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PKU May Fourth Symphony Concert 2017—celebrating the 119th Anniversary of PKU

MAY . 17 2017

Peking University, May 14, 2017: On the evening of May 5, when Peking University celebrated its 119th anniversary, the May Fourth Symphony Concert 2017 was held at PKU Hall. The China National Opera House, conducted by the famous conductor Yang Yang, worked in tandem with two youth sopranos You Hongfei and Ruan Yuqun, and gave a marvelous performance of Mozart’s opera arias and Beethoven’s Symphony No.2 in D major. They presented the audience with an acoustic feast, sent their best regards to PKU, and left an indelible mark on its 119th anniversary. 

Yang Yang

The first half of the concert focused on opera buffa and sacred works of Mozart, a music prodigy. The Overture to Don Giovanni opened the night. Two powerful D minor chords played by the small-size orchestra came first, followed by a short period of queerness, the unsteady chords of which created a sense of uneasiness and indicated ominous premonitions. After this, the tune lightened up, with the brisk D major allegro forming the part of the exposition. The development section was responsible for thematic transformations of the music, which was in accordance with its traditional role. At last, the piped and stringed music reinforced the original theme, concluding the overture in joy and mirth.

You Hongfei

You Hongfei was the second to come on stage. She first sang Porgi amor, qualche ristoro from Le Nozze di Figaro. Her pure and mellow voice fully expressed the mournful but not distressing feelings of the duchess. After this, she sang another aria which required a strong dramatic sense and skillful techniques – Come Scoglio, an excerpt from Così fan tutte. The first half was a relatively mild recitative, while the aria in the latter half was more fast-paced and included lots of coloratura. You’s bright and penetrating voice perfectly presented Audi Leah’s loyalty to love and dignity to the audience.

Ruan Yuqun

The other soprano Ruan Yuqun gave a stunning performance of Mozart’s Ode to Joy. While its libretto was largely concerned with religious connotations, the composition was characteristic of Mozart’s lively and bright style. The first song was full of fast-paced and difficult coloratura, but with her skillful and mellow voice, steady and smooth breath, accurate musicality, Ruan managed to present them almost flawlessly. The second song was more lyrical, and she delivered her reverence and pious wishes for Virgin Mary through her soft and mild voice. Ruan once again impressed everyone deeply with her consummate skills of coloratura in the third song Hallelujah, and she was greeted with  thunderous applause from the whole audience.

In the second half of the concert, Beethoven’s Symphony No.2 in D major, Op.36, the least known one among Beethoven’s nine symphonies yet unique with its own distinct features, was performed. Under the ruly and passionate conduct of Yang Yang, the China National Opera House gave a wonderful performance of the four movements. The first movement elicited string music from the wind music, and the conductor’s obvious emphasis on the wind music assuredly enhanced the sound volume of the band. The second Adagio movement exquisitely portrayed the composer’s experiences and philosophical reflections in the countryside of Heiligenstadt. The third movement unconventionally adopted a less formal but more brisk musical form – scherzo. The last movement weaved crescendo into decrescendo, using such sheer contrast of the weak and the strong to prompt the advance of this movement. The band constantly accumulated power during every acceleration, and finally, in the thunderous applause of the audience, brought this concert to a perfect end.

Unlike previous years, the May Fourth Symphony Concert this year didn’t follow the traditional concert model, but boldly innovated through adding coloratura into the concert. It was also marvelous that the China National Opera House managed to give such a splendid performance of Beethoven’s symphony. Such a remarkably successful performance was undoubtedly indebted to the wholehearted devotion of the conductor Yang Yang. This fantastic and innovative concert not only marked the end of this year’s anniversary, but also added to our anticipation of the 120th anniversary next year.

Written by: Yin Xin
Edited by: Hu Rong, Xu Liangdi
Source: PKU News (in Chinese)