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Culture\Music and Theater

Shanghai arts festival celebrates spirit of youth

By Zhang Kun | China Daily | Updated: 2017-10-26 07:27

Shanghai arts festival celebrates spirit of youth

Young musician Gong Tianpeng (right) and conductor Tang Muhai at the premiere of the choral symphony Revival for the opening of the 19th China Shanghai International Arts Festival. [Photo by Gao Erqiang/China Daily]

The 19th China Shanghai International Arts Festival celebrated its opening on Oct 20 with the premiere of Revival, a choral symphony composed by 25-year-old musician Gong Tianpeng (also known as Peng Peng Gong).

The 65-minute production about the founding of the Communist Party of China featured more than 300 performers, including renowned baritone Liao Changyong, tenor Han Peng and soprano Xu Lei.

The Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra performed the work under the baton of maestro Tang Muhai.

Since Shanghai is the birthplace of the Party, the CSIAF decided to focus on the subject because its 19th arts festival, which takes place from Oct 20 to Nov 19, coincided in part with the 19th CPC National Congress, held in Beijing from Oct 18 to Tuesday.

Following the successful premiere of Revival at the Shanghai Grand Theater, the city's cultural and performing arts administrations will go on to polish and improve the production to prepare for performance tours at home and abroad.

"Gong is by far the youngest leading artist to make an inaugural performance at the CSIAF," says Wang Jun, president of the CSIAF center.

The center chose Gong to compose the heavyweight production because of his distinctive perspective as a young contemporary artist who has both experienced China's rise and social development and gained an international perspective while studying abroad.

The composer and pianist was born in 1992, and has already completed his ninth symphony. Gong is currently in his third season as the resident composer with the Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra, after graduating from the composition department of the Juilliard School of Music in New York in 2014.

Upon receiving the commission, Gong made extensive visits to historical sites and monuments all around China which marked important events in the history of the CPC. "All the information is easily accessible," the composer tells the China Daily. "It is a feeling that I was looking for."

Young people a 100 years ago, the founding members of the CPC, were faced with a different reality from today, he says. "I wanted to get as near as possible to them and their surroundings, understand their dreams and ambitions, get a feeling for the challenges they faced, and learn about the choices they made.

"I was determined to give my whole self to not just accomplish the piece as an assignment but to also create an endurable work of art."

Gong adopted the Western romantic music style of the 19th century, and combined it with distinctive musical elements from China, and especially Shanghai, such as folk melodies and laborers' ballads.

"I've always believed music is meant to be understood," says the composer. "I want people to come out of the concert humming the tune they just heard."

"Young as the composer is, he has had the support of three generations of artists," says Mao Shi'an, who penned the lyrics for Revival. The 69-year-old author is vice-chairman of the China Literary Critics' Association.

Before agreeing to work with Gong, Mao attended a concert featuring a composition by Gong named after J.D. Sailinger's novel Catcher in the Rye, and was impressed.

"Today's young artists like Gong are broad-minded, carefree and forward-thinking," he says.

Aside from Revival, the CSIAF will also host a fine art exhibition featuring the history and achievements of the CPC. The exhibition will take place at Shanghai's China Art Museum from Saturday through Nov 20, and will feature 96 artworks mainly taken from collections from the Shanghai Artists' Association, Liu Haisu Art Museum and Long Museum.

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