BBC National Orchestra of Wales is to tour China with Chinese Principal Guest Conductor Xian Zhang from 15 -21 December 2018 giving five concerts in four major cities aimed at fostering creative collaborations between China and Wales.
Beginning with two concerts in Beijing, BBC NOW travels to Changsha, Wuhan and Shenzhen, performing two programmes. In the National Centre for the Performing Arts, Beijing (15 Dec), Changsha Concert Hall (18 Dec) and Qintai Concert Hall, Wuhan (19 Dec), the orchestra are joined by Chinese harpist Shimeng Sun, who graduated from the Royal Northern College of Music with a Master’s Degree in 2018, and BBC NOW’s Principal Flute Matthew Featherstone, for Mozart’s Flute and Harp Concerto, performed alongside Rossini’s L’Italiana in Algeri Overture and Dvořák’s Symphony No. 8. For the second concert in Beijing (16 Dec) the orchestra welcomes another Chinese guest soloist, cellist Jiapeng Nie, to perform Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations, in a programme with Glinka’s Ruslan and Ludmilla Overture & Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5.
The final concert of the tour in Shenzhen Concert Hall (21 Dec) will see BBC NOW perform alongside musicians from the Shenzhen Symphony Orchestra. This first time collaboration between the two orchestras will provide a special opportunity for cultural exchange between musicians, and build creative links for future collaborative activity in China.
This visit marks the first time Zhang has toured her home country with a European symphony orchestra, and having completed her musical studies in China she is keen to bring musicians from both countries together through these performances.
Xian Zhang says "It is with much pleasure that I am coming to China with BBC NOW. I conduct a number of the Chinese orchestras on a regular basis, but this is the first time I have toured China with a European Orchestra. I am very much looking forward to introducing the musicians of BBC NOW to my own country, and I think that the cultural co-operation with my musicians and the musicians in Shenzhen will be extremely interesting for us all".
Zhang’s first season with BBC NOW culminated in a televised BBC Proms performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, anticipating the start of a two-year project devoted to the composer’s complete symphonies, and the world premiere, on International Women’s Day 2016, of Kate Whitley’s ‘Speak Out’ set to the text of the 2013 UN speech by Malala Yousafzai, broadcast on BBC Radio 3. Zhang is also Music Director of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and Conductor Emeritus of Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi.
The tour is a result from the first Welsh cultural delegation visit to China in early 2017; it is being supported by British Council in China and is the final part of Inspiring Women in the Arts, a year-long campaign showcasing the work of female artists to inspire young Chinese generations. During the visit Xian Zhang and members of the orchestra will share their experiences with aspiring female leaders and musicians in a series of activities in the host cities.
Michael Garvey, Director of BBC National Orchestra of Wales says: “This tour offers a wonderful opportunity to build creative links with our partners in China, enhancing the close relationships that already exist between our two countries. I’m delighted that we will be able to work with key partners in the four cities to maximise the impact of our visit, and to provide opportunities for BBC NOW to directly engage with audiences and musicians in China.”
Nick Marchand, Director Arts China and North-East Asia, British Council says: “The British Council is delighted to support the orchestra’s tour with Xian Zhang, Chinese principal guest conductor and the first female to hold that role in a BBC Orchestra. With BBC NOW having first been part of a Welsh cultural delegation visit to China in early 2017, it is fantastic to see this UK-China cultural exchange come to fruition this year. We know it is going to be an inspiring visit, for both musicians and audience, alike.”
The tour is supported by British Council in China, Wales Arts International and the Arts Council of Wales.