Shanghai Symphony Orchestra--A Symphonic Poem in Three Centuries



Shanghai Symphony Orchestra is the earliest and the best-known ensemble of its kind in Asia, through which the Chinese symphonic music develops. Originally known as the Shanghai Public Band, it was renamed the Shanghai Municipal 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 in China, and introduced the first Chinese orchestral work to the audience, hence reputed as the "the best in the Far East".

Practically, the history of Shanghai Symphony Orchestra may be referred to as the history of China's symphonic music development. Spanning three different centuries, the Shanghai Symphony has now embraced a new era; it has held over ten thousand concerts – giving premiere performances of several thousand musical works and has played a major role in collaborations between world-class musicians on both the international and domestic stages, gained a reputation as the most authoritative explainer of Chinese symphonic compositions while promoting them with every possible endeavor. It was the very first orchestra in China to institute a Governing Council and to manage a high quality concert season with a ticket pre-sale system. The orchestra created a series of musical products, including: the Concert Season, the Shanghai New Year’s Concert, the Spring Festival Concert, the Music in the Summer Air. These performances have not only fostered cultural exchange but have also built a bridge between people, orchestras and nations.

The Orchestra also pioneered co-commissioning with world leading orchestras from well-known composers: “One Sweet Morning” was co-commissioned by the Orchestra and New York Philharmonic from composer John Corigliano; Duo was co-commissioned by Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, Chinese Philharmonic Orchestra and Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra from Zhao Lin; also the commission works such as Symphonic Overture Instants d'un Opera de Pekin composed by Qigang Chen and Symphonic Suite Dunhuang composed by Xiaogang Ye. It has premiered the greatest number of contemporary Chinese works: In Memoriam by Huang Tzu, Butterfly Lovers by He Zhanhao and Chen Gang, ten symphonies by Zhu Jian’er, and The Map by Tan Dun. The original soundtrack to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon performed by the Orchestra even won the Oscar and a Grammy Award - a first in Chinese musical history.

Since the 1970s, it has toured extensively abroad: In 1990, the orchestra made its debut at Carnegie Hall in New York; in 2003 it performed in 11 cities in the US; while in 2004, it toured Europe to celebrate the Sino-French Cultural Year. Its 125th Anniversary Celebration Concert given at the Berliner Philharmonie (the first Chinese symphony orchestra to play in this hall), was hailed as a great success. In 2009, under the direction of Maestro Long Yu, now the Music Director, the Orchestra embarked on a 12-concert North American tour. In July 2010, Long Yu led the orchestra in a joint concert with the New York Philharmonic in the Central Park, New York, promoting the 2010 Shanghai Expo. Between 2012 and 2015, Long Yu conducted the orchestra in several concerts in Germany, Netherlands, United States, Brazil which included the concert of the Commemoration of the 70th Anniversary of the Victory of The World Anti-Fascist War in United Nations Hall. The orchestra made the debut in Luzern and gave other concerts in Tirol, Grafenegg and Hamburg during the European tour in summer of 2017. Shanghai Symphony Orchestra and Maestro Long Yu have signed an exclusive record contract with Deutsche Grammophon in June 2018. Enhancing the SSO’s “Music Connecting Worlds” ethos, the new partnership will help promote the orchestra’s powerful blend of tradition and ambitious future vision.

Promoting the popularity of high art is SSO’s obligation and also a powerful method of Urban Cultural Contextualism. With Shanghai Symphony Hall officially put into use in September 2014, the Orchestra carries centuries of dreams into reality, and starts the new orchestra-venue integration model. The SOA – a joint-initiative between the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic and the Shanghai Conservatory of Music held the orientation for their students. The SSO chamber concert which started in 1984 and held regularly since 1991 will be passed on into the new Chamber Hall.

After 140 year history, the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra will continue to always practice its mission - "Music Connecting Worlds". Therefore, SSO has become the promoter and builder of East-West cultural exchanges and Asian music education, and continues a three century old glorious dream.