Setting out a new score

The Beijing Forum for Symphonic Music gets together many of the world’s most accomplished practitioners to steer a new path for the genre, Chen Nan reports.

When a program built around Wagner’s last opera, Parsifal, was announced, conductor Valery Gergiev started to worry.

The opera, which runs for five and a half hours, premiered on July 26, 1882, at the Bayreuth Festival Theatre in Germany. Performed by Mariinsky Orchestra, it made its debut in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, on Nov 24 and the concert version was staged at the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing on Tuesday. In 2013, the opera was staged in China for the first time with a performance given by the China Philharmonic during the Beijing Music Festival.

“I didn’t offer any specific warnings to the audience and it turned out that I didn’t need to worry about anything. The audience was curious and wanted to try something new. We had great nights under the same roof and it was amazing,” says Gergiev, the artistic director of the renowned Mariinsky Theatre, which is currently touring China. “Classical music is for a new generation, for a world moving on, especially the world of young people in China.”

The 66-year-conductor made his remarks at the opening of the Beijing Forum for Symphonic Music 2019 held at the NCPA on Tuesday. As an old friend of the venue, Gergiev, who conducted the opening concert for the NCPA in 2007, performed with Mariinsky Orchestra at the venue from Nov 25 to Wednesday.

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Initiated by the NCPA on the theme of “Integration and Development”, the forum gathered about 30 orchestras and organizations together from North America, South America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Australia alongside more than 200 music practitioners-including the directors of world-class famous orchestras, such as the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, US Cleveland Orchestra, Mariinsky Orchestra and Wiener Symphoniker-as well as representatives of domestic orchestras, conservatories, record companies and Chinese composers.

As one of the key speakers, Wang Ning, president of the NCPA, says the aim of the forum was to ask all the pressing questions currently affecting the global classical music scene: What is the future of classical music? How can classical musicians develop new audiences, especially a younger fan base? Will classical music be able to survive in the face of the technological revolution?

What makes Wang proud, he says, is that the younger generation made up the majority of the audiences attending concerts at the NCPA. Over 200,000 people watched performances at the venue, and of the 340,000 registered members, 69 percent were under the age of 45. Onethird of the registered members are classical music fans.

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