The Lyricism of Chinese New Year

Discussion in 'China' started by cir, Jan 26, 2012.

  1. cir

    cir Senior Member Senior Member

    Dec 28, 2010
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    New York Philharmonic’s Chinese New Year Gala


    Published: January 25, 2012

    The Quintessenso choir, with Lang Lang at the piano. (Credit: Jennifer Taylor for The New York Times)

    That the New York Philharmonic would salute China with a glitzy affair like the Chinese New Year gala it hosted on Tuesday evening at Avery Fisher Hall should come as no surprise. For years now China has been cast as the next great frontier for Western classical music: a place of crowded conservatories, hungry audiences and, possibly, bulging coffers. The Philharmonic saw the effects of this bloom firsthand during its concert tour there in 2008.

    The critic Alex Ross, in a probing New Yorker essay published that year, described a more complex reality in which the spoils of success remain tied to bureaucratic aims. Still, there is no question that China has produced a significant number of prominent composers and outstanding performers. The nation’s biggest star, the pianist Lang Lang, was the guest of honor at Tuesday’s concert, presented to a house packed with tuxedos, ball gowns, Mandarin jackets and television cameras, and broadcast live on WQXR-FM as part of the station’s China in New York festival.

    New York Philharmonic The conductor Long Yu looks on during a solo by Adia, a member of the Quintessenso Mongolian Children's Choir, during Tuesday night's performance at Avery Fisher Hall.

    After a traditional dragon dance, performed across the front of the stage by the Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company, Long Yu, a distinguished conductor who holds prominent posts with several Chinese orchestras, opened the program with “Spring Festival Overture” by Li Huanzhi. The fizzy 1956 work fused a distinctly Chinese lyricism to a robust exuberance familiar from countless Romantic overtures. Bao Yuankai’s “China Air Suite,” drawn from a collection of folk-song adaptations, showed a sophisticated instrumental palette redolent of Debussy’s.

    The Quintessenso Mongolian Children’s Choir made its American stage debut with five Mongolian folk songs, orchestrated by Zou Ye. The songs were reharmonized for Western ears — surely the ascending chords of “Ehulan, Dehulan” weren’t originally those of “Twist and Shout”? — and the choreography could resemble what you might see among Broadway tykes. Still, the tiny singers, adorned in fur hats, headdresses and other traditional finery, delighted the audience with their lilting voices and intense concentration.

    The second half of the program featured three brilliant soloists. Liang Wang, the Philharmonic’s principal oboist, performed superhuman feats of circular breathing in the relentless flurries of Chen Qigang’s “Extase.” Junqiao Tang, a bamboo-flute player, was no less impressive in Zhou Chenglong’s “Raise the Red Lantern.”

    Then came Mr. Lang, who brought to Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1 all the steely athleticism and flagrant showmanship it warrants. His encore, “Spring Dance” by Sun Yi-Qian, set frolicsome volleys and exaggerated tenderness over a robust tango rhythm.

    Finally the Quintessenso singers returned for what was said to be their first performance in English, a sweetly warbled “America the Beautiful.” If some of the pronunciation was slightly awry, it mattered not at all. Precocious children are a universal language."
  3. cir

    cir Senior Member Senior Member

    Dec 28, 2010
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    Buffett joins cast of foreigners for gala shows

    Priscilla Jiao

    Jan 26, 2012

    Warren Buffett plays the ukulele for CCTV's Spring Festival Gala on Sunday.

    American investor and philanthropist Warren Buffett made an appearance in the online version of the China Central Television (CCTV) Spring Festival Gala on Sunday. That followed performances by American singer Michael Bolton, Israeli psychic Uri Geller and Canadian singer Avril Lavigne in New Year's Eve concerts.

    It's part of a trend that is increasingly hard to ignore, with overseas singers, magicians and celebrities having performed in New Year's Eve concerts on 16 mainland cable television stations on December 31.

    Provincial cable TV stations have been splashing out money in the past two years to invite foreign stars to appear on their own Lunar New Year and Spring Festival shows, competing not only for profits but also to raise their brand awareness - a route to longer-term financial gain.

    The acts from Hong Kong and Macau who have performed in the past few years are increasingly being joined by stars from Japan, South Korea and the West.

    Lavigne sang four songs - including Girlfriend, the theme song for popular match-making show You Are the One - on Jiangsu Cable Television on New Year's Eve. She was joined by French singer Jean Roch, who sang two songs - including Can You Feel It, another theme song for a match-making show - and Geller.

    CCTV's New Year's Eve concert featured Bolton singing his cover version of Percy Sledge's '60s hit When a Man Loves a Woman, and American singer Bertie Higgins.

    Japanese actor and singer Yamashita Tomohisa performed on Shanghai Oriental TV, as did American singer Richard Marx, who performed his 1999 hit Right Here Waiting for You - still a staple of the mainland karaoke scene. Shenzhen TV invited Japanese actress Ryoko Nakano to sing.

    State Administration of Radio, Film and Television regulations meant that all their live performances were broadcast with a delay of at least 20 seconds.

    Mainland audiences have been increasingly exposed to foreign cultural products since the entertainment industry was opened up, especially after China's accession to the World Trade Organisation in 2001.

    Liu Yuan , director of Hunan Cable TV's branding department, said cultural co-operation between the mainland and overseas cultural organisations was on the rise.

    "More overseas performers have set their sights on the mainland market and it's natural to see foreign faces in the New Year concerts," she said. Her station invited British electronic string quartet Escala to perform on its Spring Festival gala.

    Competition among TV stations has pushed up the prices demanded by overseas stars, with the Beijing Youth Daily reporting that the 16 cable stations had spent a total of 500 million yuan (HK$615.11 million) on New Year concerts.

    But Liu said that was a grossly inflated estimate. "It's impossible that each television station could spend an average of 30 million yuan on one concert," she said.

    Professor Guo Zhenzhi , from Tsinghua University's school of journalism and communications, said China was awash with "stupid money" that could be spent without much consideration of economic benefits. "It's a sort of competition of expenses, with a mindset having formed that incredible investment will bring incredible results in a highly competitive environment," she said.

    But Professor Xie Luncan , deputy dean of the Communications University of China's Cultural Development Institute, said the price paid to attract foreign stars was probably less than people thought because they could be compensated in other ways for performing on top entertainment stations such as Hunan TV.

    "Foreign stars come to China either for fame or profit," he said. "They need a platform to show their talent."

    Fan Yu , a director of Shandong TV's branding department, said that apart from profits from advertisements, linked to viewer ratings, stations also tried to raise their brand awareness. "For cable TV stations, the New Year concerts are just like the 100-metre dash at the Olympic Games," Fan said. "The winner doesn't necessarily mean that country is the best at all sports, but it's definitely the most eye-catching event."

    Liu said stations chose important occasions, including New Year and the Spring Festival, to stage shows to increase their influence.

    But Guo said she believed that it was not a phenomenon that would last very long - maybe one or two years - because there was a natural transition from fevered to rational investment. "It will eventually cool down because the influence of stars will wear out," she said. "More rational audiences will influence these TV stations, especially when some small and medium-sized stations might make a loss."

    Buffett joins cast of foreigners for gala shows | China News Watch | Latest Hong Kong, China & World News |

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