The National Centre for the Performing Arts Orchestra has been hailed as China’s arrival on the fine arts stage.
After its formation in 2010, the orchestra primarily functioned as a support for visiting maestros and ballets, but for the last four years, the NCPA has been making a name for itself in its own right.
With members aged between 27 and 31, the orchestra is viewed as representative of China’s future in classical music. This was underscored by the performance dynamics on Friday night during the first of their two performances at Emirates Palace as part of the Abu Dhabi Festival programme.
The young orchestra’s relationship with conductor Yi Zhang, who is also the chief conductor of the National Ballet of China, can be best described as parental. Zhang did a fine job in showcasing the ensemble’s dynamism in Tchaikovsky’s Slavonic March.
Laced with a quasi eastern melody, the piece required the full attention of all with its contrasting moods; ranging from brass heavy pomp to the strings taking sounding like military march in the second half.
Haochen Zhang made his appearance for Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No.2. The piece is an apt showcase for the 25-year-old rising star, with its varied tempos and shift in emphasis for physical virtuosity to restrained sensitivity.
The latter was particularly highlighted in the romantic second movement — Zhang’s interplay with flute was particularly gorgeous. More than the standing ovation, one can sense that Zhang valued the embrace from the conductor even more — his “father” was proud.
The Abu Dhabi Festival theme of tolerance was explored in the final piece of the night, Dvořák Symphony No 9.
One can perhaps view this piece as one of the earlier musical examples of fusion, with the composer exploring various music traditions ranging from Native American folk to African-America rituals.
The orchestra did a fine job of highlighting Dvořák themes of memory and dreams. Key melodic lines from the first movement return sporadically, but each time explored differently — some brighter and others more ominous.
It all added up to create a woozy and almost surreal atmosphere.
China’s National Centre for the Performing Arts Orchestra perform tonight, Saturday, March 25, with special guest Lü Siqing , at Emirates Palace from 8pm. For details and tickets go to www.abudhabifestival.ae