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Yale School of Music Teams with Beijing’s Central Conservatory of Music to Host The First “Musicathlon,” A Cultural Prelude to the Olympics


New Haven, Conn. — The concert halls of Beijing will be alive with the sound of music—as well as lectures and master classes—for two weeks prior to the start of the Olympic Games, when the Yale School of Music and Beijing’s Central Conservatory of Music host students from 10 of the world’s most prestigious schools of music for a “Musicathlon.”

Conceived by Yale School of Music Dean Robert Blocker and President of Beijing Central Conservatory Cizhao Wang, “Musicathlon: The Conservatory Music Festival” will bring together students and faculty from the Shanghai Conservatory, Universität Mozarteum Salzburg, Sibelius Academy (Helsinki), Royal Academy of Music (London), Liszt Academy (Budapest), Korean National University of the Arts, Sydney Conservatorium, The Juilliard School (New York) and the Beethoven Institute at the University of Music and Performing Arts (Vienna), as well as the two host institutions. The international gathering of performers and master teachers is meant to celebrate music and musicianship in the Olympic spirit.

“President Wang and I thought that the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing would be a singular opportunity for the Yale School of Music and the Central Conservatory to come together in presenting a festival with nine of the world’s leading music programs,” said Blocker.

“Music transcends the geographical and cultural differences and becomes a universal language and the pioneer of disseminating arts of the time,” said President Wang Cizhao. “In the year of Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, the Central Conservatory of Music and the Yale School of Music jointly invite the world’s top conservatories to join the celebration of the Olympics and welcome the Olympic torch in Beijing with their wonderful music. Meanwhile, the Musicathlon will provide a music platform for communication for the talented young musicians all over the world.”

“This musical summit is rooted in history,” commented Yale University President Richard C. Levin. “The arts played a part in the original Olympics and Yale has historically enjoyed a close relationship with China, graduating the first Chinese student from an American University in 1854 and hosting Chinese President Hu Jintao in 2006.”

The festival calls for each of the conservatories to present a series of programs in various venues in Beijing Central Conservatory of Music as well as the Forbidden City Concert Hall and the titanium- and glass-clad National Center for the Performing Arts. As the grand finale to the Musicathlon on July 24, students from Yale and Central Conservatory will join on the stage of the National Center to perform Mahler’s Second Symphony (“Resurrection”). Two alumnae of Yale Opera currently singing at the Metropolitan Opera, Heather Buck and Mary Phillips, will be soloists, and Yongyan Hu, the artistic director of the Central Conservatory student orchestra and a former student of the Yale School of Music, will conduct.

Performing concerts from full-orchestral programs to chamber music to solo recitals, participating conservatories in the Musicathlon will present programs that often showcase their national musical heritage, sometimes fused with other musical traditions. The Sydney Conservatorium will perform works by contemporary Australian composers, and the Shanghai and Central Conservatories will include traditional Chinese pipa and zheng music in their programs. The Sibelius Academy will perform jazz infused with Finnish folk influences.

In addition to performances, each conservatory will also offer a variety of public events such as lectures, workshops and master classes with young Beijing musicians. The head of the Liszt Academy will present a lecture on the influence of Hungarian folk music on Hungary’s great composers, while the Royal Academy of Music will hold a lecture-master class on the British brass tradition with trumpet players from the Central Conservatory. This will be followed by an open rehearsal for a joint Chinese Central Conservatory-Royal Academy brass concert.

On July 22, in the Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing, the Philharmonia Orchestra of Yale will perform Saint-Saëns’ Cello Concerto, with virtuouso cellist Jian Wang. The Shanghai-born musician was a young student when he appeared in the 1981 documentary “From Mao to Mozart,” about violinist Isaac Stern’s tour of China following the Cultural Revolution. Largely through Stern’s encouragement and support, Jian Wang found his way to the Yale School of Music in 1985, where he studied with the renowned cellist Aldo Parisot. The young musician’s first professional engagement was in 1986 at Carnegie Hall, and since then he has embarked on an international career, performing with the world’s leading orchestras, including the Philadelphia, Boston, Cleveland and Chicago Symphonies, the Stockholm Philharmonic and the National Orchestra of France. The last stop on the Philharmonia tour will be in Shanghai, where on July 25, in the Shanghai Grand Theater, the group will perform the same program of Bernstein, Dvorák and Saint- Saëns, with Jian Wang as soloist.

“Here future artists from around the globe will gather and create ‘musical bridges,’ learning about each other’s musical traditions while discovering shared values and aspirations,” noted Blocker.


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