Ensemble Resonanz

Xilin Wang: Music by a Survivor

Unter the baton of Johannes Kalitzke, the Hamburg-based Ensemble Resonanz plays a symphony by the revolutionary freethinker in an atmospheric concert stream. Available until 10 May 2022.

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.

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

Xilin Wang

An overview of all 2021 festival concerts.

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


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)


The Artists

Ensemble Resonanz

Ensemble Resonanz
Ensemble Resonanz © Tobias Schult

Johannes Kalitzke – Conductor

Johannes Kalitzke
Johannes Kalitzke © Nafez Rerhuf

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, last updated: 11 May 2021
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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