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Continuing a classical festive feel with new twists

Updated: 2024-05-10 06:56 ( China Daily )
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Violinist Lyu Siqing (left), pianist Sun Yingdi (second from left) and cellist Li-Wei Qin (front, right) performing at the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing on May 1. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Renowned violinist Lyu Siqing, who regularly tours the world, says his schedule becomes even more hectic every May due to the NCPA May Festival, an annual event promoting chamber music.

As the event's artistic director, Lyu not only plans the programs by inviting international musicians but also plays onstage.

From May 1 to 25, the NCPA May Festival is staging 24 concerts over 26 days, under the theme of Brighter Future in Music. This year, in addition to the National Centre for the Performing Arts, the festival is also taking place at the newly built Beijing Performing Arts Centre in Tongzhou district.

The festival kicked off with a concert featuring violinist Chen Xi and seven other musicians from China and abroad performing pieces such as Mendelssohn's Octet for Strings in E-flat Major, Op 20, for four violins, two violas and two cellos.

Lyu and pianist Sun Yingdi performed Kreisler's Liebesfreud (Love's Joy) and Tambourin Chinois (Chinese Drum). Lyu's group, Major Trio, featuring Sun and cellist Li-Wei Qin, played Mendelssohn's Piano Trio No 1, Op 49.

"Every year, we try to present a diversity of programs to display the beauty of chamber music," says Lyu.

Musicians from around the world are also taking part in the event, including Concerto Copenhagen, which is celebrated as one of the most innovative baroque orchestras from Denmark; the Wiener Cello Ensemble 5+1, a cello ensemble of five men and one woman of different generations; and the Austro-Hungarian Haydn Orchestra, which is dedicated to performing works by Haydn.

"Each musician we invited has a successful career as a soloist. However, when they play together as chamber music ensembles, they create a very pleasant and unique sound, which cannot be compared with the sound they produce as soloists," Lyu says. "Chamber music is our way of communication."

Lyu, a junior prizewinner in the inaugural Menuhin Competition for Young Violinists, was invited in 1980 by Yehudi Menuhin to study violin in London at age 11. In 1987, he became the first Asian violinist to win a top prize at Italy's prestigious Premio Paganini International Violin Competition, which propelled him to stardom.

On May 24 and 25, the celebrated violinist Ning Feng, who has been named as artist-in-residence during the 2023-24 season of the China NCPA Orchestra — the resident orchestra of the NCPA — will close the festival with two concerts with musicians of the China NCPA Orchestra. He will play music by Mozart, including Violin Concerto No 4 in D Major, K 218, and Violin Concerto No 2 in D Major, K 211.

According to Wang Luli, deputy director of the NCPA's Program Management Department, the NCPA initiated the chamber music festival in 2009, and it has since gained a large fan base.

"Every year, we have old friends return to the festival and new ones join us," says Wang, adding that this year, musicians from the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra are taking part in the festival for the first time. "They make our programs colorful and creative."

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