In April 1908, the Russia Outer Amurskaya Railway Corps Orchestra performed Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture in Harbin, kicking off the first symphony concert to be held in Chinese history. The orchestra was later restructured into China’s first symphony orchestra—Middle East Railway Club Symphony Orchestra, which was mainly composed of Russian expatriates and later renamed the Harbin Symphony Orchestra. In the 1920s and 1930s, the Orchestra was billed as the No.1 symphony orchestra in the Far East, and then known as “Old Harbin Orchestra”.
Over the past 50 years, the Harbin Orchestra has been a beautiful name card of Harbin, and has shared the stage with world-renowned symphony orchestras including the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. Many famous Chinese and foreign conductors, including LI Delun, HUANG Feili, ZHENG Xiaoying, TANG Muhai, Zubin Mehta, Anatoly Levin, and Alexei Pograde, have once conducted the Harbin Orchestra in offering music feasts to audiences.
As a goodwill messenger for Sino-foreign cultural exchanges, the Harbin Orchestra has visited more than ten countries including Russia, Denmark, Austria, Greece, Japan and South Korea to tell the China story and display the image of China with music, winning wide acclaim from local audiences. In 2016, the “Voice of Friendship” Symphony Concert jointly organized by the Harbin Symphony Orchestra and Russia Ural Philharmonic Orchestra was held at the Palais des Nations, interpreting a common wish for world peace in music, a unique language.
In 2019, the Orchestra paid a visit to Russia (Novosibirsk, Moscow, St. Petersburg), Austria (Salzburg), and Japan (Niigata, Tokyo), appeared at the 6th Novosibirsk International Arts Festival and joined the touring performance of the Red Chamber Dream Piano Concerto, a project supported by the China National Arts Fund, attended the Opening Ceremony of Salzburger Festspiele and Concert for the 30th Anniversary of the Death of Karajan at the invitation of the organising committee of Salzburger Festspiele, and gave a performance at the Concert for the 40th Anniversary of the Establishment of Friendly Relations between Harbin and Niigata.
At the invitation of the organising committee of the People Get-together for celebrating the 70th Anniversary of the Founding of the People’s Republic of China, the Orchestra went to Beijing and gave a performance on Tiananmen Square on the evening of October 1st with thousands of other outstanding professional symphony performers from Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hangzhou, writing the most brilliant and gorgeous chapter in the history of Chinese and even global symphonic music, and showing its high international level as a professional orchestra.
In recent years, the Harbin Orchestra has been giving performances with flying colours on many great occasions including every year’s Harbin Summer Music Concert, Harbin China-Russia Culture and Art Week, International Music Competition Harbin, Schoenfeld International String Competition and National Vocal Music Competition, adding a bright colour to the magnificent and beautiful picture scroll of Harbin, a “city of music”.
In 2017, the Harbin Orchestra, an orchestra with a history of more than a hundred years, was reborn again and transformed itself gorgeously by growing into a “domestic first-class, leading Asian and world-renowned” professional orchestra. It began to develop with a concert hall at the core from an international perspective and recruit performers on a global scale. After a fierce competition and strict assessment, dozens of outstanding performers from at home and abroad joined the Harbin Orchestra, injecting new blood into it, revitalizing this time-honoured orchestra. World-famous maestro TANG Muhai was hired as Artistic Director of the Orchestra, broadening the room for its development.
It is the right time to set sail on a favourable wind. With the care and support of the broad audience and people from all walks of life at home and abroad, the Harbin Symphony Orchestra will march ahead and strive for excellence to promote the symphony and make Harbin better-known to the world.