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June 7, 2011

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Warming up for a week of chamber music

FANS of chamber music in Shanghai are in for a treat as the second Shanghai Chamber Music Competition and Festival starts tomorrow.

Apart from providing professional chamber music education through competitions, the festival will also feature concerts by renowned chamber music groups from China and abroad.

Around 11 string quartets and 15 piano trios from Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou in Guangdong Province and Wuhan in Hubei Province will participate in the competition. A total of 130,000 yuan (US$20,058) in prize money, sponsored by M Restaurant and the Shanghai Chamber Music Conservatory, will be awarded.

Performers include MBQ String Quartet, Haojie Trombone Quartet, Shanghai Quartet, Boulanger Trio, Bennewitz Quartet and homegrown Simply Quartet. They will perform in several concert halls and restaurants in Shanghai from tomorrow until Monday, including formal evening performances and free lunchtime concerts.

"We hope that the festival can help open a window for the local audience and introduce them to the charm of chamber music, which so far has quite a limited market here," says Wray Armstrong, chairman of Armstrong Art Company, a major organizer of the festival.

Created in 2009, the Shanghai Chamber Music Competition and Festival was initiated by a group of chamber music lovers who wished to expand the influence of chamber music in Shanghai and China.

Witnessing chamber music not being taken seriously in China triggered the idea of starting the festival, says Tina M. Kanagaratnam, the event's media officer.

"Every major musician will tell you how important it is to play together; rather than simply playing your piece, you have to listen and communicate with the other instruments and fellows," says Kanagaratnam. "It is a value, but it is not really happening here in China."

The competition seeks to recognize and encourage the country's best chamber musicians and to foster the growth of chamber music in China.

It is open to string quartets and piano trios with members under 30 years old from music schools and conservatories. Apart from prize money, the winner of the last event was given three small concerts in Beijing, and the committee will seek to provide similar chances for this year's winners.

"We hope that our effort can help the young musicians in recognizing chamber music as something they want to do and continue doing with future promise," says Niny Lam, who used to be a violinist and now works as a volunteer organizer for the event.

Presently, most music students and their parents are expecting to become soloists like pianist Lang Lang, rather than an orchestra member, according to Lam.

"What they don't see is that only very few music students can become a soloist in the end; most of them will become a member of an orchestra and they have to know how to cooperate with others," says Lam.

Lam was quite regretful that very few quartets and trios from the previous event continue to play as groups now; more than 90 percent of them disappeared quickly after the festival. Many of them were only together for the competition. She doesn't expect a great change this year, but hopes that the prize money and competition can gradually help people see a career in chamber music differently.

Shanghai Daily is the exclusive media sponsor of the competition and festival.

? MBQ String Quartet

Date: June 8, 12pm

Venue: M on the Bund, 7F, 20 Guangdong Rd

Tickets: Free

? Haojie Trombone Quartet

Date: June 9, 12pm

Venue: Le Royal Meridien Shanghai, 789 Nanjing Rd E.

Tickets: Free

? Bennewitz Quartet

Date: June 9, 7:30pm

Venue: He Luting Concert Hall, Shanghai Conservatory of Music, 20 Fengyang Rd

Tickets: 50-100 yuan

? Shanghai Quartet

Date: June 10, 7:30pm

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

Tickets: 60-300 yuan

? Boulanger Trio

Date: June 11, 7:30pm

Venue: He Luting Concert Hall, Shanghai Conservatory of Music, 20 Fengyang Rd

Tickets: 50-100 yuan

? Simply Quartet with Li Cong

Date: June 12, 10am

Venue: Le Royal Meridien Shanghai, 789 Nanjing Rd E.

Tickets: 25-50 yuan

? Bennewitz Quartet and Boulanger Trio

Date: June 12, 4pm

Venue: M on the Bund, 7F, 20 Guangdong Rd

Tickets: 10-65 yuan


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