Curtis Symphony at Longwood Gardens

The upcoming 7 pm Curtis Symphony Orchestra performance on May 12 at Longwood Gardens marks the first time the full orchestra will perform at Longwood, and the only chance to experience the orchestra in the region before they embark on their Curtis On Tour West Coast engagements.

Dai Wei’s Curtis Composer of Awakening Lion

With Longwood’s Meadow Garden as a backdrop, the May 12 program includes performances of Bartók, Tchaikovsky, and the world premiere of Curtis alumna Dai Wei’s Curtis commissioned Awakening Lion. Combining traditional Cantonese Lion Dance elements with Western orchestral music, Awakening Lion features the use of unpitched percussion instruments such as Chinese bass drums, which are commonly heard in the accompanying music of the Cantonese Lion Dance.

“I aimed to create a sound reminiscent of the traditional Chinese instrument Guquin by having two cellos played with a guitar pick at the beginning of the piece,” shares Wei. “My intention was to connect the past to the future and bring different corners of the world together.”

Awakening Lion draws inspiration from the Cantonese traditional dance of the same name, which tells the story of a creature named Nian who terrorizes a village. The villagers turn to a lion for help. After a fierce battle, the lion wounds Nian, who flees and promises revenge. The following year, the villagers create a lion mask to scare away Nian.

“The collaboration in the Lion Dance shares many similarities with that of a symphony orchestra,” shares Wei. “Both require a high degree of precision and coordination among the performers to achieve a cohesive performance. When writing the piece, I reflected on the fact that under that giant beast mask are ordinary people like you and me. Although we may not be familiar with the story of the Awakening Lion or the battle with Nian, we all face our own battles … this inner strength is present in everyone, regardless of where we come from, who we love, or our gender. The lion that we raise up with all our inner positive strength and optimism when facing overwhelming forces is the embodiment of Awakening Lion.”

Curtis Symphony

Conducting the orchestra is Osmo Vänskä, music director of the Minnesota Orchestra for 17 years and music director of the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra since 2020. Recognized for compelling interpretations of repertoire of all ages and an energetic presence on the podium, his democratic and inclusive style of work has been key in forging long-standing relationships with different orchestras.

Located in Philadelphia, the Curtis Institute of Music educates and trains exceptionally gifted young musicians to engage a local and global community through the highest level of artistry.

“Showcasing and supporting the performing arts has always been an important part of our mission to inspire and bring joy to our guests,” shares Longwood President and CEO Paul B. Redman. “The Curtis Institute of Music is unparalleled in their dedication to educating gifted artists and we are thrilled to welcome these exceptional talents to our Gardens for what will surely be a memorable performance.”

Tickets are on sale now at for the May 12 Curtis Symphony Orchestra performance. Ticket includes all-day Gardens Admission.

About Longwood Gardens

In 1906, industrialist Pierre S. du Pont (1870-1954) purchased a small farm near Kennett Square, PA, to save a collection of historic trees from being sold for lumber. Today, Longwood Gardens is one of the world’s great horticultural displays, encompassing 1,100 acres of dazzling gardens, woodlands, meadows, fountains, a 10,010-pipe Aeolian organ, and grand conservatory. Longwood Gardens is the living legacy of Pierre S. du Pont, bringing joy and inspiration to everyone through the beauty of nature, conservation, and learning. Open daily, Longwood is one of more than 30 gardens in the Philadelphia region known as America’s Garden Capital. For more information, visit

About the Curtis Institute of Music

The Curtis Institute of Music educates and trains exceptionally gifted young musicians to engage a local and global community through the highest level of artistry. For nearly a century Curtis has provided each member of its small student body with an unparalleled education alongside musical peers, distinguished by a “learn by doing” philosophy and personalized attention from a faculty that includes a high proportion of actively performing musicians. With admissions based solely on artistic promise, no student is turned away due to financial need. Curtis invests in each admitted student, ensuring no tuition is charged for their studies and they enter the profession free from educational debt. In a typical year, Curtis students hone their craft through more than 200 orchestra, opera, and solo and chamber music offerings in Philadelphia and around the world. Learn more at




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