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Musical marathon celebrates 200 years of Chopin

SHANGHAI'S artistic directors are working overtime to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Chopin's birth next year. Piano lovers are in for a treat as the world's top interpreters visit for a series of awe-inspiring concerts, notes Nie Xin.

For people in Shanghai, 2010 is a speical year. Besides the six-month World Expo, next year also marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of great pianist and composer Frederic Chopin.

The classical music stage in Shanghai has geared up to celebrate the master's influence as a great Polish composer.

'Chopin Marathon'

The first heavyweight event will be kicked off in January by Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra (SPO) with its "12-Hour Chopin Marathon" at Shanghai Concert Hall.

The performance will last for 12 hours from 10am to 10pm, and bring Shanghai audience Chopin's most representative works, including his etudes, mazurkas, Polonaise, ballades, concertos and nocturnes.

The 12 hours will be divided into three parts - Afternoon Concert, Grand Concert and Night Concert. In the first two, audience will enjoy 70 classical works by Chopin.

The Night Concert starting at 10pm will push the whole marathon to the peak - award-winning Chinese pianist Chen Sa will represent the "Nocturne Collection."

"We hope the Shanghai audience will experience a perfect Chopin musical journey," says Tang Muhai, SPO's music director.

Established in 1954, Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra used to be Shanghai Radio Symphony Orchestra. Famous conductors Hu Yongyan and Chen Zuohuang once served as its music directors.

SPO has collaborated with many visiting international dance and ballet troupes, including Zurich Ballet, Kirov Ballet of Mariinsky Theater St Petersburg, Australian Ballet and Ballet de l'Opera National de Paris.

It has also worked with some of the most distinguished conductors and soloists of our time, such as Shui Lan, Huang Yinling, Zhang Guoyong, the Three Tenors, Jessye Norman, Yo-Yo Ma, Li Yundi, among others.

In March 2009, maestro Tang, one of the most influential Chinese conductors worldwide, resumed leadership as the new music director.

Tang is the youngest son of celebrated Chinese film director Tang Xiaodan. His international career started when he was invited to conduct the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in 1983.

Tang was chief conductor of the Finnish National Opera and artistic director of Zurich Chamber Orchestra and the Shanghai Concert Hall since 2006. He also teaches at Shanghai Conservatory of Music.

More oversea performances and international exchange will be arranged, especially with Berlin, Zurich and Finland.

Tang will provide more opportunities for young local musicians, as the SPO is organizing a chamber orchestra and a chorus.

"It's a serious and honorable mission. I am confident of developing Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra into one of the best orchestras in China," said Tang when he took up the position as music director.

And the upcoming concert will be a good chance to prove his efforts.

Collaborating with Tang, the Chinese classical music pianist Chen was the winner of the 12th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, She is regarded "one of the brightest performers of her generation" by BBC Classical Music Channel.

"Absolute Chopin" - Chopin's 200th Birthday Anniversary Celebration

Date: January 31, 10am-10pm

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

Tickets: 50-580 yuan

Tel: 6386-2836

Fou Ts'ong

Maestro Fou Ts'ong will offer Shanghai audience another Chopin experience with a piano recital in May at Shanghai Concert Hall.

Fou is seen as "one of the most popular and respected pianists in the world" by The Times in London. Hermann Hesse, the Nobel Prize laureate in literature, has proclaimed Fou to be the only true performer of the composer's work. "It was real Chopin ... the Chopin of Warsaw and Paris, the Chopin of Heinrich Heine."

Fou has held recitals annually at Shanghai Concert Hall for five consecutive years, stunning the audience with his incomparable musicality.

His interpretations reflect the essence and authenticity of the masterpieces, whether it's Mozart's fantasy, Schubert's sonata, Chopin's mazurka or Debussy's berceuse.

Date: May (exact date not decided)

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

Sun Meiting

At Shanghai Oriental Art Center, Chopin's "Complete Piano Solo Cycle" will be given by Chinese young pianist Sun Meiting in April and May in 2010 with eight performances.

"His piano sonata, mazurka, waltz, nocturne, polonaise, etude, impromptu and prelude, all these music lovers' favorite pieces, will mark a very special concert series," says Lin Hongming, general manager of the Oriental Art Center.

Critically acclaimed, Sun began his life on the concert stage at the prestigious Spring of Shanghai Festival in 1986 at the age of five. Since then he has been performing in many of the world's greatest concert halls and art centers, such as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center in New York and Benaroya Hall in Seattle.

As a native of Shanghai, Sun arrived in New York at the age of nine and entered the Professional Children's School and Mannes College of Music, where he studied the ear training with Marie Powers, the theory with Robert Cuckson, and the piano with Edward Aldwell.

He continued his education at Mannes, receiving both his bachelor's and master's degrees. In May 2006, he received his doctorate of musical arts degree from the Juilliard School, under the tutelage of Robert McDonald.

Sun has won numerous prestigious awards, including unanimous first prizes at the 7th National Chopin Piano Competition in 2005 and the first Minnesota International Piano-e-Competition in 2002, along with the prizes for the best performance of a concerto and polonaise in the National Chopin, and the best performance of a Schubert Sonata in the Minnesota.

At the tender age of 15, he was already named Musician of the Year 1996 by the Village Voice for his performance of the complete "Opus 25 Etudes" by Chopin.

Most recently Sun has made concert tours in Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Argentina, Spain, the United States and Poland.

Date: April 30, May 1-2, 7, 9, 14-16, 7:45pm

Venue: Performance Hall of Shanghai Oriental Art Center, 425 Dingxiang Rd, Pudong

Tickets: 80-180 yuan

Tel: 6854-1234

Bruno Fontaine

The International Piano aux Jacobins Festival, the first French festival entirely dedicated to the piano, is a very well known cultural event in France. It takes place every year in Toulouse in the Jacobins Cloister since 1980 during September.

This will be the fifth year since the festival launched in China and in 2010, Bruno Fontaine will collaborate with the festival to reinterpret Chopin's works at Shanghai Oriental Art Center in June 2010.

Five nocturnes, three polonaises, two ballades and one fantasia will be played by Fontaine in the concert "Chopin - A Poetry Anthology."

Fontaine began studying the piano at the age of four. At 11, he entered the prestigious Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique de Paris during which he was the recipient of five first prizes under the direction of Pierre Sancan and Jean Hubeau.

In 1990 he collaborated on the concept and production of the very successful original work "Lambert Wilson Chante" for which he signed both the arrangements and musical direction.

He also composed two symphonic suites entitled "Hulophonies" inspired by the movies of Jacques Tati and created for the Cannes Film Festival in 2002 with the Orchestre de Cannes under the baton of Philippe Bender and performed by the French actors Macha Makeieff and Jerome Deschamps.

Fontaine is credited for the following original film scores: "La Vie ne me Fait pas Peur" directed by Noemie Lvovsky, "Tangos Voles" directed by Eduardo De Gregorio, "Ca ira Mieux Demain" and "C'est le Bouquet" directed by Jeanne Labrune and "Pas sur la Bouche" directed by Alain Resnais.

Date: June 12, 7:45pm

Venue: Performance Hall of Shanghai Oriental Art Center, 425 Dingxiang Rd, Pudong

Tickets: 60-300 yuan

Tel: 6854-1234

Outdoor concert

An outdoor concert hall will be built in Changning District's Zhongshan Park before the World Expo Shanghai begins on May 1. The new facility will be in front of the Chopin Lawn in the park with the central stage on the man-made isle.

The stage will be in the shape of a shell with a half-covered roof. There will be no seats in the hall. The areas of the lawn and waters will form the natural hall to hold about 3,000 people. Audience can freely sit on the lawn and enjoy the music show.

"The project of the open-air music hall in Zhongshan Park is one of the functional reconstruction projects in Changning District to meet residents' increasing needs for cultural facilities," says Li Yaoxin, deputy director of Changning District.

According to the Cultural Affairs Bureau of Changning District, about 1 million yuan (US$146,462) has been spent on the project. A top audio system and environmental facilities will be built in the new hall. Both high-brow classical concerts and popular cultural events can be held.

Zhongshan Park used to have an outdoor concert hall in 1924, one of the earliest outdoor concert halls in Shanghai. However, it was destroyed during the late 1970s.

The idea of the this project came from the memorial statue of Frederic Chopin on the big lawn. The statue was imported from Poland in 2007. At seven meters high, it's so far the heaviest statue of Chopin in the world.

"The statue has brought a good cultural atmosphere to the park, so we started to think about building an outdoor concert hall," says Hu Yishen, director of the Cultural Affairs Bureau of Changning District.

As Chopin's 200th jubilee is celebrated next year, a series of events will also be held in the new established concert hall in the park, including a piano competition and piano concerts.

Address: 780 Changning Rd


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