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Chicago Symphony to knock your socks off

THE legendary Chicago Symphony Orchestra plays its first concerts in Shanghai next week, and local music lovers who adore its recordings are lining up, writes Michelle Qiao.

For Chinese music lovers, the reputation of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, one of the "Big Five" American orchestras, came only from its flawless recordings, conducted by Fritz Reiner or Bernard Haitink.

Now the orchestra will finally visit our fair city for two concerts next week, adding another "big name" to the list of top orchestras touring Shanghai.

The orchestra will play Haydn's "Symphony No. 44" and Bruckner's "Symphony No. 7" for its concert on Tuesday and Mahler's "Symphony No. 6" (without intermission) for the next night at the Shanghai Grand Theater.

"The legendary orchestra is famous for a rich tradition of playing German-Austrian compositions, which is rare among American orchestras," says local music critic Li Yanhuan.

German musicians have played important roles since the orchestra was founded in 1891. The American premiere of German composer Richard Strauss' pieces, such as "Ein Heldenleben" ("A Hero's Life") and "Also Sprach Zarathustra" ("Thus Spake Zarathustra") were staged by the Chicago Symphony. Strauss himself traveled to the US to conduct one concert.

Legendary German-Austrian maestros, such as Carlos Kleiber and Gunter Wand, chose the Chicago Symphony for their US premieres. Its recent chief conductors - Fritz Reiner, Daniel Barenboim, Sir Georg Solti and Bernard Haitink - are famous for German-Austrian repertoires.

Today there's a trend, and usually a box-office guarantee, to feature symphony concerts with star soloists. But the Chicago Symphony sticks to tradition that seldom contains prelude or concerto. The repertoire usually includes two symphonies, or simply a long Mahler or Brukner symphony, as in the upcoming China debut.

"The highlight of the orchestra is the brass section, which creates unrivaled bright and overwhelming sounds," says Li. "In addition, Barenboim upgraded the standard of the string part during his reign. It is said the first violin of the orchestra has 14 principals, which means each of them has superb skills."

Another highlight will be the conductor, Bernard Haitink, who has never staged in China before.

"Haitink is the best interpreter of post-romantic symphonies such as Richard Strauss, Mahler and Brukner," says Li. "He has always likened interpreting a complicated masterpiece to a long, hard climb up a high mountain. He is a qualified guide of the trip that leads us to appreciate heavenly scenes step by step. I'm fortunate to be able to admire his performance in a live concert."

It will be a big event for music lovers like Li. On a local classical music Website, all the critics have given a five-star rating to the upcoming concerts, making them a "must-go."

Date: February 10-11, 7:15pm

Venue: Shanghai Grand Theater, 300 People's Ave

Tickets: 280-2,280 yuan

Tel: 962-388


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