In 1996, the Shanghai Broadcasting Symphony Orchestra was established through a merger with the Shanghai Film Orchestra and Shanghai Broadcasting Orchestra. Headed by former music director HU Yongyan, it made great progress and developed into a professional symphony orchestra. In April 2004, it was renamed the Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra (SPO), with the celebrated conductor CHEN Zuohuang as its artistic director, began to adopt the world’s most prevalent system of music seasons. In January 2008, conductor ZHANG Liang acted as its permanent conductor. In March 2009, the world-renowned conductor TANG Muhai became its artistic director. Since January 2018, the well-known conductor ZHANG Yi has served as its third artistic director, leading it to embark on a new journey.
For years, the orchestra has held concerts in cooperation with many renowned Chinese and foreign musicians, including: HUANG Xiaotong, YU Long, CHEN Xieyang, HUANG Yinling, , LÜ Jia, TAN Lihua, ZHANG Guoyong, ZHANG Yi, WANG Yongji, LIN Yousheng, ZHU Qiyuan, ZHAO Xiao’ou, Isaac Stern, Itzhak Perlman, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Peter-Lukas Graf, Luciano Pavarotti, Plácido Domingo, José Carreras, Jessye Norman, Joe Hisaishi, Claus Peter Flor, Thomas Sanderling, Vladimir Krainev, Yo-Yo MA, Támás Vásáry, Boris Berman, David Lively, Peter Frankl, Idil Biret, Oxana Yablonskaya, Hung-kuan CHEN, Paul Badura-Skoda, Robert Blocker, LI Jian, TAN Dun, Lang Lang, LI Yundi, LIAO Changyong, HUANG Ying, SHEN Yang, XU Zhong, QIN Liwei, NING Feng, XUE Wei, HUANG Mengla, WANG Zhijiong and SONG Siheng.
In recent years, the SPO has successively staged the following masterpieces: Violin Concerto of Benjamin Britten (premiere in China), Bernstein Mahler's works (Symphony No.1 in D major “The Titan”, Symphony No. 2 in C minor “Resurrection”, Symphony No. 3 in D minor, Symphony No. 4 in G major, Symphony No. 5 in C sharp minor and Symphony No. 7 in E minor), Saint-Saëns's Symphony No. 3 “Organ”, The Firebird Suite by Igor Stravinsky, the oratorio Messiah by Handel, Pictures at an Exhibition
by Mussorgsky, Dante Symphony by Franz Liszt, Beethoven’s pieces (Symphony No. 4 in B-flat major, Op. 60, Symphony No. 6 in F major “Pastorale”, Op. 68, Symphony No. 7 in A major, and Symphony No. 9 in D minor “Choral”, Op. 125), The War Symphonies (Symphony Nos. 7, 8 and 9) and Violin Concerto No. 1 in A minor by Shostakovich, Concerto for Orchestra and Violin Concerto No. 2 by Bartok, Hary Janos Suite by Kodaly, Manfred Symphony by Tchaikovsky, Scottish Fantasy by Bruch, Symphony No. 3 in A minor “Scottish” by Mendelssohn, Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber and Symphony: Mathis der Maler by Paul Hindemith, Der Ring des Nibelungen
by Wagner, Richard Strauss’s works (Eine Alpensinfonie, Op. 64, Ein Heldenleben, Op. 40, Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30, and Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche, Op. 28), Symphony No. 6 in A major (WAB 106) by Anton Bruckner, Symphony No. 1 in E major, Op. 26 by Alexander Nikolayevich Scriabin, Symphony No.5 in B-flat major, Op. 55 by Glazunov, and Rachmaninoff's works (Symphonic Dance, Op. 45, Symphony No. 2 in E minor, Op. 27 and Symphony No. 3 in A minor, Op. 44).
In order to meet the diverse and growing cultural needs of its audiences, the SPO has made great efforts to expand its performance range, taking on diversified performances. It has presented numerous operas such as Tosca, Madama Butterfly
La Bohème, Tea, A Mirror of Soul
, Il Barbiere di Siviglia
, Duke Bluebeard`s Castle
and Pelléas and Mélisande
. It also performed the Swan Lake
, The Sleeping Beauty
, The Nutcracker
, A Midsummer Night's Dream
, La Cenerentola
, Romeo and Juliet
and other famous ballets. Moreover, it launched a number of programmes with creative style and unique content, deeply touching audiences. They include the large-scale symphonic Peking Opera Tang Concubines
, Shaoxing Opera A Dream of Red Mansions
and the symphonic theatre Shanghai Noah's Ark
The SPO has supported the composition of Chinese music, especially symphonic works. It gave the world premiere of the works by many Chinese composers in different age groups such as LÜ Qiming, XI Qiming, XU Shuya, GE Ganru, YE Guohui, LIU Yuan, WANG Qiang, QIN Yi and GONG Tianpeng, as well as the opera commission A Spring River
. It also put on special concerts by LÜ Qiming, HUANG Zhun, YANG Liqing, CHEN Qigang, TAN Dun, ZHOU Long and CHEN Yi, QU Wei, WANG Xilin, JIN Fuzai, GE Ganru, GUO Zurong and GONG Tianpeng respectively. It has spared no efforts to promote Chinese music. It held the “Give My Heart to the Motherland - Concert of LÜ Qiming's Works” at the NCPA in March 2016, and the world premiere of the “Symphonic Chorus Setting Sail” at the 19th
China Shanghai International Arts Festival in October 2017, arousing strong repercussions.
Besides, the SPO has attended international music events in different countries and regions, visiting South Korea, Italy, Switzerland and France in 1997, gave performances in Hong Kong and Macao in 2001, went to Singapore in 2005, and toured Taiwan in 2006 and 2014. It gave a tour in Australia in 2009 and toured Switzerland, Slovakia and Hungary in 2010. In 2016, it performed in Suwon and Busan of South Korea and Kazakhstan. In the following year, it gave performances in Thailand and Japan, receiving much praise.
Dedicated to the development of public culture in Shanghai and the symphony promotion drive, the SPO has organised activities to present the elegant art in communities and schools. In 2016, it signed a strategic cooperation agreement with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Shanghai Oriental Art Center and Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks of Germany, to promote its comprehensive capability in art, management and services, aiming to make greater contributions to Shanghai as an international cultural metropolis and cultivating the symphony for the benefit of Shanghai and China.