Three Philadelphia Orchestra musicians—Associate Concertmaster Ying Fu, Principal Cello Hai-Ye Ni, and violinist Julia Li—were born in mainland China and for them, the Tour is a homecoming. Fu, who joined the Orchestra at the start of the 2013-14 season, was born in Shanghai and earned his Bachelor of Music degree from the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. His parents, who still live in Shanghai, were in the audience when the Philadelphians performed at the Shanghai Grand Theatre on Sunday.
Q: What was it like to perform in Shanghai as a member of The Philadelphia Orchestra?
Ying Fu: I was very nervous but excited! “Nervous” because I want to bring the best of my playing to the audience from my hometown and it’s the first time for my parents and friends to watch me in a live concert. “Excited” because people in Shanghai can have this opportunity to enjoy this great orchestra playing great music. There are not many great orchestras left in the world.
Q: Your parents and friends were in the audience. What was their reaction?
A: They loved it so much. They are attracted by every minute of this concert and they love Yannick so much. My wife was so happy because she got a signature from Yannick. They wish that we could play more concerts in Shanghai because they felt that they didn’t have enough.
Philadelphia Orchestra Associate Concertmaster Ying Fu with his father, Yan-Guo Tian; his mother, Li Fu; and his wife, Lihua Fang, at the Shanghai Grand Theatre.
Q: You studied at the Shanghai Conservatory. How important is it for students there to have an opportunity to see an orchestra like Philadelphia?
A: When I was a student, I always went to concerts and I could always learn something from it. Seeing The Philadelphia Orchestra can teach how great music is made. And I will say that students need to see as many concerts as they can and compare them to each other. Obviously, The Philadelphia Orchestra is considered as a good example.
Q: What is your first memory of The Philadelphia Orchestra? Did the Orchestra have an influence on you as a young musician?
A: When I was young, if I wanted to learn any symphonic work, I always tried to find a recording by Ormandy or Muti conducting The Philadelphia Orchestra, because I loved its sound, the Philadelphia Sound.
Q: You started playing violin at age three. What was the culture like in the late 1980s? And how have things changed since then for young musicians in China?
A: At that time, not many kids had a chance to learn an instrument, so if someone chose an instrument, their parents would push him/her to practice 24 hours a day until they became a soloist or a star. I was lucky because my mom only wanted me to play the violin as a hobby.
Q: This is your first time touring with the Orchestra. What have been the highlights so far? What are you most looking forward to?
A: The concert in Shanghai!! I am looking forward to seeing all the halls as well as the audiences.
Q: Are you involved with any specific residency activities?
A: I will do the side-by-side concert with Macao Orchestra on May 31.
Q: Anything you’d like the fans back in Philadelphia—most of whom have never been to China—to know about your country?
A: The audiences in Beijing and Shanghai are very different now from before. They behave very well and know how to watch a classical music concert now. They are so passionate and eager to hear more pieces. I can also feel that their applause is from their heart.