China maestro tells US orchs how it’s done

China maestro tells US orchs how it’s done


norman lebrecht

November 02, 2014

Beijing’s National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) Orchestra opens its US tour tonight in Chicago, reaching New York midweek. Its chief conductor, Lü Jia, has been telling our friend Elijah Ho how his ensemble went from zero to full houses in four years.

lu jia

Lü Jia: The NCPA orchestra does not pay (its musicians) quite as much as some orchestras in China, but it is 100% funded by the government, and we never do any commercial concerts. We perform the operatic and symphonic repertoire, and have no time to earn extra money on the side. But I think that’s alright for us.

Just two years ago, the NCPA started its symphonic season. Concerts were then only 60% full, but now, it’s very difficult to get even a single ticket. China is getting stronger, economically, and every major city – even the smaller cities – is building concert halls and opera houses. It is a commitment to the future.

Click here for full interview.


  • Milka says:

    He tells nothing except that western
    so called “classical “music is an
    interesting novelty in China and as such draws an audience that is still
    learning about this novelty .
    That the orchestra is state supported
    is interesting.

  • Robert Holmén says:

    I just read that Beijing has 10 professional orchestras. That’s a lot for a novelty.

  • Michael says:

    With such a wonderful MD, one could wonder why there are so many vacant positions in the orchestra and why so many musicians left…
    I’m also curious to read objective reviews about their tour in US.

  • Peter Shi says:

    Well…the China NCPA Orchestra may not need to perform in those “Commercial” concerts, but they have to play lots of music from those inferior composers who have some political background or who are just friends of the bureaucrats managing the NCPA, most of the time under the title such as “Original National Opera/Symphony”, and they have to play that crap again and again, until those bureaucrats realized that piece is a shame and shelved it. The opera “Xi Shi” (which is the first piece performed by this orchestra after its establishment) and “Orphan of Zhao” are all such kind of music.

    The orchestra is also facing lots of other problems, they are still of less than 90 musicians but their workload is comparable to a major staatsoper in Germany or Austria, with about 30 sets of concert programs and 15 operas. With an average pay by Chinese standard they could not keep their best musicians. Maestro Lu is a great conductor but he really could not help a lot towards the orchestra. Beijing NCPA in the end is managed by bureaucrats, not professional managers, not even the artists. Even the orchestra is the same.

    • Peter Shi says:

      When I say “about 30 sets of concert programs and 15 operas” I mean every year. That was the numbers when I was working there from 2009 to 2012. I heard they are performing more now.