Music Director: LÜ Jia
Conductor Laureate: Zuohuang Chen
Assistant Conductor: LAI Jiajing, SUN Yifan

China NCPA Orchestra is the resident orchestra of the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA), Beijing. Since its founding in 2010, the orchestra has fast established itself as one of the most adventurous and dynamic orchestras in the country and earned an international reputation through extensive performances abroad.

Numerous world-renowned artists have collaborated with the orchestra, including Lorin Maazel, Zubin Mehta, Valery Gergiev, Myung-Whun Chung, Christoph Eschenbach, Fabio Luisi, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Leif Segerstam, Gunter Herbig, Shao-Chia Lu, Xian Zhang, Rudolf Buchbinder, Stephen Kovacevich, Khatia Buniatishvili, Lang Lang, Yuja Wang, Haochen Zhang, Kyung-Wha Chung, Vadim Repin, Siqing Lu, NING Feng, Jian Wang, Gautier Capucon, Alison Balsom, Sabine Meyer, Placido Domingo, Leo Nucci, Renee Fleming among many others. Lorin Maazel worked closely with the orchestra before his passing and praised the musicians for their “amazing professionalism and great passion in music”. Christoph Eschenbach also declared it as “one of the finest orchestras in Asia”.

Over the years, the orchestra has gained critical acclaim for its artistic excellence in both concerts and operas. To date they have played in over 60 NCPA opera productions, including classical repertoires such as Tristan and Isolde, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Aida, Otello, Nabucco, Tosca, Turandot, The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, Eugene Onegin, and newly commissioned works Rickshaw Boy, The Long March, Fang Zhimin, The Jinsha River, Visitors on the Snow Mountain and The Dawns Here Are Quiet. Their live recording of The Ring without Words with its creator, Lorin Maazel, was released on SONY Music worldwide, the only recording the great maestro ever made with an orchestra from China. In 2019, the orchestra’s recording of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 was awarded "Best Orchestral Album" at the 2018 Chinese Audiophile Vinyl Award. In 2021, the NCPAO released Beethoven’s Egmont becoming the first Chinese orchestra to record this masterpiece. In celebration of the decade tenure of its Music Director LÜ Jia, the orchestra released two albums in 2022, including Bruckner's Symphony No. 9 and a selection of live recordings conducted by LÜ Jia In July 2023, the NCPAO released the recording of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 3.

The orchestra has consistently offered creative and diverse programmes through its concert season. As part of its continuous efforts to promote contemporary music, the orchestra presented the China Premieres of major works by John Adams, Toru Takemitsu et al. and gave the World Premieres of dozens of substantial new orchestral works commissioned from composers across the globe, including Qigang Chen, ZHAO Jiping, Michael Gordon, Kalevi Aho, et al. It has also played a significant role in the NCPA's Young Composers Programme, providing a unique platform nurturing the next generation of composers in China.

Alongside its concert series, the orchestra has received widespread praise for its international appearances at the Kissingen Summer Music Festival and the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival and concerts in many cities in Germany, as well as in Sydney, Singapore, Seoul, Daegu, Abu Dhabi, Taipei and Macau. In 2014, the orchestra undertook its first North American tour and returned in 2017, where it performed at Carnegie Hall, Chicago Symphony Center, Davies Symphony Hall and other major venues in the US and Canada, under the baton of LÜ Jia. Musical America praised its “joyful confidence and youthful strength”. Concerto Net described it as “a polished, first rate ensemble”. In 2021, they appeared in "See Me: A Global Concert" along with world-wide artists, orchestras and choirs as part of the Opening Ceremony of the World Economic Forum’s Davos Agenda virtual event. In 2022, the orchestra recorded for the Opening Ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, accompanying billions of viewers to witness the lighting of the Olympic flame. In April 2023, musicians from the orchestra visited South America performing joint concerts with Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra in Brazil and Instituto Superior de Arte de Teatro Colon in Argentina.

With its commitment to educational and outreach activities, the orchestra has presented a series of Weekend Matinee Concerts at its home venue, providing local audience specially selected programmes and accessible ticket prices. The orchestra also frequently initiates wide-reaching educational projects in association with educational institutions across the city. In 2020, the orchestra launched an online concert series in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic drawing an average audience of 30 million viewers. April 2021 saw the orchestra complete their first six-city national tour, which Music Weekly praised as "a series of sophisticated programmes in concerts that blew the roof off,” followed by the second national tour in March 2023.

In February 2012, LÜ Jia took up the post of Chief Conductor, succeeding Zuohuang Chen, NCPA’s then Artistic Director of Music as well as a founder of the orchestra. In January 2017, LÜ Jia started serving as NCPA's Artistic Director of Music and the NCPA Orchestra's Music Director. In 2022, LAI Jiajing and SUN Yifan were appointed as assistant conductors.

SEASON OVERVIEW

Home is the residence of both the body and the mind; the city is the location of home. 2023 marks the 870th anniversary of the founding of Beijing. As we look back, we can’t help but wonder what brought people to live and work together in this great city striving for a common goal, and how people in this city design and create the future of their home in response to changes. These questions may be partially answered in the 2023/2024 season of the NCPA Orchestra, an orchestra born in Beijing.
The year also marks the 190th anniversary of the birth of the great Johannes Brahms. This obstinate man from northern Germany, often labeled “classical” and “traditional”, defended the glory of classicism with tenacity and perseverance as the last beacon for the home of classicism in the traditional sense. In this season, we will present a number of Brahms’s masterpieces deeply rooted in the tradition, including the Second Symphony as splendid and peaceful as the setting sun’s last rays, the Third Symphony featuring heroic ups and downs, the “free but lonely” F-A-E Sonata, the Variations on a Theme of Haydn, and others. These works reflect Brahms’s admiration for the classical ideal, his reluctance to see its fading, and his defense of the home of the musical ideal. Brahms was a traditionalist who did not cling to the traditions rigidly, and he heralded the future with his loneliness and struggle. The Fourth Symphony, which the NCPAO will present under the baton of Director LÜ Jia, shows Brahms’s insight into the future. In the final movement, the passacaglia, we can feel the composer’s despair, hope, anger and disturbance intertwining into a torrent of sound, in which the classicist pours out his shattered dreams, tragic retreat, and profound loneliness. The tragic images in Brahms’s works almost always point to the only ending: If the home can no longer be revisited, I will choose to sail away.

As Kahlil Gibran says in The Prophet, home “shall be not an anchor but a mast.”
Here lies Brahms’s foresight seeing the inevitability to face the challenge of modernity.

In an award-winning documentary on 20th-century music, renowned conductor Simon Rattle argues that the story of the 20th-century music is in many ways one of leaving home. While searching for new creative response to the world in which they lived, many talented composers turned away from the solid ground of 18th- and 19th-century music: tonal harmony, melody, and regular rhythms, which is precisely the spiritual home that that Brahms guarded. Besides, 20th-century musicians had a remarkably more diverse expression of “leaving home” because this was an age in which war forced many into a life of vagrancy, leaving their homes in the truest sense of the word. In this season, we will gain an understanding of different journeys away from home in the programme of 20th-century pieces. Schoenberg’s Five Pieces for Orchestra, Berg’s Lyrische Suite, and Webern’s Symphony, Op. 21 originated in the revolution of music that started in Vienna in the 19th century and their reverberations continue to this day. In the melancholic power of these pieces, we hear not only the crumbling of the old world order, but also the rise of music through the reconstruction of the time in the second half of the twentieth century. Boulez’s Notations for orchestra was composed with the young people of the post-war generation in mind, and, like many of its contemporaries, the work shows the determination to erase the shadow of a ruined home and establish a new discursive system for the new world. Bartók’s Two Portraits were written before he left home, and and Korngold’s Violin Concerto was composed in exile. Both composers spent their last days in a foreign land, with both the body and mind far away from home.

If “leaving home” was the key word for the journey of music in the 20th century, we can’t help but wonder: is it time for us to return home in the 21st century? For the audience, hearing Chinese-American pianist George Li perform the Yellow River Piano Concerto in the new season at the newly opened Beijing Center for the Performing Arts may be a spiritual homecoming; hearing Qigang Chen’s Reflet d’un temps disparu performed by WANG Jian, HUANG Ruo’s the Butterfly Exchange, and Bright Sheng’s Roosters of Dawn once again, and hearing the world premiere of Bernd Deutsch’s concerto for the traditional Chinese instrument, the sheng, one might even go so far as to say, are brand-new self-discovery. As Scott Fitzgerald said, “It’s a funny thing to come home. Nothing changes. Everything looks the same, feels the same, even smells the same. You realize what’s changed is you.”

The German philosopher Schopenhauer, who inspired Wagner to write Tristan und Isolde, had a profound insight into music, believing that music is more deeply rooted in human nature than any other art, other forms of art being representations of external phenomena and symbols of the essence of things, while music being the essence itself, a parallel form of the world as perceived by our intellect. It is for this reason that we see music as our spiritual home. Music has the power to speak to the heart; music shows the humanity that cannot be confined by barriers; music is able to establish cultural identity, create unity, and dissolve estrangement.

The 2023/24 season will see the premieres of three new works, which have been repeatedly postponed, the appointment of NING Feng as the Artist-in-Residence, which has been discussed for three years, and the first post-epidemic return of overseas artists including Daniel Gatti, Myung-whun Chung, Zhang Chun, LÜ Shao-chia, Wong Kah Chun, and Wilson Ng, as well as Víkingur Ólafsson, WANG Jian, Jan Vogler, Shekou Kannah Mason, Bruce Liu, George Li, MEI Diyang, WU Wei and others. Director Lü Jia’s exploration of German and Austrian music with a focus on Bruckner is an endless journey towards the residence of the soul. Beijing is not everyone’s homeland, but it is a shining spiritual home in the world map of music.

Upcoming Performance

All

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Concert

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Opera

Schumann and Brahms with Vikingur Olafsson and NCPAO

“The Delicate Nature” Mozart with NCPAO in Chamber

Mahler Symphony No. 3 with Shao-Chia Lü, ZHU Huiling and NCPAO

CHEN Lin, XIE Nan, CHEN Xi and  NCPAO in Chamber

LÜ Jia and China NCPA Orchestra

CHEN Sa & Friends with NCPAO's Concert

NCPAO Chamber Concert

NCPAO Percussion Chamber Concert

Schumann and Brahms with Vikingur Olafsson and NCPAO

“The Delicate Nature” Mozart with NCPAO in Chamber

Mahler Symphony No. 3 with Shao-Chia Lü, ZHU Huiling and NCPAO

CHEN Lin, XIE Nan, CHEN Xi and  NCPAO in Chamber

LÜ Jia and China NCPA Orchestra

CHEN Sa & Friends with NCPAO's Concert

Schumann and Brahms with Vikingur Olafsson and NCPAO

“The Delicate Nature” Mozart with NCPAO in Chamber

Mahler Symphony No. 3 with Shao-Chia Lü, ZHU Huiling and NCPAO

CHEN Lin, XIE Nan, CHEN Xi and  NCPAO in Chamber

LÜ Jia and China NCPA Orchestra

CHEN Sa & Friends with NCPAO's Concert

NCPAO Chamber Concert

NCPAO Percussion Chamber Concert

Schumann and Brahms with Vikingur Olafsson and NCPAO

“The Delicate Nature” Mozart with NCPAO in Chamber

Mahler Symphony No. 3 with Shao-Chia Lü, ZHU Huiling and NCPAO

CHEN Lin, XIE Nan, CHEN Xi and  NCPAO in Chamber

LÜ Jia and China NCPA Orchestra

CHEN Sa & Friends with NCPAO's Concert

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