It is hard to imagine anything more European: the 140 musicians who are selected annually via auditions from about 4000 candidates for the European Union Youth Orchestra come from all the 28 member states of the EU. Since the EUYO’s founding in 1976, about 3000 musicians have been part of EUYO; many of the world’s most famous conductors, from Herbert von Karajan and Sir Georg Solti to Leonard Bernstein, have conducted the orchestra. Since 2000 Vladimir Ashkenazy has been the orchestra’s Music Director. Tours have taken the EUYO all around the world, from Sao Paolo to New York and from Mumbai to Seoul. Its appearances at Young Euro Classic – under Vladimir Ashkenazy, Herbert Blomstedt, Gianandrea Noseda, and others – have been among the festival’s annual highlights since its founding. The EUYO is financed by the EU Culture Programme as well as funds from all the 28 EU Member States. In 2014 the orchestra launched its ambitious programme Towards 2020, a broad-ranging project of cooperation which aims to develop new forms of music education in the face of the social changes confronting the 21st century.
Even during his student days at the Technical University in Darmstadt, Dr. Matthias Kollatz-Ahnen (SPD) stood for the values of social democracy, representing the Young Social Democrats on the Students’ Union Executive Committee. Since then, much has happened in his life, but his political engagement has lasted. The physical engineer, who subsequently also studied political economy in Frankfurt am Main and Berlin, is Berlin’s Senator for Finance today – which gives him the difficult task of finding solutions for the capital’s chronic money problems. A former Chairman of the European Investment Bank, a former Senior Expert at the consultancy PriceWaterhouseCoopers and a member of the EU Commission’s Advisory Council ‘Innovation for Growth’, this task should be right up his alley. He can also consult with his wife, who holds the same position in the State of Rhineland-Palatinate. We wonder if he occasionally travels there on his motorcycle? At least on August 11, to our delight, the EU expert will be in Berlin, as patron for the European Union Youth Orchestra!
The Chinese-American conductor Xian Zhang, born in Dandong in 1973, was educated at the Central Conservatory in Beijing, where she took her first conducting classes at the age of only 16. At 19, she conducted her first opera at the Beijing Opera House (Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro). When she was 25, Xian Zhang continued her studies in the USA, where she became Lorin Maazel’s assistant conductor at the New York Philharmonic in 2004. Afterwards, her own career took off rapidly, leading her to conduct major orchestras such as the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the London Symphony Orchestra and the Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam. In 2009 Zhang became chief conductor of the Orchestra Sinfonica Giuseppe Verdi in Milan; since 2011 the conductor has been artistic director of the Dutch NJO Music Academy. Apart from her numerous opera engagements (e.g. in Washington DC, Milan, Cardiff and Savonlinna), she has made a name for herself as a champion of Chinese composers such as Chen Yi, Huang Ruo, Qigang Chen and Tan Dun.
Only 33 years old, the American cellist Alisa Weilerstein can already look back on a “career” that spans (almost) 30 years. At the age of only 4, her parents fulfilled her wish for a cello, and six months later she first performed in public. At 13, Weilerstein made her debut with the Cleveland Orchestra, playing Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations, and at 15 she was first heard at Carnegie Hall in New York. Ever since, the musician has quickly found her place among the best cellists of the younger generation. She has been invited to all the major festivals in the world; last season, she performed with the Orchestre de Paris and the London Philharmonia Orchestra, the Tonhalle Orchestra in Zurich, the New York Philharmonic and the NHK Orchestra Tokyo. The exclusive DECCA artist has recorded the cello concerti of Edward Elgar and Elliott Carter with Daniel Barenboim, her latest record being a recital of 20th century solo sonatas. A champion of contemporary music, Weilerstein regularly performs works by Osvaldo Golijov, Lera Auerbach and Joseph Hallman, but also the 2014 New York premiere of Matthias Pintscher’s cello concerto Reflections on Narcissus.
Fantasy Overture to «Hamlet» Op. 67 (1888)
«Rococo-Variations» for Cello and Orchestra Op. 33 (1877)
Symphony No. 5 in D-Minor Op. 47 (1937)
The European Union Youth Orchestra (EUYO) brings together Europe’s future leaders in classical music – the finest players from all 28 EU Member States. Their youthful energy combined with the rigour and discipline of more experienced players never fails to ignite and inspire audiences, the world over. The EUYO presents a rare opportunity to witness a truly united Europe, an orchestra that transcends cultural, social, economic, religious and political boundaries. This year’s summer tour is led by the sought-after Chinese conductor Xian Zhang, and the programme focuses entirely on Russia: the ponderous Hamlet Overture and the playful, virtuosic Rococo Variations for Cello and Orchestra are the EUYO’s way of commemorating the 175th birthday of the Russian composer Piotr Tchaikovsky this spring. The central work after the interval is the grandiose Symphony No. 5 by Dmitri Shostakovich of 1937, reflecting the composer’s great ambiguity in its stark contrasts between darkness, forcefulness and verve.
The EUYO is supported by the 28 Member States of the European Union.
© Gregor Khuen Belasi