last decade, the orchestra has held international tours and made guest performances in countries such as Italy, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and France, injecting fresh vitality into the international music scene.

The BPO’s 2023 China tour was initiated by the legendary conductor Zubin Mehta, who hopes to support the orchestra’s international promotion in prestigious music centers that only open their venues to the most distinguished orchestras. 

Mehta believes that the BPO deserves a place among the finest symphonic ensembles in the world. However, due to health issues, Mehta had to cancel his performance. 

The BPO’s China tour was taken over by Järvi, the renowned conductor from Estonia. With a brilliant career spanning decades, including conducting some of the most famous orchestras and top soloists, and with more than 450 recordings under his belt, the 86-year-old conductor is respected globally.

Despite the last-minute change, Järvi was no less prepared for every performance. “I have prepared for it all of my life,” he said.

Before coming to Beijing, the orchestra performed in Xi’an, where Järvi not only praised the city for its Terracotta Warriors, but also commended China for having a large number of well-equipped concert halls, something he said Estonia needs to learn from.

Järvi equated performing music in a good venue to the football playing on a perfect pitch. “With the need for 100 people to be accommodated, without acoustics, we need to build those halls and we need to pay attention to the culture, especially for music. We should learn from China. China is doing a wonderful thing,” he said.

“We want to make creations when we conductors and the orchestra get together to find similar understanding from each other,” said Järvi. “I hope that young Chinese people can come to Estonia to learn conducting with me in Pärnu, a city where we have a summer music festival where great musicians from all over Europe come together.” 

Concert Maestro Tijana ­Milosevic told the Global Times that some of the orchestra members, including herself, in this second visit also came to China in the 2000 visit.

“I am very happy to come back in Beijing and experience some local features [of the city] again, which is completely different from when I first came 23 years ago,” Milosevic told the Global Times.

Intensive communication

Since the beginning of this year, a flourishing live performance market has seen several orchestras usher in new seasons and open in Beijing. Starting from March, world-class masters and orchestras such as Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Symphony Orchestra, and Adam Fischer and the Vienna Symphony Orchestra have made their return to Beijing. 

In early November, the collaboration between the Philadelphia Orchestra and the China National Symphony Orchestra witnessed a musical exchange between China and the US. 

The successive visits by large orchestras to China have not only allowed China to catch up to the international music scene since a COVID-19-induced pause, but are also paving the way for the rise of local orchestras.

On Monday, the 2023 World Theatre Alliance Conference and World Symphony Beijing Forum opened in Beijing, with more than 300 representatives from 187 international art institutions in attendance.

“The global performing arts industry is bonded. And we hope to build an open and multilateral exchange platform, and promote the international development of excellent performing arts through the establishment of the alliance,” said Wang Ning, president of the new alliance and head of NCPA.

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Written by: Soft FM Radio Staff

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