Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Classical Concert in Shenyang, China - Ying String Quartet, Eastman School of Music

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Three years ago, my hometown Shenyang, Manchurian city in northeastern China, opened a new complex for performing arts - Shengjing Grand Theatre, which consisted of an 1800-seat opera house, a concert hall, and a multiple-functional playhouse. During day time, the diamond shaped dark complex looked like a squatting tortoise; when the night arrived, the many lights dotting its transparent surfaces gave it a look of a giant gemstone, though the constant shifting of the colors of those lights was rather cheeky.

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In October 2017, I had an opportunity to attend a chamber music concert in the concert hall situated on the 7th floor of the complex.

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Once having entered the complex, audience members had to go through security check — apparently the common practice in China now, in most public places, such as theaters, train terminals and subway stations.

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The front lobby was simple and traditional — welcoming without overwhelming.

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On the second floor, the odd-shaped and vast lobby, sandwiched between the curved wall of the opera house and the trusst structure of the transparent outer shell, was pleasantly airy and intriguing, enticing theater goers to gawk and socialize.

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The 7th Floor was very subdued and had an atmosphere of modern day church, preparing audience for an experience of near spirituality.

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The arena-styled Concert Hall had only one floor; apparently, the designer and management were convinced that more seats were not needed for this industrial city, which could boast only rather modest history of classical music.

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The concert I attended was performed by Ying String Quartet from the excellent conservatory in the USA — Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester. All the performers were faculty members from the music school and each taught the instruments they performed.

The theater provided no information as what the program was, neither online, nor inside the theater, and the ushers were of no help either, though they did know the length of the performance.

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Once on stage, the viola player introduced themselves and the program - string quartets by Borodin, Ravel, and Dvořák. The speaker spoke only in English and no translation was provided; though many audience members seemed understood well and responded at the right timing. Not everyone understood English for sure, including my parents, who was left in the dark, but applauded politely when cued.

The acoustic of the hall proved excellent, with good combination of clarity, warmth, and immediacy. The hall was barely half-full and many people played their mobile phone, during the performance, taking photos or videos of the performance, sometimes even selfies, or just chatting with friends.

For the encore, gratefully, Tchaikovsky String Quartet No. 1 Op. 11 - II. Andante cantabile movement was performed, instead of gratuitous local flavored offerings, and cemented a night of solid music making.

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