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From left: Professor Zhibing Zhang and Shruti Doshi, of the China Institute; Professor Jon Frampton, Director of the China Institute; Nick Reed, CEO of Symphony Hall; Chen Qing, President of the Guangzhou Symphony Orc

One of China’s most prestigious orchestras performed in the UK for the first time – backed by the University of Birmingham.

Performing at Birmingham’s world-renowned Symphony Hall, the Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra (GSO) made its British debut in the sister city to their Chinese home.

Birmingham and Guangzhou have been sister cities for over a decade and the city at the heart of England has one of the biggest Chinese communities in the country.

The performance was supported by the University of Birmingham’s China Institute and saw the orchestra bridge East and West with UK premieres of two works commissioned from contemporary Chinese composers, alongside popular works by Britten and Stravinsky.

Professor Jon Frampton, Deputy Pro-Vice-Chancellor (China) and Director of the China Institute joined the Leader of Birmingham City Council Councillor John Clancy to welcome guests to Symphony Hall.

Professor Frampton said: “Engagement and research in China is very important to the University of Birmingham and we are known in the country for our strong relationship with Guangzhou. The University works closely with the city’s municipal Government to forge deep and lasting partnerships that benefit people in China and the UK.

“We are a global ‘civic’ university and our goal is to deliver research and education which benefits people in Birmingham, Britain and China. It is particularly appropriate to welcome the Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra to our city, just months after the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) played in China – including Guangzhou – for the first time.”

GSO is celebrating its 60th anniversary and 20th concert season in 2017 and was one of the first orchestras in China to introduce a Western tradition of a professional artistic season. Their UK debut tour marks the 45th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Britain.

Conducted by Long Yu and featuring Jian Wang on cello and virtuoso Asian sheng player Lei Jia, the orchestra performed Ye Xiaogang’s Guangdong Music Suite and Zhao Lin’s Duo for cello, sheng and orchestra. The GSO also perfomed Igor Stravinsky’s ‘danced symphony’, The Firebird and Benjamin Britten’s Four Sea Interludes, Op 33a.

The University of Birmingham supported the CBSO’s recent New Year tour of China – marking a long musical partnership between the two institutions. The University was the academic partner for the CBSO’s tour of five concerts in four Chinese cities.

The sponsorship reflected the University’s rich history of musical education and research, which stretches back to its first professor of music in 1905 – English composer Sir Edward Elgar. Birmingham’s famous Chinese geology alumnus Li Siguang wrote the first original Chinese violin composition Difficult Road (Xinglu Nan) in 1919.

• The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions, its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers and teachers and more than 4,000 international students from nearly 150 countries.
• Birmingham’s relationship with China dates back to the foundation of the University. In fact, the first Chinese student joined the University in 1907 and there are now over 14,000 Chinese alumni.
• The China Institute is a central hub for Chinese interests at the University of Birmingham. It brings together people, ideas, funding, research and academic excellence to help create opportunities to work in partnership with China. In addition to the Birmingham-based Institute, the University established a presence in Shanghai in 2009 and opened the Guangzhou Centre in 2011, to host its activities in China.
About Long Yu
• Maestro Long Yu, the current music director since 2003, is a preeminent Chinese conductor with international renown. Long Yu also serves as Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of the China Philharmonic Orchestra, Music Director of the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, Artistic Director of the Beijing Music Festival, Co-Director of the Music in the Summer Air Festival (MISA) in Shanghai, and serves as the principal guest conductor of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra.
About Jian Wang
• Supported by Isaac Stern, Jian Wang studied at the Yale School of Music. He has performed with the Munich Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Toronto Symphony, and he has a regular relationship with the Hallé Orchestra.
About Lei Jia
• Lei Jia is among the most renowned sheng virtuosos in China. He has performed with the Chinese Radio Orchestra at the Golden Hall of Vienna’s Musikverein. He appeared as the soloist in Qigang Chen’s production Raise the Red Lantern with the National Ballet. Since 2004 the artist has been a member of the Macao Chinese Orchestra.