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Feature: Lincoln Center devotes annual concert to Chinese new year celebration

NEW YORK, Feb. 9 (Xinhua) -- The Chinese Lunar New Year festivity filled the air at the city's Lincoln Center on Tuesday when the New York Philharmonic was playing classic pieces by Chinese composers, ushering in a Year of the Monkey.

Despite cold weather and damp roads due to newly melted snow, a huge crowd of classical music lovers -- many of whom wearing Chinese costumes -- swarmed into the renowned David Geffen Hall of the Lincoln Center for the annual Chinese musical feast.

This year's iteration of opening "the Spring Festival Overture" was bestowed with a fortissimo touch from conductor Long Yu, music director of Shanghai Symphony Orchestra and a towering figure in today's Chinese music world.

As the fast, bold and ecstatic melodies from a colorful ensemble reached a grandiose crescendo, the hall was overwhelmed with thunderous applause from the audience.

"The Butterfly Lovers" is a classical piece that tells the heart-rending love story of Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai in a traditional Chinese folk tale. Thanks to star violinist Maxim Vengerov's virtuosity and heartfelt passion, the 27-minute piece was given a somewhat modern spin, while retaining the touching melodies that stirred multifarious emotions among the audience.

What stunned the audience most was the final piece, also the New York premier of Chinese composer Tan Dun's symphony "Nu Shu: The Secret Songs of Women". It was not just a multi-layered symphony with sheer sonic grandeur and a triumphant finale, but an audiovisual masterpiece aimed at preserving a disappearing ancient language used exclusively by some women in south central China's Hunan Province.

Led by the New York Philharmonic Principal Harpist Nancy Allen, the symphony was accompanied by a screening of 13 micro films, which were selected from the composer's over 200 hours of video footage recorded in a small village in Hunan over a five-year period. Three screens hovered above the music hall showing women singing in the secret language of Nu Shu, while the orchestra rose vigorously to the occasion, producing upbeat tempo and emotional melodies that intertwined with the songs.

"This (Nu Shu) is a tour de force, a work of art," Barbara Tober told Xinhua, "It is very unusual and beautiful to watch, especially as it built up to the end where the women were working together, it was glorious."

The audience was also pleasantly surprised by the appearance of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who took the stage before the show and wished the audience a new year of happiness and prosperity.

"What a fantastic idea to celebrate the New Year of 2016 with this beautiful musical harmony," said Ban.

The New York Philharmonic started the tradition to host an annual Lunar New Year concert in 2012 to celebrate the cultural heritage of China and honor the Chinese-American community.

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