The Shanghai Symphony Orchestra is the earliest and best known ensemble of its kind in Asia. It is a keeper of Western orchestral traditions in China and a passionate champion of Chinese new music. Spanning three centuries, the Shanghai Symphony has held over ten thousand concerts, including premiere performances of several thousand musical works, and has collaborated with many guest artists (conductors, soloists and vocalists) of world renown. Under the current leadership of music director, Long Yu, the SSO has embarked on 6 international tours in the last 5 years, more than any other orchestra in China.
Originally known as the Shanghai Public Band, it developed into an orchestra in 1907, and was renamed the Shanghai Municipal Council Symphony Orchestra in 1922. Notably under the baton of the Italian conductor Mario Paci, the orchestra promoted Western music and trained Chinese young talents very early on in China, and introduced the first Chinese orchestral work to the audience.
Since the 1970s, the Shanghai Symphony has toured extensively abroad. In 1990, the orchestra made its debut at Carnegie Hall; in 2003, it performed in 11 cities in the US; in 2004, it toured Europe to celebrate the Sino-French Cultural Year. In 2005 it became the first Chinese orchestra to play in the Berliner Philharmonie; this historical performance marked the ensemble’s 125th anniversary and enjoyed great success with the audience and the critics. In 2009, the orchestra returned to North America to open Carnegie Hall’s Ancient Paths, Modern Voices festival of Chinese culture, which was followed by a highly successful coast-to-coast tour of the United States. In 2010 it was named a cultural ambassador of the World Expo and delivered a riveting performance to 100,000 New Yorkers on the Great Lawn of Central Park.
The Shanghai Symphony has become increasingly influential both at home and abroad with renowned audio and video recordings including Zhu Jian’er’s Symphonies, Tan Dun’s multimedia concerto The Map, and music for the prize-winning film (Oscar and Grammy Awards) Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
The orchestra is also committed to introducing high-profile artists and art forms into Shanghai. Since 2009, the orchestra has performed its annual televised “Shanghai New Year’s Concert” with the aim of connecting western maestros to Shanghai. Past concerts have featured Riccardo Muti, Kurt Masur, Mikhail Pletnev, Alan Gilbert, and most recently, Christoph Eschenbach. These concerts are broadcast live to the entire country via CCTV,OTV and Phoenix TV.
In 2014, the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra will embark on its first major European tour under the baton of music director Long Yu. The tour will commence at Munich’s Herkulessaaland continue to Hamburg, Cologne, Amsterdam, Nuremberg, Dusseldorf, and Eindhoven. Ray Chen will be featured as the soloist in every concert, playing the legendary Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto.
The orchestra’s new home, Shanghai Symphony Hall, will open at the start of the 2014-15 season. It will feature 2 state-of-the-art performance halls built entirely underground, the first of their kind in Asia.
Later in 2014, The Shanghai Symphony Orchestra will begin a historic partnership with the New York Philharmonic to provide high-level orchestral training and instruction to students at the Shanghai Conservatory. The Academy will further advance the development of orchestral music in Asia through a specialized training curriculum outlined by musical director Long Yu. Seminars and master classes will commence in the fall of 2014, followed by Philharmonic concerts across Shanghai in 2015.