On November 12th, the China NCPA Orchestra announced its 10th anniversary season after the original plan to launch the new season in March postponed due to the COVID-19. The orchestra led by Music Director LÜ Jia performed Beethoven's Egmont in Chinese translation for the opening night. The new season sees the NCPAO entering the "new normal" of a mixture of online and in-person performances.
China NCPA Orchestra Announces 2020–2021 Season
2020-21 Season Blooming Amidsts the Covid-19 in the Name of Evolution
In the original plan, world-renowned conductors, including Daniel Gatti, Marin Alsop, Myung-Hyung Chung, ZHANG Xian, and Shao-Chia Lü, would collaborate with the orchestra in the 2020-21 season. Facing the changes and uncertainties brought on by the pandemic, the NCPAO dynamically adjusted the programming and decided to announce a relatively reliable and realistic season planning in November.
Though the in-person concerts were suspended in the first half of 2020, the NCPAO proactively responded to the situation and continued to bring music to its audience via live broadcast. In April, the NCPAO started the "Spring Online" series with chamber music and small-sized symphonies. Then, it explored more concert forms in the following "Sound of Summer Blooms" and "Bright Autumn Cadenza" series.
In the most recent "An Invitation from Winter" series, the in-person concerts have been resumed at a 75% capacity. Under the strict prevention measure, the orchestra has continuously performed 35 concerts since the outbreak, enriching the audience's music life and becoming one of the orchestras with the most stable operation and most frequent performances in the world this year.
"If you can improve yourself in a day, do so each day, forever building on improvement as in evolution." Based on the line from the Confucian classic, the new season is titled "Evolution" to pay tribute to the continuously innovative human spirit. "This extraordinary time during the pandemic will more or less change our lives and the world, while music and art transcend, extend and refine the reality," said LÜ Jia, Artistic Director of Music of the National Centre for the Performing Arts. "So, at this time, when we may feel confused, I hope that our music will become a partner for us to think and ask questions about life, and to find confidence and answers!"
Gathering the Power of Chinese Music in "Beethoven250", "Mahlermania" and "Sounds of China" Series
While many international masters won't join the NCPAO due to the pandemic, a major highlight of the 2020-21 season will be the showcase of top Chinese musicians, including conductors LI Xincao, CHEN Lin, LI Biao, YANG Yang, ZHANG Yi, ZHANG Guoyong, YUAN Ding, ZHANG Jiemin, and YU Feng. Soloists such as ZHANG Haochen, Siqing Lu, and YANG Xuefei return to the NCPAO. Jinxu Xiahou, KONG Jianing, and DU Tianqi will collaborate with the orchestra for the first time. In the eyes of REN Xiaolong, Chief Executive Officer of the NCPAO, it will be "a real Chinese Super League" and will be "unique and full of surprises."
To celebrate the 250th anniversary of Beethoven's birth, the NCPAO will present the master composer's nine symphonies and explore his 11 overtures under the baton of Music Director LÜ Jia in the “Beethoven250” series. Highlights of the year-long celebration also include Beethoven’s Egmont, the incidental music for Goethe's play. The orchestra will perform the Beijing Premiere of Egmont in the Chinese version, translated by Ms. LI Jianming. Australia based composer Julian Yu's new work About Beethoven, commissioned by the NCPAO, will receive its World Premiere this season. Beethoven’s string quartets and rarely played wind pieces will be performed in the chamber series.
The year 2020 also marks the 160th anniversary of Mahler's birth. In the "Mahlermania" series, LÜ Jia conducts the orchestra in The Song of the Earth, Song of a Wayfarer, and the unfinished Symphony No. 10. Although the two Mahler symphonies with Daniel Gatti and Shao-Chia Lü have been cancelled, the orchestra will continue to explore major Mahler symphonies with other guest conductors, as well as chamber adaptations of Mahler's symphonies and piano quartets.
Titled in "Evolution", this season is naturally full of many first times. Grieg's Peer Gynt and Beethoven's Egmont feature actors David Wang and SUN Qiang as play-reading, restoring the original appearance of the music and the plot in a new form of concert performance. The 2020-21 season includes World Premieres of NCPAO commissions: Evolution by Julian Yu, Roosters of Dawn composed by Chinese American composer Bright Sheng (co-commissioned by Carnegie Hall and National Arts Centre of Canada), and HUANG Ruo's new work (co-commissioned by German and Dutch orchestras). The orchestra will continue to present new works selected from the NCPA Young Composers Programme.
The 2020-21 season also features ZHAO Jiping as Composer-in-Focus. The NCPAO will perform his works in concerts throughout the season, including Violin Concerto No. 1 and Pipa Concerto No. 2. He will also be commissioned by the orchestra to compose the symphonic choral work The Story of Flowers.
TANG Ning, Head of Artistic Planning of the China NCPA Orchestra, said: "The main reason for announcing the new season at this moment is that we want to present a reliable and plausible plan, and we don't want to close the door too early on international artists who may still be available. We've chosen this 'middle point' to announce our plans for the next six months, reflect on our special experience this year, and look forward to releasing our plans for April to August next spring, so that we can have a panorama of the complete 2020-21 season."
A Special 10th Anniversary Season
Afternoon, November 12th, the NCPAO held a simple 10th anniversary celebration on the concert hall stage after the public rehearsal of Egmont. As the melody of "Happy Birthday" played, LÜ Jia and the principals cut the birthday cake. “The special 10th anniversary has become even more significant despite the celebration concert scheduled for April cancelled due to the pandemic," said REN Xiaolong, Chief Executive Officer of the NCPA Orchestra. "The orchestra sailed against the current in the pandemic and via music inspired and connected each other with faith. It is not only a rare re-examination and re-reflection of our responsibilities and mission as an artist but also an opportunity to grow and self-educate."
As the resident orchestra of China's National Centre for the Performing Arts, the orchestra has grown to be a mainstay of its home theatre since its founding in 2010. Nowadays, the orchestra performances one concert every eight or nine performances of the NCPA. For many music fans, the NCPAO has become a necessity of Beijing City's everyday music life.
In LI Zhe's words, the concertmaster of the NCPAO, the musicians in quite a few "are the new generations who were born in the 80's, entered the conservatory in the 90's, studied abroad in the 21st century and then returned home to serve in the orchestra." Their experiences also gave them the unique spirit of the age: "great virtuosity, energy, vigorousness, and desire to emulate the world’s best".
Over the past ten years, the orchestra has collaborated with many world-class conductors and soloists, leaving countless historical moments on the concert hall stage. It has also participated in more than 60 classic and Chinese original opera productions, toured across Australia, Europe, North America, and Asia, commissioned and premiered new works, and actively promoted many Chinese young composers.
Looking ahead to the next ten years, Music Director LÜ Jia said, "If we have laid a solid foundation, built a strong skeleton and established a standard in the past, then the next decade will be the time for the NCPAO to soar!"