China NCPA Orchestra is the resident orchestra of the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA), Beijing. Established in March 2010, the orchestra consists of highly accomplished musicians from around the world, who perform in more than a dozen opera productions presented by its home venue each year as well as in ballets and regular orchestral concerts in its own season. With a notably busy schedule, the young ensemble has fast established itself as one of the most adventurous and dynamic orchestras in the country. LÜ Jia took up the post of Chief Conductor in February 2012, succeeding CHEN Zuohuang, the current Conductor Laureate, NCPA’s Music Director and also one of the founders of the orchestra. YUAN Ding was appointed Assistant Conductor in the same year.
The NCPA Orchestra demonstrates an abiding commitment to the highest levels of artistic excellence and takes pride in its long-term collaborations with the finest musicians of our time. Artists associated with the orchestra in the past two years have included Zubin Mehta, Valery Gergiev, Myung-Whun Chung, Christoph Eschenbach, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Yan Pascal Tortelier, Gunter Herbig, Leif Segerstam, LÜ Shao-Chia, TANG Muhai, ZHANG Xian, Gilbert Varga, LANG Lang, Stephen Kovacevich, Leo Nucci, WANG Jian, Gautier Capucon, Yuja Wang and Chang Han-Na, among many others. Maestro Lorin Maazel worked closely with the orchestra before his passing and praised the musicians for their "amazing professionalism and great passion in music". After working with the orchestra in a series of concerts and the NCPA’s new production of La Traviata in June 2010, Maestro Christoph Eschenbach also declared it "one of the finest orchestras in Asia".
In the first six years since its establishment, China NCPA Orchestra has become one of the leading ensembles in the country both on stage and in the pit, gaining critical acclaim for its performances in NCPA's many opera productions. To date they have played for over 30 new productions, including not only classical repertoire works such as Tosca, The Barber of Seville, Lohengrin, Aida, Otello, Nabucco, but also newly commissioned works including The Chinese Orphan, Rickshaw Boy and The Visitor from the Ice Mountains. In its own orchestral concert season, the orchestra has consistently presented creative and diverse programmes, including a remarkable Beethoven Project under the baton of LÜ Jia, in 2013. Their performance of the mammoth Ring without Words with its creator, Lorin Maazel, was released on SONY Classics worldwide, the only recording the great maestro ever made with a Chinese orchestra.
Another important field of work that the orchestra has explored extensively in the short period of time since its establishment is the creation and promotion of contemporary music. Having presented the Chinese premieres of major works by John Admas, Toru Takemitsu and Giya Kancheli, it gave the world premieres of more than ten substantial new orchestral works commissioned by the NCPA, written by composers from across the globe including Michael Gordon, Augusta Read Thomas, Kalevi Aho, Joby Talbot and ZHAO Jiping. It has also played a major role in the NCPA's annual Young Composers Programme, providing a unique platform nurturing the next generation of Chinese composers.
The NCPA Orchestra has flexed its wings on the international stage with high-profile touring work, receiving widespread international praise for its performances. From 2012 to 2015, the orchestra was invited by Kissingen Summer Music Festival and Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival, and made its German tour continued with concerts in Nürnberg, Hamburg and Berlin. It also gave performances in Sydney, Singapore, Seoul, Daegu, Taipei and Macau. During the 2014/15 season, the orchestra undertook its first North American tour, where it performed in 7 major cities in the US and Canada, under the baton of LÜ Jia. This was not only a milestone for this young ensemble, but also a breakthrough for any Chinese orchestra performing abroad. Musical America praised its "joyful confidence and youthful strength". Concerto Net described it "a polished, first rate ensemble".
With its commitment to educational and outreach activities, the orchestra has presented a series of Weekend Matinee Concerts at its home venue since its establishment. With specially selected programmes and accessible ticket prices, these have become extremely popular with Beijing audiences new to classical music. Current plans in this context include a new series highlighting the Beethoven symphony cycle, led by its Chief Conductor, LÜ Jia. In addition, the orchestra frequently initiates wide-reaching educational projects in association with educational institutions across the city.
The 16/17 season had "Music Speaks" as its central theme, featuring concerts conducted by LÜ Jia, Myung-Whun Chung, LÜ Shao-Chia, Claus Peter Flor, Pavel Kogan, Hannu Lintu, TANG Muhai, ZHANG Yi, LI Biao, with soloists Kyung-Wha Chung, Gautier Capucon, Henning Kraggerud, WANG Jian, WU Man, ZHANG Haochen, CHEN Sa, QIN Li-Wei, YANG Tianwa, NING Feng, WU Wei and many others. Renowned composer CHEN Qigang and pianist Yuja Wang, both as this season's Artist-in-Residence, have led a number of concerts as well as educational projects. The orchestra also performed in fifteen NCPA opera productions including Tannhauser, Rusalka and War and Peace.