The Violin Channel recently caught up with Philadelphia Orchestra Assistant Conductor Maestro Kensho Watanabe and Shanghai Philharmonic Resident Conductor Maestro Zhang Liang – in Philadelphia.
The two conductors will this week perform side-by-side at the Kimmel Performing Arts Center, leading a special Chinese New Year performance with members of both ensembles – to celebrate the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the United States and China.
The concert will include the world premiere performance of Chinese composer Peng-Peng Gong’s Symphony No. 10 ‘Peking Fantasy’.
Maestros, how did you both become involved in this historic East-West Collaboration?
Maestro Kensho Watanabe: “The Philadelphia Orchestra has a long and rich history in China, dating back to 1973 when we became the first American orchestra to perform in China at the special request of President Nixon.
I’ve had the pleasure of participating in the Orchestra’s recent tours of China and our residency activities there, which have included the Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra, a long-term partner of ours.
To welcome them here to Philadelphia for this side-by-side concert will undoubtedly be another special moment in our work together”
Maestro Zhang Liang: “As the conductor of the Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra, along with our musicians, I participate in all aspects of our collaboration with The Philadelphia Orchestra.
Working on Peking Fantasy, the newly revised version of Peng-Peng Gong’s Symphony No.10, we forging a historic East-West collaboration”
Why do you both feel this cross-cultural collaboration is so important?
Maestro Kensho Watanabe: “With this year being the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and China, this performance is a shining example of the ongoing meaningful exchange between our two countries through music.
This work is particularly important right now, during a time of uncertainty in U.S.-China relations”
Maestro Zhang Liang: “This collaboration deeply explores Eastern and Western cultures and how to present Chinese cultural treasures in a format more familiar to Westerners”
What do you feel the musicians of each orchestra will learn from each other?
Maestro Kensho Watanabe: “Each orchestra has its own unique approach to sound and phrasing.
This side-by-side allows for the exchange of these ideas, which will result in a special performance”
Maestro Zhang Liang: “The Philadelphia Orchestra is famous, and our musicians can learn a lot through this collaboration.
This opportunity is highly treasured.
Additionally, musicians from The Philadelphia Orchestra will be able to see our dedication, passion, and eagerness to learn”
What do you hope the audience will take away with them from this historic evening?
Maestro Kensho Watanabe: “I hope that audiences will leave feeling truly inspired by the power of music to bridge cultural divides”
Maestro Zhang Liang: “Intercultural communication and harmonious friendship!”