Festival Music

Shanghai Symphony Orchestra

Usher Hall, Edinburgh

Stephanie Humphreys

five Stars

THE Shanghai Symphony Orchestra left nothing to be desired as they made their debut at the Edinburgh International Festival. Although he joked it was for the whisky, conductor Long Yu delighted in being there, performing a programme rich in nationalities and cultures.

The orchestra looked and sounded as one, as they opened with a modern Chinese piece about the five elements, each conveyed so convincingly you could hear the trickling water and feel the bright, warm fire.

Dvorak’s famous Cello Concerto was brought to life by cellist Alisa Weilerstein. Weilerstein was in command of the audience throughout, and even the softest passages were clearly audible. Her relationship with the orchestra still felt quite new and there were moments where they seemed to be getting used to each other. Despite this, they interacted well, making a rich, lyrical sound. An encore finished off the first half beautifully.

During Shostakovich’s fifth symphony an extensive use of dynamics and contrast between the majestic sounds of the opening, the balletic second movement and the laments of the third movement made for a moving and immersive performance. The orchestra made a very powerful sound in the finale, ending with a majestic and defiant sound reaching a dynamic climax at the final sudden key change. The silence of the audience was broken with shouts of “bravo” and thunderous applause.

Another encore, a ‘Chinese dessert’ as the conductor called it, used only strings. A satisfying end to the concert as it brought us back once again to China.

*Stephanie Humphreys is a pupil at Broughton High School and this review was submitted as part of The Herald Young Critics project with the Edinburgh International Festival.

 

 

More Shanghai Symphony reviews from Broughton students below:

 

Festival Music

Shanghai Symphony Orchestra

Usher Hall

Alicia Soares

five stars

 

A breath of fresh air describes this evening as the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra premiered in the world-renowned Edinburgh International Festival, performing a captivating concoction of European and Asian music.

The concert started off incredibly strong as the orchestra quickly set the tone and completely changed the atmosphere of the hall. The busy buzz of people getting organised was suspended from the very first few notes. One could easily drift off into a trance, hearing and seeing the waves and ripples the orchestra was creating with not only their instruments but with their bodies as they swayed to the ripples of sound.

The Elements were swiftly followed by the powerful Dvořák Cello Concerto in B minor performed with the talented US cellist, Alisa Weilerstein. Once again, the powerful entrance of the orchestra and soloist were big and bold, the sound created was immense.

The heavy vibrato from the string section created a luscious sound along with the brasses regal fanfares created the perfect balance, never too loud or quiet as the orchestras ability to dramatically change from a booming sound to a whisper in milliseconds never failed to impress.

The Shostakovich was filled with chromaticism and heavy imitation. The hall was filled with anticipation to hear this characterful piece and were not let down as the orchestra romped through its dramatic twists and turns.

“Dessert” was served, as described by the conductor and the concert ended with a quirky encore, a loud “Bravo!” and a deafening rapture of applause. 

 

Festival Music

Shanghai Symphony Orchestra 

Usher Hall 

Josie Law 

five stars 

As soon as the conductor of the Shanghai Symphony orchestra walked on stage, the audience erupted in wild applause, which would only get louder throughout the evening. The orchestra’s performance was well constructed, with enthralling soloists and a perfect balance that caused shouts of ‘Bravo!’ to reign throughout the Usher Hall on the night. 

The diverse program began with Qigang Chen’s composition, Wu Xing (‘the five elements’). I found it a delightful fusion of eastern and western music, which proved to be a perfect introduction to the evening. It showcased the versatility of the orchestra, as they flowed from one movement to the next, emulating the sound of rushing water with percussion and strings. 

 

Next came Dvorak’s Cello Concerto, led by American soloist Alisa Weilerstein. The communication between Alisa and the orchestra was immaculate, leading to a passionate, impactful rendition. It caused such a reaction that Alisa rejoined the orchestra and played a short, wistful encore. 

Finally came the anticipated Symphony No. 5 composed by Shostakovich. The emotion the orchestra conveyed was breathtaking, with impassioned heights contrasting with the slower, sensitive largo. Many cheers echoed through the halls when it concluded. It was followed by an encore, returning to the eastern tones that embody the Shanghai Symphony orchestra, ending the evening gloriously. 

 

Overall, it was an impressive performance by an orchestra who clearly put its heart and soul into the performance, bringing the artistry of the Shanghai Symphony orchestra to the Edinburgh Festival for the first time in history. 

 

Festival Music

Shanghai Symphony Orchestra

Usher Hall

 

Jo Collett

 

five stars

 

The instant the conductor presented himself, a sharp, concentrated energy filled the auditorium, with all eyes focused on the leader of these exquisite, unique players.

 

The Shanghai Symphony Orchestra - directed by Long Yu, is one of China’s world renowned classical ensembles – Performing in its 140th year, it has been praised universally for its colourful, and diverse style.

 

Opening the show with Wu Xing’s (The Five Elements’) These few beautifully crafted movements were intellectually performed with a great utopian, majestic feel. The audience was greeted with light euphonic sounds heavily in the woodwind and percussion section, tension was heard from the violins by repeatedly playing glissandos.

 

There were pauses for suspense and eerie whistling from the woodwind section. To sign off, a wave of atonal, chaotic melodies followed by an abrupt, accented final chord left the audience impressed with an outstanding first impression.

 

Progressing further into the program, the Dvorák’s Cello Concerto in B Minor excelled in the hands of Alisa Weilerstein.

 

The unspoken musical connection between the solo cellist and the orchestra was immaculate. There were strong intertwined melodies, and the cello made a fierce but smooth musical entrance, being not only “one” with the cello, but a whole with the auditorium.

 

The rest or the group responded to this positively, the cello helped to highlight sections of the orchestra and simply connected with the group.

 

Concluding, the SSO captured the emotion of a piece by the structure and had a long lasting impact on its viewers.

 

Festival Music

Shanghai Symphony Orchestra

Usher Hall

Mhairi Hamilton

five stars

 

The Shanghai Symphony Orchestra was absolutely incredible. I was in such a state of wonder the whole time, consumed by the remarkable music. The conductor Long Yu is spectacular at what he does, he sewed the whole orchestra together and made it sound phenomenal.

They first played Dvorak’s cello concerto in B minor, and I must say; astounding. The solo cellist, Alisa Weilerstein was one hell of a player!

The concerto had a powerful opening — whenever the orchestra played in unison, it sounded so thrilling. The strings sounded hauntingly beautiful and effortless. The music was very majestic in a lot of areas, the main theme being very bold. Sometimes the piece would sound bittersweet and just so beguiling, very nostalgic.

After the interval they went onto playing Shostakovich’s symphony No 5 in D minor. Personally, I was fond of this one more than the other. It immediately caught my attention as it had a mysterious, dark beginning. To me, this piece of music sounded like it was lost in a world trying to find a destination. It sounded hazy and confused in places and I really loved that about the piece. A lot of it was enchanting but slightly sinister — there were sections I thought sounded eerie but dazzling. I liked the Shostakovich more as I felt like there was a story — a work dominated by sadness and pain. It sometimes sounded fuzzy with glimmers of hope, but overall the piece was bewitching and drenched in beautiful agony.

 

Festival Music

Shanghai Symphony Orchestra

Usher hall

Amelia Szypczynska

five stars

 

Shanghai Symphony Orchestra’s performance on Monday night was just outstanding. The orchestra’s dynamic as an ensemble was unbelievable. They worked so well together and played as one. The three big pieces; Wu Xing (The five elements) Mahler, Cello Concerto in B minor Dvořák and Symphony No.5 in D minor Shostakovich. The Mahler was a nice start to the concert; mysterious and abstract. The soloist (Alisa Weilerstein) was outstanding; her technique was amazing, she was very involved with the orchestra and the conductor (Long Yu) Her sound was rich and filling throughout. The wind section was the most dominant section, switching between the soloist for the melody, but played with grace and magic. Apart from the odd couple times where sections were out of tune. There are no words to explain how amazing the experience was. The final piece; the first violin changed, the way he played made us see he was most engaged whilst playing. He nearly stood up from his chair; This was very powerful move and showed that he was engaged. The timpanist was having fun whilst playing and just outstanding. The second movement in particular sounded very mystical and magical produced by the harp and flute solos; like a beautiful stream gently flowing past. The Shostakovich finale was rich, the chord marking the end produced an unimaginable sound that echoed through the Usher hall. Audiences rose from their chairs and, even exclaimed “BRAVO” which tells us it was incredible. Outstanding performance from the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra!

 

Festival Music

 

Shanghai Symphony Orchestra

Usher Hall

Esme MacBride-Stewart

five stars

Precision and passion from one of the world’s leading orchestras

This programme promised a whirlwind of romantic and 20th century music – Dvorak’s cello concerto performed by American soloist Ailsa Weilerstein, Shostakovich’s 5th symphony and ‘Wu Xing’ by Chinese composer Qigang Chen, however, the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra and their conductor, Long Yu, handled it with ease.

‘Wu Xing’ uses a plethora of contemporary techniques and sounds which engaged the audience and created a vivid atmosphere.

Dvorak’s cello concerto is arguably one of his finest works, with lush accompaniment and a soaring melodic line for the cello. Distinguished cellist Ailsa Weilerstein commanded the stage from her first note. Her playing was characteristic and suitably dramatic yet, in the second movement, the solo line soared above the accompaniment, wonderfully soft and gentle in comparison but equally as engaging. The piece was rounded off with a wonderfully exciting final movement which the orchestra and soloist handled deftly.

Shostakovich’s fifth symphony is well known for many reasons, and it certainly felt like the orchestra were at home playing it. A fiery opening to the first movement captivated the audience’s attention and held it throughout the piece. However, a more playful tone which appeared in the second movement gave the performance depth and subtlety. The fourth movement brought more of that engaging, dramatic playing which brought the audience to a deafening applause at the end.

This was a confident Edinburgh Festival debut from Asia’s oldest orchestra, performed flawlessly and enjoyed by all who witnessed it.

 

Festival Music

Shanghai Symphony Orchestra

Usher Hall

Lucy Ruuskanen

four stars

 

Shanghai Symphony Orchestra delighted us with their first ever performance in Edinburgh and the programme suited the occasion perfectly.

 

We are taken through an exhilarating romantic journey with Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 and Dvorak’s B minor cello concerto.

 

The concert was opened with Wu Xing (“The Five Elements.”) All of which were very distinct from each other and portrayed each element with intriguing beauty.

Then came the Dvorak.

 

The conductor worked with the orchestra to create a silky, warm and luminous layer which accompanied Alisa comfortably, although at times I felt she was overpowered by the orchestra and her technically demanding phrases blended in with the strings and didn’t get the full audience attention they needed. The cellist had a clear passion for the music and she connected well with the audience through her beautiful melodic lines.

 

The opening section of the Shostakovich was thrilling and vigorous. I felt that the brass were slightly underwhelming for such an intense work, but the strings did not disappoint and continually grew the voluminous sound being created. The sinister like opening of the 1st movement unveiled into a gut-wrenching melody which makes the Symphony one of Shostakovich’s best. Shanghai Symphony Orchestra shared with us a wonderful programme and I hope they return to Edinburgh with another performance in the future.

 

Festival Music

Shanghai Symphony Orchestra

Usher Hall

Keara Koterwas

four stars

 

Shanghai Symphony Orchestra last night was breathtaking.

 

The Orchestra’s 140th anniversary year and first time playing at the Edinburgh International Festival began with Wu Xing’s ‘The Five Elements’. The smooth transitions from unsettling to etherial had us all on the edges of our seats. Their bright and clean sound warmed us up nicely for the synchronized bowing, intense and fulfilling orchestral sound to come.

 

The New York-born Cello Soloist, Alisa Weilerstein glided over the strings effortlessly as she played Dvorak’s Cello Concerto in B minor and was joined by immaculate solos from members of the Orchestra.

 

Sometimes pieces can get too long and the audience can start to stir but everyone remained rapt. That is until she went on to play an encore when she lost the audience to some yawns and fidgets regardless of it being arguably the most beautiful melody of the night.

 

Finishing with Shostakovich’s Symphony No.5 in D minor concluded an exciting, varied and well-chosen program. The orchestra shared a short intimate tune as an encore to give us a taste of Shanghai, sending you home with a warm string sound still ringing in your ears.

 

The performance exuded elegance and professionalism making it some of the finest orchestral playing I’ve seen.

 

A must-see. Four stars.

 

 

Festival Music

Shanghai Symphony Orchestra

Usher Hall

Elianna Proud

four stars

 

Even from the moment that the orchestral players began tuning up, the Usher Hall was filled with ribbons of different melodies, foretelling the complex pieces about to be performed by the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra. The opening piece Wu Xing (The Five Elements) by Qigang Chen captured each of the elements through a fascinating use of timbre- never have I heard an orchestra make such strange sounds! From light droplets to a rushing waterfall, Xing cleverly conveyed the character of water- and had the audience captivated.

The second piece, Dvoraks’s Cello concerto in B minor, had an emotional and stormy opening, which gradually settled, and it seemed that the string section lay down a blanket of soft harmonies for the soloist, Alisa Weilerstein, to make her passionate entrance upon. The lilting melodies contrasted with gentle flowing passages and then again with turbulence... Weilerstein was a beautiful conveyor of the concerto’s emotion.

In the finale, Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5, it seemed to me like the conductor, Long Yu, commanded the orchestra as if it were one body. The dramatic opening thundered through the hall and had the audience on the edge of their seats, recapturing each person’s attention after the interval. The haunting melodies and eerie pizzicato from the string section balanced alongside the lush and rich orchestration of each theme. As the mighty work ended with the regal crash of the cymbals, the entire hall resounded in applause.

Overall, an incredible performance that weaved a rich tapestry of musical emotion.

 

 

Festival Music

Shanghai Symphony Orchestra

Usher Hall

Xander Proud

five stars

 

Nothing stimulates excitement quite like waiting in the exquisite Usher Hall with the warm buzz of chatter around you, watching the flash of violins and brass tuning and waiting for the lights to dim. This was certainly the atmosphere before the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra’s concert started - expectations were high and anticipation was even higher for this exciting and unique concert.

The first piece was Qigang Chen’s ‘Wu Xing’ also known as ‘The Five Elements’. Five short pieces, Water, Wood, Fire, Earth and Metal captured elegant imagery of each material. A favourite was ‘Water’ which was glassy smooth and gave strong impressions of movement.

This was followed by Dvořák’s Cello Concerto in B minor. A murmur of delight went up when Alisa Weilerstein, the soloist, walked on stage with her cello, sporting a vivid red dress. The sweet harmonies of the orchestra mingled with the soaring melodies of the cello as well as vigorous, thunderous call and responses created a brilliant and warming performance of the piece. Weilerstein even came back on stage again to play a pre-interval encore.

The final piece was Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony in D minor which stirred a range of emotions with playful plucking to tremendous swells to glamorous waltzing, concluding with an electrifying finish – memories of which raise hairs on the back of my neck. The clapping echoed around the hall for longer than usual and still resounds in my ears, meaning only one thing – the performance tonight was nothing short of a success.

 

 

Festival Music

Shanghai Symphony Orchestra

Usher Hall

Mika Konishi Gaffney

five stars

 

To hear the Shanghai Orchestra who had travelled across half the world to play tonight was a certain treat. The packed night began with a Chinese suite “Wu Xing” translating to The Five Elements. The movements displayed the orchestra’s elegance and mystery, demonstrating the players’ unity with their instruments.

 

Dvorak’s Cello Concerto in B minor, one of his finest works, soon followed. The soloist Alisa Weilerstein glided onstage in a breath-taking red gown and launched confidently into the Allegro. She beautifully captured the heartache the composer must have felt as he wrote the music, a pain of losing his first true love. Her detailed and precise playing matched the Usher Hall’s intricate interior as if the building was designed for her. I wasn’t alone in thinking the second movement was especially beautiful, with a sea of heads swaying as the resonating melody floated over to where we sat transfixed.

 

The Shanghai musicians managed to top this performance with Shostakovich’s symphony no.5 in D minor, which was as close to perfection as thought possible. The orchestra’s accuracy and musicality made listening exciting, with exaggerated dynamics illustrating the soul-wrenching darkness. The movements juxtaposed exquisitely, and an astounding finale that filled the acoustic ended in cheers and an applause that still rings in my ears.

 

The conductor Long Yu lead his orchestra with expertise, and it was delightful to hear that the woodwind section were arranged to better win the usual battle of being unheard over the mass of strings.