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December 17, 2009

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Chamber group's China connection

ONE of the United States' best chamber music groups is to perform in China, thanks to the efforts of its Shanghai-born double bass player Lu Yuanxiong, Nie Xin reports.

Shanghai music lovers can thank renowned Chinese double bass player Lu Yuanxiong for a chance to see this Saturday one of the United States' best chamber music groups.

The "Greetings from Texas" TCU Chamber Concert to be performed at Shanghai Concert Hall will feature seven musicians and professors from Texas Christian University's (TCU) School of Music, including Lu, who have devoted many years to playing and teaching their crafts.

Their first China tour, taking in Shanghai, Beijing and Shenyang in northeastern China's Liaoning Province, has been made possible with the assistance of Lu who started teaching at TCU two years ago.

It will also include a piece written specially for World Expo 2010 Shanghai.

Lu is the only Chinese performer in the TCU group and is regarded with great respect by double bass performers and students across China.

Lu is one of the outstanding students of Chinese double bassist and educator Zheng Deren, one of the country's contemporary double bass masters.

In June this year, Lu collaborated with Shanghai Symphony Orchestra in a program called "Bassy Fancy" for the concert series "Symphony Life."

Under the baton of German conductor and educator Augusto Gutierrez, it was the first double bass solo concert in the 130-year history of the orchestra.

They performed Hector Berlioz's "Roman Carnival Overture," Domenico Dragonetti's "Double Bass Concerto in A Major" and Anton Bruckner's "Symphony No. 4."

Born in Shanghai, Lu graduated from Shanghai Conservatory of Music in 1985 and furthered his study in the United States where he started his double bass playing career 24 years ago.

Lu was the first musician from China to be admitted to a professional symphony orchestra in the US.

His virtuosity as a double bass player has been recognized by six awards in international music competitions, including first prize at the American String Teachers Association's National Solo Competition and the 16th annual Corpus Christi International Young Artists Competition.

Tenure player

Lu has been the tenure player in San Antonio Symphony Orchestra since 1988, and is also the professor of double bass at TCU.

As his career and reputation have blossomed, Lu has presented classes as a guest professor in 12 universities in the US, having taught over 250 students.

Many of his students have gone on to be winners in international music competitions and found places in professional symphony orchestras.

There are many music schools in the US, but only 25 to 30 full-time double bass professors. Lu is one of them.

He will perform in Shanghai with Dean and Professor of Piano John Owings, another Professor of Piano, Jose Feghali, Professor of Cello Jesus Castro-Balbi, Associate Professor of Viola and Chamber Music Studies Misha Galaganov, Associate Professor of Violin Curt Thompson, and Professor of Clarinet Gary Whitman.

The group has performed in many cities in the United States and held an acclaimed concert at Carnegie Hall in 2005.

The upcoming concert in Shanghai is also being presented as a "greeting from Van Cliburn," as Texas is the home state of world-famous pianist Van Cliburn, who won the first International Tchaikovsky Competition.

The Van Cliburn International Piano Competition first held in 1962 in his honor is conducted every four years in Fort Worth, Texas.

Among the seven performers visiting China with TCU are many major prize winners of the competition.

Artist-in-residence at TCU's School of Music, Brazilian-born pianist Jose Feghali, was the chamber music gold medal winner at the 7th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in 1985.

"I was in Shanghai four years ago to perform with Shanghai Symphony. It's a powerful and influential international city," says Feghali.

The program on Saturday has been tailored specifically for the debut show, including Max Bruch's "From Eight Pieces for Clarinet, Viola, and Piano," Till MacIvor Meyn's "Orion" for clarinet, viola, and piano,?Johannes Brahms' "Piano Quartet in C Minor" and Franz Schubert's "Piano Quintet in A Major."

"Orion," composed in 2008 by TCU's Meyn, is a gift for the upcoming World Expo Shanghai and the work will receive its world premiere during this China tour.

"The name of the work comes from 'Trio Con Brio.' It's a modern work for clarinet, viola and piano, and combines elements of jazz and tango," says Lu.

Two Chinese scores composed by great Chinese composer He Luting will also be played in the concert.

One is the "Songs for Season," the theme song of 1937 Shanghai movie "Angles on the Road."

Arranged by Meyn, with the assistance of Chinese double bassist and educator Zheng, the work is presented particularly for nostalgic Shanghai audiences.

"The Wandering Songstress," made famous by "Golden Voice" Zhou Xuan (1918-57), a celebrated old Shanghai actress and singer, will also be presented as part of the encore.

Date: December 19, 7:30pm

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

Tickets: 60-200 yuan


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