The China Philharmonic Orchestra represents an interesting hybrid of the traditional symphony orchestra and the new kind of professionalism in classical music performance that is emerging in China. Formed in 2000 to represent the country’s extravagant ambitions in the arena of orchestral music for the 21st century, the China Philharmonic has grown, under the baton of Maestro Long Yu, into an internationally respected group displaying the same care and musicianship associated with much more established symphony orchestras. At the Granada on Thursday night, the program was a relatively conservative one, offering the familiar pleasures of Max Bruch’s one-hit wonder, the Concerto No. 1 for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 26, which featured the outstanding soloist Renaud Capucon, along with the eternally liberating Bolero of Maurice Ravel.
The China Philharmonic was at its best on the Ravel and on the opening number, the Roman Carnival Overture, Op. 9 of Hector Berlioz. Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings, Op. 48, which concluded the first half of the program, was perhaps too attenuated at times, although the impact of the deliberate tempo was felt powerfully in the third section marked Larghetto elegiaco. For an encore, the orchestra performed the evening’s only piece of Chinese music, Liu Tianhua’s Beautiful Night.
One unexpected treat for concertgoers on Thursday was a handbill distributed along with the program detailing what is surely the most impressive International Series yet presented by CAMA, scheduled for 2011-2012. Opening with the October 16 return of Gustavo Dudamel’s L.A. Philharmonic, the list goes from strength to strength, and includes such names as the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, and a May concert with the New York Philharmonic.