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Festive flair

By Chen Jie | China Daily | Updated: 2017-01-26 07:36

Festive flair

The Beijing Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of Tang Muhai (center), will tour the United States and Canada in February.[Photo provided to China Daily]

The Beijing Symphony Orchestra will tour North America to celebrate Spring Festival with a mix of Eastern and Western compositions, Chen Jie reports.

The Beijing Symphony Orchestra will tour North America in February to present Spring Festival concerts.

Under the baton of conductor Tang Muhai, the orchestra will combine works of the East and West. They will be performed at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington on Feb 6, the Sony Center for the Performing Arts in Toronto on Feb 9 and the National Arts Center in Ottawa on Feb 12.

In the United States, the first half will include Chinese composer Chen Qigang's L'eloingement (Go to the West) for string orchestra, Chinese composer Huang Ruo's Oboe Concerto and an orchestral piece adapted from the Peking Opera classic The Drunken Concubine.

Chen's piece is based on a folk tune popular in northern China that tells the story of a large number of people who went abroad to make a living from the 17th to the early 20th centuries.

Chen also wrote the piece to mark the 20th anniversary of his departure from China to study under the late French composer Olivier Messiaen in Paris.

He learned Western classical music techniques but never forgot Chinese tunes. Chen once described himself as "a Chinese tree replanted in France".

Originally, he had planned to use erhu, a two-stringed traditional Chinese instrument, which usually produces melancholic sounds. But when he started, he found even that could not fully express his feelings, so he switched course and began to compose for string orchestras. But Chen continues to use folk tunes in his orchestral work.

The piece L'eloingement, created using a computer in 2004, proved to be a turning point in his career.

"I like the composing software because it speeds up my work and saves me time and energy," he says. "It also forced me to change my old, fixed ways of thinking and composing. I tried to imagine music while looking at the computer screen. And I don't write on paper with a pen any longer."

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