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Spreading the joys of chamber music

CLASSICAL music in China has developed rapidly from virtually no high-quality concerts 25 years ago to almost constant visits by top musicians and symphonies from all over the world today.

This is not yet the case for chamber music, according to violinist Wei Meimei, artistic director of the newly launched Shanghai ProMusica Chamber Orchestra.

"The development of classical music, especially the symphony orchestra, has made remarkable progress here in the past 20 some years, yet we have made little progress in terms of chamber music," Wei tells Shanghai Daily. "There hasn't been much promotion of the genre because it has a higher requirement for both audience appreciation and musicianship."

Shanghai ProMusica Chamber Orchestra formed last year consists of around 20 haigui, or "returning turtles," referring to Chinese who return after some overseas experience, like sea turtles returning to their birthplace.

Wei's partner, the associate artistic director and American cellist Sam Matthews, is the founder and director of Shanghai International Youth Orchestra.

They will hold a 90-minute concert of chamber music on October 3 at Shanghai Concert Hall; it's also part of the venue's Weekly Radio Concert series.

The first of its type, the series started nearly 30 years ago and has become well known, especially for its low-price tickets, from 30 (US$4.47) to 50 yuan. Family, seasonal and annual tickets offer greater savings.

At this price, organizers cannot afford to invite big names, but they have excelled in their original purpose of making classical music accessible.

Performers deliver remarks on the background and common interpretation of each piece before it is performed, helping the audience to stay focused and better appreciate the work.

It will be Wei's first performance in the same series after 27 years - she first performed as a student at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. She left for music studies in the United States in 1985, obtaining a master's degree from the University of Southern California and later a doctorate from Louisiana State University.

"Since I spent 24 years studying and performing overseas, I feel obliged to utilize my experience and do something in my native city," says the 48-year-old artistic director. "We will make some splendid presentations to our audience, some pieces that haven't been played much in China, but are also accessible."

She says chamber music, such as 50- or 60-minute works by Brahams, are difficult to appreciate for an audience without sufficient experience.

The program on October 3 features shorter pieces, both excerpts from longer classical works or short pieces, such as the music of Argentine tango composer and concertina performer Astor Piazzolla.

"We look forward to promoting chamber music here," says Wei. "In a few years we'll see huge progress."

Date: October 3, 10am

Address: Shanghai Concert Hall, 523 Yan'an Rd E.

Tickets: 30-50 yuan

Tel: 6386-2836


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