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The Philadelphia Orchestra Announces Historic Partnership with China's National Center for the Performing Arts

September 22, 2011

Pilot China partnership, supported by the U.S. Department of State, will include concerts, master classes, lectures and musical workshops in Beijing as well as performances in Tianjin, Shanghai and Guangzhou

(Philadelphia, September 22, 2011)— In a formal ceremony in Washington, DC today, The Philadelphia Orchestra – one of the world’s most renowned cultural ambassadors – signed a historic agreement with the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) in Beijing to develop a pilot partnership in China, which is set to launch in May 2012. The agreement, signed by Chen Ping, the President of NCPA, and Allison Vulgamore, President and CEO of The Philadelphia Orchestra Association, is the latest aspect of the U.S. Department of State’s high-level “People-to-People” Exchange, which serves to enhance and strengthen ties between American and Chinese citizens in a variety of areas, including culture.

In response to formalizing this agreement, the Department of State issued a statement of support stating, “...[it] is pleased to note The Philadelphia Orchestra’s latest initiative to build more extensive cultural ties between the United States and China through its new partnership with China’s National Center for the Performing Arts. This collaboration is one of the many positive results that have emerged from the U.S.-China Constitution on People-to-People Exchange.”

Launching with “The Philadelphia Orchestra Week” in Beijing, this pilot partnership was jointly designed to unite Philadelphia Orchestra members with talented young Chinese musicians and develop their skills to be orchestral players. It will also serve to bring orchestral music to China’s major cities and further into the provinces. Another significant feature of the partnership will be the Young Composers Programme, which will identify a Chinese composer each year and through a work commissioned by the NCPA, will then be world- premiered by The Philadelphia Orchestra at the close of the week. This first year will include performances at the NCPA, lead by Chief Conductor Charles Dutoit, as well as a chamber symphony performance conducted by Concertmaster David Kim. Additionally, this first week will include master classes, coachings, lectures and other music workshops in Beijing as well as performances in nearby Tianjin, Philadelphia’s “sister” city in China, Guangzhou and Shanghai.

“Reaching this agreement with our partners in China, and particularly with Mr. Chen and the leaders of the NCPA, is not only thrilling but truly a momentous step forward for The Philadelphia Orchestra,” stated Ms. Vulgamore. “Our Orchestra has had a storied and much treasured history with China and its people. We are honored to bring this long-planned vision to return to China in a musical people-to-people exchange – and we are committed to this initiative. The role of The Philadelphia Orchestra in China as a cultural ambassador for the United States is one that we cherish and one that we believe will blossom further as we pilot this residency. With support from the U.S. Department of State, we look forward to helping both governments to further their shared goal of bringing citizens together through music.”

United States Ambassador Nicholas Platt, who helped shape this new partnership, concurs with Ms. Vulgamore’s assessment of its importance to the world. “As a U.S. diplomat serving in Beijing, I assisted The Philadelphia Orchestra’s historic 1973 visit to China, and witnessed firsthand how the ‘Philadelphia Sound’ could transform audiences and musicians alike,” said Ambassador Platt. “Creation of this pilot partnership for the Orchestra and China, nearly four decades later, demonstrates that past can be prologue. I am excited to see how this relationship between The Philadelphia Orchestra and NCPA thrives in the 21st century and more, how it promotes a new generation of extraordinary talent.”

The agreement and announcement of the pilot partnership in China caps one of The Philadelphia Orchestra’s busiest and most artistically rich summers. In addition to Philadelphia-area concerts at The Mann Center for the Performing Arts and Longwood Gardens, the Orchestra was in residence in Vail, CO, and Saratoga Springs, NY, before embarking on a critically acclaimed three-week tour of European Festivals. In the coming weeks, the Orchestra will perform a series of free Neighborhood Concerts in Philadelphia as well as its annual free concert for college students. This community engagement by the legendary ensemble is followed by its Opening Night gala on October 13, which welcomes guest soprano Dawn Upshaw under the baton of Chief Conductor Charles Dutoit and launches the exciting 2011-12 season.

For more information regarding The Philadelphia Orchestra, its pilot partnership with China or the upcoming 2011-12 season, please visit www.philorch.org.

The Philadelphia Orchestra and China

In 1973 The Philadelphia Orchestra, under Eugene Ormandy’s direction, became the first American orchestra to perform in the People’s Republic of China, at the special request of President Richard Nixon. The Orchestra returned to mainland China 20 years later, in 1993, again in 1996, and also in 2001, led by Wolfgang Sawallisch on each occasion. In 2008 Maestro Chistoph Eschenbach led the Philadelphians in a 35th Anniversary Concert commemorating its historic to China. Two years later, in 2010, Maestro Charles Dutoit and The Philadelphia Orchestra helped to open the World Expo in Shanghai.

Eight musicians who were on the 1973 trip remain in the Orchestra today: Violinists Herold Klein, Herbert Light, Booker Rowe, and Jerome Wigler; violist Renard Edwards; double bassist Michael Shahan (associate principal bass); harpist Margarita Montanaro (co-principal harp); and percussionist Anthony Orlando (associate principal percussion). The Philadelphia Orchestra has a long and distinguished touring history throughout the world and is one of the most-traveled American symphonic ensembles.

 The Philadelphia Orchestra

The Philadelphia Orchestra is among the world’s leading orchestras. Renowned for its artistic excellence since its founding in 1900, the Orchestra has excited audiences with thousands of concerts in Philadelphia and around the world.

With only seven music directors throughout more than a century of unswerving orchestral distinction, the artistic heritage of The Philadelphia Orchestra is attributed to extraordinary musicianship under the leadership and innovation of Fritz Scheel (1900-07), Carl Pohlig (1907-12), Leopold Stokowski (1912-41), Eugene Ormandy (1936-80), Riccardo Muti (1980-92), Wolfgang Sawallisch (1993-2003), and Christoph Eschenbach (2003-08). After 30 years of a celebrated association with The Philadelphia Orchestra, Charles Dutoit continues the tradition as chief conductor.

Since Mr. Dutoit’s debut with the Orchestra in July 1980 he has led hundreds of concerts in Philadelphia, at Carnegie Hall, and on tour, as artistic director of the Orchestra’s summer concerts at the Mann Center, artistic director and principal conductor of the Orchestra’s summer residency at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, and now as chief conductor. With the 2012-13 season, the Orchestra honors Mr. Dutoit by bestowing upon him the title conductor laureate. Yannick Nézet-Séguin assumed the title of music director designate in June 2010, immediately joining the Orchestra’s leadership team. He takes up the baton as The Philadelphia Orchestra’s next music director in 2012.

The Philadelphia Orchestra annually touches the lives of countless music lovers worldwide, through concerts, presentations, and recordings. Each year the Orchestra presents a subscription season at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, education and community partnership programs, and annual appearances at Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center; it also regularly tours throughout the world. Its summer schedule includes performances at the Mann Center, free Neighborhood Concerts throughout Greater Philadelphia, and residencies at the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival and the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. For more information on The Philadelphia Orchestra, please visit www.philorch.org.