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Members of a string quartet of the Philadelphia Orchestra are visiting China to perform and teach, in a bid to deepen cultural ties.

Four musicians of the Philadelphia Orchestra will travel to China as a string quartet to perform chamber music concerts and take part in a series of coaching sessions and master classes.

Violinist Mei Ching Huang, associate principal second violin Paul Roby, violist Meng Wang, and principal cello Hai-Ye Ni-are visiting ShanghaiTech University from Monday to Wednesday and the China Conservatory of Music from Thursday to Saturday.

"The string quartet will travel to China for residency activities that further the orchestra's commitment to people-to-people exchange through music," says Matias Tarnopolsky, president and chief executive officer of the orchestra, in an email interview with China Daily.

Tarnopolsky notes that the residency at ShanghaiTech University this month is part of the orchestra's new three-year strategic partnership with the university, which aims to provide teaching and musical performances alongside musicians from the Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra on campus.

"We want to offer students activities that inspire innovation and creativity. This residency will allow students with musical experience to play with world-class musicians," said vice-president Yin Jie of ShanghaiTech when the strategic partnership was announced at the university on May 26.

"Combining the arts with technology can create a new and exciting chemistry that will keep students motivated and engaged in the learning process and the world around them."

The string quartet will also hold residency events at the China Conservatory of Music in Beijing and will take part in several rehearsals and master classes. On Saturday, the string quartet will close their trip to China with a chamber music concert performing with musicians from the Orchestra Academia China, an ensemble of the China Conservatory of Music.

The activities follow the orchestra's 2019 Asian tour of Taipei, Kyoto, Tokyo, Incheon and Seoul.

"We are committed to young musicians, and music is an important part of developing civic engagement throughout life. Supporting future generations of artists is central to the Philadelphia Orchestra's mission. We have a rich tradition of engagement beyond the concert hall. To have these opportunities to advance the training and development of young musicians enables us to build on our deep partnerships through music in China," says Tarnopolsky, adding that during a time of uncertainty between the two countries due to trade tensions, these events are particularly meaningful.

"Our work in China sits at the heart of our mission to share the transformative power of music with the widest audience. Today, we think it's ever more important to make sure there is the opportunity for people-to-people exchanges through music. Music can give voice to ideas and emotions that words alone cannot," says Tarnopolsky.

Since becoming the first American orchestra to perform in China in 1973, the Philadelphia Orchestra has developed increasingly deeper connections with the country.

During the 2019 Tour of China, over May 16-28, the orchestra performed under the baton of conductor Yannick Nezet-Seguin, who is also the music director of the orchestra, with repertoires including Beethoven's Symphony No 6, Sibelius's Symphony No 2 and Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini featuring Chinese pianist Zhang Haochen. The orchestra also performed at the world premiere of Oscar-winning composer Tan Dun's vocal concerto, The Deer of Nine Colors, featuring Chinese soprano Lei Jia.

Besides performances at concert halls, residency activities were also held during their 2019 tour, ranging from side-by-side concerts with students at the Minzu University of China for a rehearsal, and presentation by Nicholas Platt at the Renmin University in Beijing, the diplomat who helped facilitate the orchestra's historic 1973 tour of China.

The residency was initiated in 2012 with the help of Platt, who is still a consultant for the orchestra and regularly accompanies the musicians on their trips to China.

"Audiences in China have a deep love for music and for the Philadelphia Orchestra. We are always moved by the warmth of the welcome we receive in the country," Tarnopolsky says.

"The musicians from the Philadelphia Orchestra and I are delighted to return to the concert halls of China, and to continue our tradition of pursuing deeper engagement outside of the hall by engaging with communities throughout our travels," Nezet-Seguin told an audience at the National Center for the Performing Arts ahead of the orchestra's concert in Beijing on May 17.

"This model of cultural exchange is a beautiful example of our special relationship with China and a powerful reminder of how music connects us all," he adds.

China Daily

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