The Philadelphia Orchestra travels to China for their 12th tour

The Philadelphia Orchestra has embarked on its 12th tour of China on May 16, 2019, where they will culturally foster meaningful people-to-people exchange through music. The Orchestra will travel to five major Chinese cities over the course of 12 days, with the conclusion of the tour coinciding with the 40th anniversary of official U.S.-Chinese diplomatic relations.

Aiming to come full circle, the orchestra’s trip will begin with a residency in Beijing followed by performances in other major Chinese cities – Philadelphia’s sister city, Tianjin, Hangzhou, Nanjing – and concluding concerts and residency activities in Shanghai. By taking this route, the Orchestra will begin and end the tour in the homes of some of their partners, such as the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing, the Shanghai Oriental Art Center, and the Shanghai Media Group Performing Arts Division.

The week-long Beijing residency kickstarts the tour and will feature “two concerts, an open rehearsal, panel discussions, a side-by-side chamber performance with musicians of the National Centre for the Performing Arts Orchestra, and performances during the first-ever China International Music Competition, presented by the China Conservatory of Music,” according to a press release from the Philadelphia Orchestra. 

In Hangzhou, the Orchestra will host master classes and a special chamber concert at the Zhejiang Conservatory of Music. The tour will conclude with the Orchestra giving chamber concerts and coaching sessions for string quartets at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, the first independent professional music college in China.

Under the direction of Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the tour will also feature Shanghai-born soloist Haochen Zhang on piano.

The Philadelphia Orchestra prides itself in being able to connect emotionally with audiences through engaging in these kinds of residency activities. “Our 2019 tour marks the deepening of our relationship with China and its music-lovers. We look forward to forging ever more meaningful connections between our cultures and communities through the joy and excitement of music,” said Nézet-Séguin in the press release.

The Orchestra’s repertoire for the tour includes both well-loved standards and new material. In addition to performing Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 (“Pastoral”) as they famously did during their 1973 tour, the Orchestra will also perform Schubert’s Symphony in C major (“Great”), Sibelius’ Symphony No. 2, Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (featuring Haochen Zhang), Lu Qiming’s Hong Qi Song, and the world premiere of Tan Dun’s vocal concerto The Deer of Nine Colors (with soprano Lei Jia).

This deep level of audience engagement and cultural exchange is nothing new for the Orchestra. Upon President Richard Nixon’s request in 1973, the Philadelphia Orchestra became the first American orchestra to tour in China, and became the most frequent American orchestra to do so, as a result of their periodic returns in the 1990s and 2000s. Of the musicians on the original 1973 tour, four are still members of the Orchestra today. The Orchestra hopes that the 2019 tour will help to culturally bridge the uncertainty within modern Chinese-American diplomatic relations.


Written by Amelia Winger on behalf of the Global Philadelphia Association