Sounds of Shanghai Sextet meets the Suzhou Chinese Orchestra at the Suzhou conservatory, October 2012
An invitation to the Suzhou Chinese Orchestra to come to Germany in
autumn 2013

In autumn 2012, the You Lan Duo, Guzheng virtuoso Xu Fengxia and violinist Gunda Gottschalk, are travelling to China. The tour will take the musicians from Hangzhou via Shanghai, Wuxi, Nanjing, and Shenzhen to Suzhou. At each stop, they will meet Chinese musicians and give joint concerts with them. Their musical concept characterised by openness and communication. Their improvising and free musical style will make for a lively exchange with local musicians.

The highpoint and closing event of this tour will take place at the music school in Suzhou where they will be joined by four other musicians from North Rhine-Westphalia, the Indigo String Quartet, and will perform as the Sounds of Shanghai Sextet in collaboration with a traditional orchestra of the music school.


Description of the project - history

Xu Fengxia’s and Gunda Gottschalk’s Sounds of Shanghai Sextet was founded in March 2010 under the patronage of the Wuppertal Office of Culture and the German Music Council. The two musicians, who both live in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, have been performing concerts together internationally for many years. They began as the Global Village Trio with Peter Kowald, then continued as the You Lan Duo. The idea of considering Chinese music from a western point of view came about during their concert tour in China in 2009. The musicians persuaded the Wuppertal string quartet Indigo to join them and have written compositions for the ensemble, which performs as Sounds of Shanghai. Concerts in Germany proved to be a great success and encouraged the musicians to export their idea to China. Xu Fengxia is Chinese, but obtained German citizenship in 1989. Cooperation with many musicians in Germany from the world of improvised music has expanded her musical horizons and she is now at home in both cultures. Gunda Gottschalk is a German violinist whose stay in China, in 1994 greatly influenced her work. At the time, she studied Chinese music traditions and aesthetics at the Tjanjin college for traditional music.

The impact this stay had on her was strengthened by the regular collaboration with Guzheng virtuoso Xu Fengxia and a further journey to China, where she worked at the renowned Shanghai Conservatory. Collaboration between the Sounds of Shanghai and the traditional Suzhou Chinese Orchestra is envisaged for 2012, when the string sextet will travel to China and for 2013, when the orchestra will visit North Rhine-Westphalia.

In addition to the meeting between the six musicians and the orchestra, as well as the adaptation of a number of compositions for a larger ensemble, the visitors from Germany will give concerts and workshops at the Sukhou music academy. The joint concert of the Sounds of Shanghai sextet and the Suzhou Chinese Orchestra in the academy’s concert hall will mark the end of the first stage of this musical exchange.

The ensemble is planning the return visit to Germany of the orchestra in autumn 2013 to continue and intensify their joint work and, of course, also to give concerts. The orchestra is expected to stay in Germany for approximately ten-days and a joint tour to several German towns is being prepared together with the Konfuzius Institut in Düsseldorf.

Background and motivation

This cultural exchange breaks new ground. This meeting is the first time that a traditional Chinese orchestra will come together with an ensemble of the European avant-garde. This cooperation between a school of Chinese musical culture with representatives of European new music is a unique concept.

Never before have musicians steeped in improvised music based their compositions on an ensemble such as the Suzhou Chinese Orchestra. New forms of musical communication and indeed music itself will need to be developed. Xu Fengxia’s and Gunda Gottschalk’s creative activity is greatly influenced by freely improvised music. The resulting compositions are very much open to the music of the moment. This openness makes contact with an orchestra of traditional Chinese music possible and allows them to include the orchestra’s sound aesthetics in their own music.

The aim of the project is to encourage an artistic exchange between East and West in the form of a dialogue between equals. Furthermore, it should promote both a new esteem of the Chinese musical tradition from the western world and foster artistic debate.

bild orchester