SHENZHEN was once called "a desert of culture" due to its short history, but with the performances of Shenzhen Symphony Orchestra (SZSO) at home and abroad, the city's cultural image has been largely improved.
Nie Bing, director of SZSO, shared with the Shenzhen Daily how the troupe has developed its reputation and the city's cultural image in China and abroad over the past 36 years.
The SZSO was established in 1982, two years after the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone had been established, said Nie. Back then, only a handful of cities in China had their own symphony orchestras.
"In fact, Shenzhen Symphony Orchestra has been growing alongside the city and has developed a unique spirit with the city," said Nie. The unique spirit refers to being innovative and reformative, as well as open, according to Nie.
"Every world-class city around the globe, such as New York, Paris and Moscow, has a symphony orchestra, and Shenzhen is actually at the forefront of cultural development in China."
"Shenzhen was facing many challenges at that time because there were many uncertainties about how the city should develop, and so it was with SZSO," said Nie. "There was not much experience to follow as there were no other art troupes like us back then, so we learned from overseas troupes and experimented with our own management models."
SZSO innovated a hiring system for musicians by signing contracts with them, instead of adopting lifelong employment. "We can terminate contracts with players that are not suitable for the group and hire those who continue to develop their professional skills," said Nie.
Since 1987, SZSO has been touring China as well as other countries and regions. The SZSO has performed in dozens of countries, including the United States, Italy, Germany, Austria and South Korea, receiving positive comments and recognition from audiences and professionals alike.
According to Nie, not every Chinese symphony orchestra sells tickets when performing overseas, but SZSO does sell tickets and sales have been satisfactory for each performance.
In October 1997, SZSO was invited to perform in Europe and made its debut at the Berlin Concert Hall in Germany followed by the Smetana Hall in the Czech Republic, becoming the first Chinese orchestra to perform in the Central European country.
Ten years later in 2007, SZSO became the first professional Asian symphony orchestra to perform at the Invalides Saint Louis Cathedral in Paris under the invitation of the French National Military Museum.
While recalling the experience of taking the art troupe back to the Smetana Hall in Prague last year, two decades after SZSO's first performance there, Nie shed some tears. "I was overwhelmed by how much our symphony orchestra had developed over the years."
The SZSO made a splash with its performance of "Ode to Humanity," an original symphony created by local musicians that honors Confucianism, the core spirit of ancient Chinese civilization, in 2013 at UNESCO's headquarters in Paris.
For SZSO, it's not enough just to perform overseas. The symphony orchestra has also been hiring expatriate musicians who have witnessed the development of both the troupe and the city.
Each year, SZSO invites world-class conductors and chief musicians to play together. The group also performs with renowned symphony orchestras, such as the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, he said.