Ensemble Resonanz
Video on demand from 17 May 2021
available until 17 May 2022

Xilin Wang: Music by a Survivor

2021 festival: Unter the baton of Johannes Kalitzke, the Hamburg-based Ensemble Resonanz plays a symphony by the revolutionary freethinker in an atmospheric concert stream.

Xilin Wang is one of China’s most important contemporary composers, and writes music full of inner turmoil. Not even 14 years of political exile and persecution during the cultural revolution were able to stop him. When his Fifth Symphony, which is dedicated to the writer Lu Xun, is played, the Elbphilharmonie Recital Hall turns into an audiovisual echo chamber of dazzle and shimmer, of friction and anger.

Note: All Hamburg International Music Festival 2021 concerts are available to stream free of charge. Once premiered, each concert stream can be accessed for the whole festival period.


An overview of all 2021 festival concerts.

»The symphony is a requiem for all the people who fought for freedom and democracy in China.«

Xilin Wang


Ensemble Resonanz

conductor Johannes Kalitzke


Xilin Wang
Symphony No. 5 for string orchestra, Op. 40

duration: approx. 30 minutes

Following: artist talk via zoom (in German)


Ensemble Resonanz / Johannes Kalitzke Ensemble Resonanz / Johannes Kalitzke © Jann Wilken
Ensemble Resonanz Ensemble Resonanz © Jann Wilken
Ensemble Resonanz / Johannes Kalitzke Ensemble Resonanz / Johannes Kalitzke © Jann Wilken
Xilin Wang während der Aufnahmen Xilin Wang während der Aufnahmen © Jann Wilken

The Artists

Ensemble Resonanz

Ensemble Resonanz
Ensemble Resonanz © Tobias Schult
  • About Ensemble Resonanz

    With their exceptionally spirited playing and high artistic quality, Ensemble Resonanz is one of the world’s leading chamber orchestras. In their concert programmes, the musicians juxtapose early music and modern works in a lively setting, sometimes incorporating literature as well, and evolve individual readings and gripping new versions of classics such as Schubert’s »Winterreise« or Bach’s »Christmas Oratorio«. The 18-piece string orchestra is organised along democratic lines without a regular conductor, but takes on different artistic partners for individual projects.

    Since the summer of 2018, a longstanding friend has been the ensemble’s »Artist in Residence« in the shape of Riccardo Minasi, and they have already produced many concerts and CDs together. Ensemble Resonanz also has close connections with partners like the violist Tabea Zimmermann, violinist Isabelle Faust and cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras.

    Another driving force behind Ensemble Resonanz’s work is their collaboration with composers and the development of a new repertoire. In Hamburg they appear at two very different venues; the Elbphilharmonie and the resonanzraum in St. Pauli. Their residency at the Elbphilharmonie consists first and foremost of the concert series »resonanzen«, but in addition the ensemble puts on lively presentations of music both classical and contemporary in concerts for children and at a variety of festivals. In the last few months, too, music lovers were able to enjoy unusual concert streams from both the Recital Hall and the Grand Hall.

    In the resonanzraum in the bunker that towers over the St. Pauli district, Ensemble Resonanz also puts on its award-winning concert series »urban string« once a month: the members of the ensemble design the concept, which is then presented in a dialogue with the music of international DJs.

Johannes Kalitzke – Conductor

Johannes Kalitzke
Johannes Kalitzke © Nafez Rerhuf
  • About Johannes Kalitzke

    Johannes Kalitzke has played a role in the world of avant-garde music for some 40 years now. As a conductor he regularly leads important first performances such as the world premiere of Chaya Czernowi's opera »Heart Chamber« at the Deutsche Oper Berlin in 2019, and he also appears at major festivals like the Darmstadt vacation courses for contemporary music. As a co-founder of the successful ensemble Musikfabrik, the Cologne native made a name for himself in the contemporary music scene at a young age, and he has since maintained a close connection with several modern-music formations, such as Klangforum Wien and the Ensemble Modern.

    He made his breakthrough as a composer in 1996 with his first opera »Bericht vom Tod des Musikers Jack Tiergarten« at the Munich Biennale. In the years that followed, his works enjoyed successful premieres at the Bremen Opera, the Heidelberg Theatre and the Theater an der Wien. The award-winning musician also writes orchestral scores for Expressionist silent films – »complex sounds that get under one's skin«, as one Austrian reviewer wrote.

    In addition to his work as a conductor and composer, Johannes Kalitzke is also involved in music education and supporting young artists. He teaches at the colleges of music in Essen and Hanover and at the Salzburg Mozarteum, and also at various master courses and festivals such as the Salzburg Summer Academy.

Surviving through music: Xilin Wang

»Wang's music blazes, burns and roars. It has unbelievable power.«

Sofia Gubaidulina

Xilin Wang is one of China's most important composers. However, his vivid, expressive style of composition is largely independent of Chinese traditions. Wang was born in 1936 in Kaifeng in the Chinese province of Henan. After his father died at an early age, the teenager was left to live in poverty with his family, and he decided to join a group of artists in the People's Liberation Army. He studied composition and conducting at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, where he graduated successfully in 1962 with his First Symphony. Only one year later, he was awarded the highest Chinese state prize for his symphonic suite »Yunnan Tone Poem«.

But the Cultural Revolution was just around the corner, and that same year Wang's situation altered drastically: after a public lecture in which he criticised the government's cultural policy, the young composer was caught in the crossfire of the state campaign against Western art. He was fired from his position as Artist in Residence at the Peking Radio Symphony Orchestra and was exiled for years to the city of Datong to perform forced labour. He suffered greatly in captivity and was subjected to torture: »I was almost beaten to death in October 1968. But their blows set my inner energy free and I swore that I was going to survive.«

Xilin Wang
Xilin Wang © Jann Wilken

The revolutionary composer and freethinker, who even suffered partial hearing loss for a while due to the maltreatment, found a way over the years to express his thoughts and experiences in music. About his Third Symphony, for example, he explains: »All the injustice weighed heavily on me, the deaths of so many people. I wanted to depict not only my own fate, but the fate of my entire generation in my music. It took me ten years to prepare: I first had to find the musical language to be able to write this symphony.«

Wang survived, and returned to Peking in 1978 after the end of the Cultural Revolution. He began to study the composers of the European avant-garde, and his growing fascination with this music found direct expression in himself own works, into which he has incorporated the principles of minimalism and serialism since then. As a great admirer of Shostakovich, Wang often combines this with folk-music elements, and sometimes with traditional Chinese sounds and motifs.

Text: Julika von Werder
Translation: Clive Williams

Supported by the Kühne Foundation, the Hamburg Ministry of Culture and Media, Stiftung Elbphilharmonie and the Förderkreis Internationales Musikfest Hamburg

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