Best of Ancient Paths, Modern Voices

A Carnegie Hall festival sheds new light on China's arts and culture.

New York audiences may not know Long Yu from Lang Lang from ylang-ylang now, but Carnegie Hall hopes to change that with Ancient Paths, Modern Voices, a three-week festival celebrating Chinese artistry. Through November 10, Carnegie Hall will partner with other local and international institutions, to offer an expansive overview ranging from folkloric sources to new commissions.

“A lot of Chinese artists haven’t gotten exposure because we haven’t had much of an opportunity to be programmed,” says Angel Lam, a composer born in Hong Kong and raised in California. “There’s so much to discover.” We tapped Lam for guidance through the festival, which features the New York premiere of her Awakening from a Disappearing Garden by Yo-Yo Ma and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra on November 7 at Carnegie Hall.

Angel Lam

Photograph: Courtesy of Carnegie Hall

Fascinating Folk
Big deal Pipa player and festival organizer Wu Man; ">Zankel Hall, Sat 24
Cheap seats Zhang Family Band; ">Henry Street Settlement, Sun 25
“Asian aesthetics are always related and closely tied to the human experience,” Lam says. “Our folk songs are physical. We never go into the abstract. You feel the music; it’s in your everyday life, and it communicates directly to your body.”

Photograph: Steve J. Sherman

Native Instruments
Big deal The Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra plays music for traditional instruments; ">Carnegie Hall, Oct 30
Cheap seats Hong Kong Instrument Workshop; ">Flushing Town Hall, Wed 28
“Most of the time Chinese music is very melodic, and they do glissandos a lot,” Lam explains. “The Chineseness comes from how you express them—not exactly using the ancient instrument, but how you write it.”

Emerging Talents
Big deal Lang Lang and Friends play Western classical favorites; ">Carnegie Hall, Tue 27
Cheap seats Van Cliburn competition winner Haochen Zheng performs Chopin, Ravel and Liszt; ">Flushing Town Hall, Nov 2
“China is changing a lot,” Lam notes. “Even when I was growing up in Hong Kong I was exposed to so many different Asian cultures and Western ones. I don’t differentiate between what’s Western and and what’s Chinese.”

Photograph: Nana Watanabe

The Next Wave
Big deal Michael Tilson Thomas conducts the Juilliard Orchestra in a premiere by Chen Qigang; ">Carnegie Hall, Wed 28
Cheap seats The New Juilliard Ensemble plays music by contemporary Chinese composers; ">Alice Tully Hall, Nov 9
“Aside from Tan Dun, Chen Yi and that Class of ’78, there are about two generations of Chinese composers,” Lam says. “But we haven’t had the same exposure. I think it’s good that we’re coming out.”

The New Wave (Class of ’78)
Big deal Ensemble ACJW plays works by the first generation of composers to graduate from China’s conservatories after the Cultural Revolution; ">Weill Recital Hall, Mon 26
Cheap seats Tan Dun conducts his own works with the Juilliard Orchestra; ">Alice Tully Hall, Mon 26
“I’m sure they are inspired by Chinese tradition,” Lam says. “But they sound Western to me because they have an avant-garde style blended into their expression.”

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