Chinese-Russian composer Zuo Zhenguan is recognized as one of the most authoritative figures on Chinese traditional and compositional music in Russia. Devoted to promoting cultural communications between the two countries through music, he has created many works of symphonic music, including the famous ballet dance music "The River Flows."
Founded by Zuo, the Russian Philharmonic Orchestra has staged many renowned performances in China, which often include a rendition of the Russian song "Katyusha" and many other works by famous composers. They have toured many countries putting on captivating shows. And this has been his dream since childhood.
"We didn't go home after the rehearsals at the Palace of Pioneers. We loved music so much, the children all loved music, and we all talked about how we would someday promote the musical culture of China. I said my only dream was to someday have an orchestra of 100 people," Zuo said.
Zuo Zhenguan was born in Shanghai. He left China and travelled to Siberia when he was 16 years old. He knew nothing about the country, and couldn't even speak the language. But this young man dreamed of becoming a musician. To pursue his dream, Zuo started learning Russian and music. Eventually, he graduated from the Novosibirsk Conservatory and became a cellist in its orchestra.
Zuo moved to Moscow a few years later. He then graduated from the Faculty of Composition at the Gnesin Russian Academy of Music. During those years, he used his music as a way to communicate with people and blend into his surroundings. He said: "I am often asked – do you think in Russian or Chinese? I can't answer this question, I think a person thinks not in a language, not in some language, maybe just figuratively. When I'm in China, I become a fully-fledged Chinese person. I'm already completely Chinese, and from half a word I already understand what the Chinese means. The same is true in Russia. In Russia, I feel like a hundred percent Russian."
And Zuo has continued to build bridges for cultural exchanges between China and Russia. He wrote several books about Russian musicians in China and about the history of the creation of famous poems by great Russian poet Aleksandr Pushkin. "I feel my duty, the duty to be a bridge. In China, they don't know this, but I want them to learn about these beautiful poems by Pushkin, and why they were written. That's why I'm trying to do all this and write the same thing in Russia. I had to write about Russian musicians in China. There were great (Russian) musicians in China, very strong musicians. They did a lot for Chinese musical culture," he shared.
His dream to create an orchestra came true in 1992, and over the past 30 years they have recorded around 500 CDs. "Here is Tchaikovsky, Scriabin – they are all here in the (works of the) Russian Philharmonic Orchestra. Of course, I wrote my own works with our orchestra. This is a ballet, these are chamber works," Zuo explained. He was also the composer for the ballet show, "The Girl and the Dragon." Its composition is based on the Yunnan folk song "The River Flows." He used Chinese folk instruments to create the music for the Russian ballet.
Zuo said: "I really love Chinese culture and I love Russian culture, and I can feel free in these two worlds and this way I become much richer. This is my wealth. China and Russia, they should be friends, the closer the better. And in this regard, it seems to me that culture, for example, music, will play a very big role."
The composer has received many awards in both Russia and China. And his outstanding works have attracted researchers to write dissertations. He gained the title of Ambassador for Peace from the Universal Peace Federation. Zuo Zhenguan is a man of two languages and two cultures. He really enjoys doing what he loves best – sharing and promoting music, culture and love around the world.