The National Arts Centre Orchestra is currently touring China with its charismatic music director, violinist Pinchas Zukerman. Click "open gallery" to view some photos from the tour, and read on for Zukerman's travel diary.
Since it was founded in 1969, NACO has never toured China. Between Oct. 4 and 21, 2013, 70 musicians, 10 staff members, several journalists and supporters of the NAC are undertaking an epic musical journey that will see them give concerts in Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Chongqing, Fuling, Tianjin, Beijing and Shanghai.
In addition to concerts, NACO has planned more than 80 educational events during their tour.
Watch Bringing the Tiger Down the Mountain II, featuring a solo from cellist Amanda Forsyth, performed in advance of NACO's China tour:
Pinchas Zukerman's tour diary
Guangzhou is bigger, more people, more traffic and more buildings. It's much greener now, that's good; driving in it looks good. When I first came there were maybe 12-13 million and now there are 16-18 million people who live here.
Tonight we are playing our first concert in China at the Xinghai Concert Hall in Guangzhou, and I know the musicians are really excited. We are going to open with a Canadian composition by John Estacio called Brio: Toccata and Fantasy for Orchestra. It is a beautiful piece and it was dedicated to my late father-in-law, Malcolm Forsyth, who was also a composer.
I will be playing and conducting the Violin Concerto No.1 by Max Bruch, and the orchestra will be playing Brahms's Symphony No. 2. It will be a beautiful program.
But we've already had a full day of activities: the NAC's musicians have been teaching at the Xinghai Conservatory, one of the best music schools in China. We've had two composition workshops, two reed-making workshops, masterclasses for the strings, clarinet, flute and brass.
I've always believed that playing concerts is not enough, we have to teach as well. And we will be teaching in more than 80 educational events during our first ever tour of China. To be honest, the whole tour is thrilling for me and for the 70 musicians of the NAC Orchestra.
Strolling through the landscaped garden of Beijing’s premiere music school, the Central Conservatory of Music, the sound of arias, violins and young musicians practising the piano wafted from the open windows on a sunny afternoon.
The campus is packed with thousands of China’s top music students, in a country where many estimate that between 30 million and 100 million people are taking lessons in the violin or piano.
From a modern recital hall, fully equipped for recording, I settled in for an afternoon of teaching with three of the conservatory’s top violin students.
I told the students what I tell kids all over the world when I teach: "The most important aspect to focus on is your sound. If you sound good, you feel good, and the audience feels good, and you’ll make money!"
The three young violinists were really talented and reflect what is going on with music in China today. The music schools are packed, the government is building brand new concert halls; it feels like there really is a musical explosion in this country.
What I hope to do during this tour is to teach some music students and also coach their teachers. That’s why I was so pleased to see the recital hall packed with young people for my masterclass in Beijing. There were lots of interesting questions, about how to stand, how to create great sound, where to place the weight to balance the violin. The NAC has been very well received everywhere we go in China, the music schools are very receptive to this cultural exchange.
And I hope to instill in the young people I am meeting the lessons that I received when I was young. "It’s not enough to just perform," I tell them. "You have to give back to the next generation of artists through teaching. I know how to play the fiddle, so that’s what I want to give to all of you."
Watch more NACO China tour preview performances
Bringing The Tiger Down