According to adherents of the Chinese zodiac, the beginning of the Year of the Dragon is an especially auspicious time. The dragon is a bold, passionate, fearless and vital presence with supernatural powers, and the arrival of a new Dragon year is particularly blessed. So the New York Philharmonic is celebrating this fresh start with a celebration featuring a very starry soloist: pianist Lang Lang, one of the most popular classical artists of his generation.
It's deeply embedded in Chinese tradition for folks to travel home to celebrate the new year. They may not be in their native China for the start of this Year of the Dragon, but two major artists are heading home musically for the occasion. Lang Lang is joined for this Philharmonic concert by the very busy conductor Long Yu, who serves as artistic director and chief conductor of the China Philharmonic Orchestra, music director of the Shanghai and Guanzhou symphony orchestras, and artistic director of the Beijing Music Festival.
The concert features new and traditional Chinese music as well as one of Lang Lang's calling cards, Liszt's Piano Concerto No. 1 — a bravura piece bringing musical fireworks to this joyous occasion.
But Lang Lang and Long Yu aren't the only Chinese musicians featured on this festive program. Chen Qigang's Extase, for oboe soloist and orchestra, calls upon the Phil's young principal oboist, Liang Wang (a native of Qing Dao) while dizi (traditional Chinese bamboo flute) master Tang Jun Qiao makes her Philharmonic debut. And a very youthful choir from Mongolia called Quintessenso, with 37 members ranging in age from 5 to 12 years old, will be sharing musical traditions of their native grassland region in a suite of Mongolian folk songs.