XU Zhong is the music director and principal conductor of Haifa Symphony Orchestra, principal conductor of Arena di Verona Festival and Arena di Verona, president of Shanghai Opera House, principal conductor of Suzhou Symphony Orchestra, and president of Soochow University School of Music. In 2012-2015, he was the music director and principal conductor of Teatro Massimo Bellini.
He was born in a medical family. At the age of 16, he was admitted to Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris as the top student with the help of Chow Ching Lie Foundation and studied with French pianist Dominique Merlet.
In 1988, XU Zhong won the first prize at the 34th International Maria Canals Piano Competition in Barcelona, Spain; in 1991, he won the third prize in the Hamamatsu International Piano Competition; in 1992, he won the first prize in Paloma O’shea Santander International Piano Competition; in 1992, he won the first prize and five other awards in the 5th Tokyo International Piano Competition; in 1994, he won the fourth prize in Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition in Moscow. Also, he has often been invited to music festivals held in Vienna, Luxembourg, Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing, Nice, Naantali and Hamamatsu, etc.
He has frequently served as a judge in various international piano competitions such as Ferruccio Busoni in Italy, Clara Haskil in Switzerland, Dublin in Ireland, Leeds in UK, Franz Liszt in Holland, Marguerite Long in France, Sviatoslav Richter in Russia, Hamamatsu in Japan, Seoul in South Korea and Chopin International Piano Competition in Poland.
Meanwhile, he studied conducting under the guidance of HUANG Xiaotong, and has often received instructions from conductors Mariss Jansons and Jorma Panula. In the field of opera, he has received support and guidance from Piero Rattalino and Sebastiano Spina.
He has led the following symphony orchestras: Orchestre National de France, Orchestre National de Lille, Orchestre de Cannes, Orchestra Roma Sinfonietta, Moscow State Symphony Orchestra, MDR Leipzig Sinfonie-Orchester, Las Palmas Philharmonic Orchestra, KBS Symphony Orchestra, China Philharmonic Orchestra, Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra, Taipei Symphony Orchestra, Vienna Chamber Orchestra, English Chamber Orchestra, Israel Chamber Orchestra, Jerusalem Chamber Orchestra, etc.
In March 2012, he was invited to become artistic director and principal conductor of Teatro Massimo Bellini. In March 2013, he was invited to be music director and principal conductor of Haifa Symphony Orchestra, also making himself the first Chinese artist appointed as music director of this orchestra. In 2016, Arena di Verona Festival and Arena di Verona, which have been short of principal conductor since 2010, invited him to take the position for the first time.
He has the long-term close cooperation with Teatro alla Scala, Teatro La Fenice, Teatro Regio di Torino, Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Teatro San Carlo di Napoli, Arena di Verona, Gran Teatre del Liceu of Barcelona, Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía of Valencia, Opéra de Paris, British Royal Opera House, Staatstheater Darmstadt, Theatre Erfurt, Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera and Opera Hong Kong. He conducted the following operas: Pagliacci, Cavalleria Rusticana, La Traviata, Aida, Il Trovatore, La Boheme, Tosca, Suor Angelica, Le Cenerentola, Le Nozze di Figaro, Der Fliegende Holländer, Die Fledermaus, The Land of Smiles, Elektra, Carmen, The Human Voice, Heaven and Hell and Aleko. In May 2014, XU toured in China with Teatro Massimo Bellini, appearing at the closing ceremony of Shanghai Spring International Music Festival and the ourdoor Shanghai Chenshan Concert.
In June 2015, he was invited to the Milan Expo by the Bureau of Shanghai World Expo Coordination to hold a gala concert for the Chinese Pavilion with Verdi Symphony Orchestra under his baton. In October 2015, he organized the first North Bund of Shanghai Landscape Opera Week, where he performed opera La Traviata, and held a concert of overtures to classic operas and a concert of arias from Chinese and foreign operas in cooperation with Chinese and foreign artists, production teams and Shanghai International Youth Orchestra.
On June 24th, 2016, XU conducted the opera Carmen at the opening ceremony of Arena di Verona Festival in Arena di Verona.
In August 2017, XU attended the Saarland International Music Festival 2017 with the Suzhou Symphony Orchestra, Shanghai Opera House Symphony Orchestra and Chorus and singers, and gave performances in France and Germany. On August 18th, he performed Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in D Minor at the La Delivrance Centre in Dieuze, France. On August 20th, he conducted the opera Aida (concert version) at the Saarbrücken Conference Centre.
In March and April 2018, XU conducted the performance of Wagner’s opera Der Fliegende Holländer at the Theatre Erfurt. On August, he started the Asian Tour 2018 with Suzhou Symphony Orchestra to give performances in the Taipei Concert Hall, the Suntory Hall in Tokyo and Kobe International House.
He cooperated with many world-famous musicians, including Paul Badura-Skoda, Lazar Berman, WANG Jian, Philippe Entremont, Vladimir Krainev, Arto Noras, Arie Vardi, Boris Berman, John O’Conor, Jean-Bernard Pommier, Maxim Vengerov, Mary-Pierre Lanramet, Dimitri Theodossiou, Luciana D’lntino, and Marco Betty.
XU has made great contributions to the flourishing of art and the promotion of China-foreign art exchanges. In 2001, he founded the Shanghai International Youth Piano Competition and took up the post of artistic director; in 2002, he was appointed the artistic advisor of the Shanghai International Arts Festival; in 2003-2005, he was appointed the artistic advisor of the Sino-French Civilization Anniversary and artistic director of “French Culture in Shanghai” activities; in 2004, he became a member of the Arts Council of Shanghai Oriental Art Centre; in 2005, he became a member of the Arts Council of Shanghai Grand Theatre Arts Center and music advisor to Shanghai Concert Hall; in 2006, he was appointed as vice chairman of the Arts Council of Shanghai Oriental Art Centre. In 2011, he was awarded the title of distinguished expert of Shanghai at “Thousand Talents Programme”. In 2018, he became a member of the 13th Shanghai Municipal Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.
In 2010, XU was awarded the Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Ministry of Culture for his outstanding contributions to culture and art. The presenter is former President of France d’Estaing. President d’Estaing praised Mr. XU for his unremitting efforts to promote French musical heritage in China and the world. In 2018, he was awarded the Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Ministry of Culture.