Hailed by The New York Times as “the most powerful figure in China’s classical music scene,” the conductor and impresario Long Yu has devoted his illustrious career to steering China’s growing connection to classical music while familiarizing international audiences with the country’s most eminent musicians and composers. From north to south, Maestro Yu currently holds the top position in China’s three most prominent orchestras—Artistic Director of the China Philharmonic Orchestra in Beijing and Music Director of both the Shanghai and Guangzhou symphony orchestras—as well as Principal Guest Conductor of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra. He is co-director of Shanghai’s Music in the Summer Air festival and Chair of the Artistic Committee of the Beijing Music Festival, an annual autumn event that he founded in 1998 and served as Artistic Director until 2017. He is currently Vice President of the China Musicians Association and Chairman of its recently established League of China Orchestras.
In the 2022-23 season, guest appearances bring Maestro Yu together with the New York Philharmonic and celebrated violinist Ning Feng; and to Paris with performances of Bizet’s classic opera Carmen. At home, he performs with renowned pianists Lang Lang and Haochen Zhang, and violinist Ning Feng, among many others. Last summer, Deutsche Grammophon released The Song of the Earth featuring Long Yu leading the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra and four vocalists – Michelle DeYoung, Brian Jagde, Liping Zhang, and Shenyang. The album features complementary works by Mahler and Chinese composer Xiaogang Ye inspired by the same centuries-old Chinese poetry, bridging the music of the East and the West.
Under Maestro Yu’s baton, the China Philharmonic Orchestra became the first Chinese orchestra to perform at the Vatican’s Paul VI Auditorium, a concert attended by Pope Benedict XVI marking a giant step in bridging East and West. In 2014, Maestro Yu led the China Philharmonic in the first Chinese orchestral performance at the BBC Proms at London’s Royal Albert Hall, a concert viewed by millions of people across the United Kingdom.
Since taking the reins of the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra in 2009, Maestro Yu’s initiatives include the 2014 opening of Shanghai Symphony Hall. That same year, he founded the Shanghai Orchestra Academy, China’s first post-graduate training program for orchestral musicians, in partnership with the Shanghai Conservatory of Music and the New York Philharmonic, which also named Maestro Yu an honorary member of their International Advisory Board, a 12-member network of advocates and ambassadors gathered to connect the Philharmonic with individuals and institutions in their home countries. Two years later, he launched the biennial Shanghai Isaac Stern International Violin Competition, a result of his relationship with the Stern family dating from the violinist’s appearance at the Beijing Music Festival in 2000 marking the 20th anniversary of his groundbreaking China tour. In June 2018, Maestro Yu became the first Chinese conductor to sign an exclusive relationship with Deutsche Grammophon, offering the Shanghai Symphony a global release and distribution partnership. A year later, he led the orchestra on a tour of the United States and Europe, with performances at the BBC Proms and Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw as well as the Edinburgh, Lucerne and Ravinia festivals.
As Music Director of the Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra since 2003—an orchestra he first conducted in 1994—Maestro Yu has expanded the orchestra’s repertory and touring outreach (to Europe, the US, Australia, Africa and the Middle East) as well as its educational mission. Between 2005 and 2007, the GSO organized the Canton International Summer Music Academy with a distinguished faculty including Martha Argerich and Gary Graffman. In January 2017, the GSO inaugurated Youth Music Culture Guangdong, a performance and educational initiative “opening a new page in the Chinese symphonic world” with Yo-Yo Ma as Artistic Director and Maestro Yu leading its Artistic Committee.
Also a towering figure on the international stage, Maestro Yu has conducted many highly-acclaimed orchestras throughout the world, including the New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Montreal Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre de Paris, Bamberg Symphony Orchestra, Staatsoper Hamburg, Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra, NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra, Munich Philharmonic, Sydney Symphony Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, Tokyo Philharmonic, and Singapore Symphony Orchestra.
Born in 1964 into a Shanghai musical family, Maestro Yu received his early musical education from his grandfather, the renowned composer Ding Shande, later continuing his studies at the Shanghai Conservatory and the Hochschule der Kunst in Berlin. In 1992, he was appointed Principal Conductor of the Central Opera House in Beijing and served as its conductor for three consecutive years.
Among his citations in China, Long Yu was named the 2010 Person of the Year in the Arts Field and was also granted the 2013 China Arts Award and an Honorary Academician from the Central Conservatory of Music for his dedication to cultural exchange and music development in China.
Internationally, Maestro Yu received the Arts Patronage Award of the Montblanc Cultural Foundation in 2002. A year later, he was named a Chevalier dans L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. In 2005, the Italian government honored him with the title of L’onorificenza di Commendatore dell’Ordine al Merito. He was awarded France’s highest order of merit by joining the Légion d’Honneur in 2014. The following year, Maestro Yu received the prestigious Global Citizen Award from the Atlantic Council and the Samuel Simons Sanford Award from the Yale School of Music. In 2016, he was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and also awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. In 2018, he was conferred an Honorary Doctorate from the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts.