China National Symphony Orchestra – Review

As someone who listens non-stop to ABC Classic on the radio, I can embarrassingly admit the years between attending the Symphony in person are often long and unpredictable.

For whatever reason, when I plan a weekend or evening out of entertainment, an in-person visit to the Symphony is rarely on my radar. This is something I was wholeheartedly reminded to correct recently as I had the pleasure of attending the China National Symphony Orchestra at Hamer Hall. (A sophisticated and easily accessible venue that is a part of the Arts Centre Melbourne complex in the middle of the City.)

From the moment of arrival, I felt welcomed and at ease as I navigated the venue and got myself some items from the concession. I easily found my seat and started taking pictures, as did almost everyone around me. Hamer Hall is simply beautiful, and honestly, there can be no bad seat in the house. 

As part of the 2023 Australian Tour of Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne, the China National Symphony Orchestra arranged a concert composed of the Chinese classical masterpiece ‘Dance of the Yao People’, a violin concerto ‘The Butterfly Lovers’ and Beethoven’s Symphony No.7 in A Minor.

Words cannot give justice to the incredible compilations attendees enjoyed. 

Dance of the Yao People, composed by Liu Tieshan and Mao Yuan, is one of the most recognizable and popular Chinese instrumental compositions of the 20th Century. Fun fact: the first 18 notes of the 1998 song “When You Believe’ by Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey for The Prince of Egypt movie were based on Dance of the Yao People. (Although the composers remained uncredited.)

It is easy to become rapt in the music and entranced by the motion of the orchestra as they weave through the lingering notes or rhythmically pluck chords and lean into the faster tempos. Maybe it is a vivid imagination of a youth spent watching Disney’s Fantasia, yet in many moments I could almost see the shapes and colours of the music in my mind’s eye. The music was vivid, expertly crafted and performed.

The Butterfly Lovers, composed by He Zhanhao and Chen Gang, is a Violin Concerto and one of the most famous Chinese works of orchestral music.

The concerto is one movement but comprises seven sections that tell the story of Zhu Yingtai and Liang Shanbo, her lover. Zhu and Liang are represented by the solo Violinist and Cello, respectively.

It was an exceptional treat to listen to one of the foremost and influential Chinese violinists today, Lu Siqing. His exceptional mastery of the instrument is evident, and his confident command of the work and his craft is inspiring to see.

China National Symphony Orchestra

Chief Conductor Li Xincao is enthusiastic and exceptional; his long list of achievements and international recognition is a testament to a young man at the epitome of his craft.

Completing the afternoon was Beethoven’s Symphony No.7 in A Minor, which perfectly fused the East meets West program and continued to reinforce the beauty of the music.

The China National Symphony Orchestra enhanced my understanding of Chinese culture, deepened my love of classical music and inspired me to remember to include a visit to the Symphony much more regularly in my entertainment planning. I would be the one missing out were I not to do so, and as music has an intrinsic way of speaking to us all, I believe that applies to most of us! 

Follow the China National Symphony Orchestra here so you don’t miss their next visit to Australia!

And don’t forget to check programming at Arts Centre Melbourne here, so you don’t miss out on future classical music offerings!

This review also appears at It’s On The House.