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Maestro stresses classical tradition in China
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  • http://english.dbw.cn   2013-11-12 13:54:16
     

    Renowned conductor Jahja Ling has been grooming the San Diego Symphony for a decade, and this month he led the orchestra on its first international tour to China after a strong debut at Carnegie Hall.

    Both were long-awaited achievements for Indonesian-born Ling, an American citizen, who has conducted major orchestras around the world, including the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra and the China Philharmonic Orchestra. He has looked forward for many years to bringing the San Diego Symphony to China.

    The orchestra performed Tuesday at the Shanghai Oriental Art Center and featured an American program: Harbison’s “Remembering Gatsby: Foxtrot for Orchestra,” Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from “The West Side Story” and Gershwin’s classic “An American in Paris.”

    “We want to bring a program that not many other orchestras would, to bring something new,” 62-year-old Ling told Shanghai Daily in an interview.

    With guest violinist Joshua Bell, the symphony also performed Tchaikovsky’s Violin concerto.

    The friendship tour also took the orchestra to Beijing and Yantai in Shandong Province, San Diego’s sister city.

    Ling is one of the few musicians of Chinese descent achieving prominence in the classical music world, alongside Yo-Yo Ma and Tan Dun.

    He is the first and only music director of Chinese descent to lead a major US symphony orchestra. He speaks fluent Mandarin.

    Since his acclaimed debut with The Cleveland Orchestra in 1985, Ling has conducted the orchestra in 23 consecutive seasons. He has been a member of the orchestra’s conducting staff for 20 years, from 1984 to 2005.

    When accepting the post at the San Diego Symphy, Ling said, “I wasn’t there to make a second Cleveland, every orchestra is unique.”

    During 10 years in San Diego, he emphasized building on traditions, preserving the European traditions in musical expression and embracing the technical brilliance of the American school.

    “One of our expectations is to show the composers’ spirits when we perform their works,” Ling said. “Sometimes we think differently than others, as many soloists who have worked with us said we have unique American brilliance and transference of texture, and the sound similar to European orchestras.”

    Having developed his career mostly in the United States, Ling spoke of the differences between American and European orchestras.

    “Many American orchestras can have even better techniques than European orchestras, but something in the tradition is not there, which is also the same with Chinese ensembles,” he said. “In my opinion, achieving the style is most difficult.”

    If the tradition is not carried on, interpreting works such as those of Brahms and Beethoven will lose their “special characteristics and the things touching people’s hearts.”

    Ling has been guest conductor of various Chinese orchestras and said the most important thing he can bring Chinese musicians is tradition and authenticity.

    “Many musicians in Chinese orchestras are very good instrumentalists, but the tradition and style is not something one can learn at a conservatory,” he said. “I’d like to bring the things I’ve learned from my career to China.”

    Ling began to play the piano at the age of four in Jakarta, where he was born. He attended The Julliard School on a Rockefeller grant when he was 18 and studied orchestral conducting at the Yale School of Music where he received a doctoral degree in 1985. Leonard Bernstein championed his career.

    In 1988, he made his European debut at Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, with an illustrious history and music directors who included Mendelssohn and Furtwangler.

    “At that time, there weren’t many Chinese who performed at Gewandhaus,” he said. “The Germans are rigorous about their traditions and don’t accept new things easily.”

    That debut and his work in Europe were made possible by distinguished German conductor Kurt Masur who had heard Ling conducting Brahams’ Third Symphony and Schubert’s Fifth with the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra. Masur spread the word that he knew a Chinese who could conduct German composers’ works.

    The San Diego Orchestra is one of the busiest in the US, giving more than 100 concerts each season. Ling said he isn’t aiming for “the sound of San Diego” with a fixed mode, but for diversity in performing different composers. He describes the orchestra’s characteristics as “flexibility, accuracy of intonation and warmth of string.”

    “Flexibility refers to the orchestra’s ability to adapt to changing circumstances, as they not only perform concerts but accompany operas as well,” he said. “Warmth of string indicates the expressivity and ability to draw the audiences into the music.”

    In its debut at Carnegie Hall last month, the orchestra cooperated with Lang Lang in Rachminoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2. The program also featured Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony and David Bruce’s “Night Parade” described by the New York Times critic Anthony Tommasini as “smart and engaging.”

    “The audiences at Carnegie loved this piece,” Ling said. “It’s not bald and dry, but with a hint of jazz influence.”

    Author:    Source: xinhua     Editor: Yang Fan

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