The Orchestra is deeply rooted in the Chinese cultural heritage. Its performance format and repertoire include both traditional Chinese music and contemporary full-scale works. It also explores new frontiers in music through commissioning new works of various types and styles, and over the years, has commissioned more than 1,700 original compositions and arrangements. The Orchestra currently has an establishment of 85 musicians who perform in the four sections comprising bowed-strings, plucked-strings, wind and percussion instruments. Traditional as well as improved Chinese instruments are incorporated.
Yan received five years of professional training in Chinese Music Conducting at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, where he was a pupil of the renowned conductor Xia Feiyun, and the famous composers Hu Dengtiao and He Zhanhao. He was appointed Principal Conductor-cum-Artistic Director of the Central Folk Orchestra of China upon graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree with Distinction in 1983. It was followed by other positions in his music career, including as Guest Conducting Professor of the China Conservatory of Music, Conductor of the Philharmonic Orchestra and Folk Orchestra of the Beijing Concert Hall, Conductor and Head of the Research Centre, Department of Operatic Music of the Shaanxi Academy of the Arts, Resident Guest Conductor of Kaohsiung City Chinese Orchestra and Executive Committee member of China Nationalities Orchestra Society.
As a conductor who has worked with all professional Chinese orchestras in Beijing, Shanghai, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong, Yan has won the acclaim of the music circles in China and abroad for his artistic and conducting talents. The symphonic piece, Buddha’s Story, and A Collection of Modern Erhu Music conducted by him won the Gold Tripod Award in Taiwan. In addition to playing an active role on the Chinese music scene, Yan has also been involved in music of other genres.
The professional orchestras he has worked with include the Philharmonic Orchestra of Beijing Concert Hall, Central Orchestra of China, Russian Philharmonic Orchestra of Moscow and Shenzhen Symphony Orchestra of China. Under his baton, and in collaboration with the famous composer Zhao Jiping, the Symphony Orchestra section of the Central Philharmonic Orchestra of China made the soundtrack recordings for such award-winning films as Raise the Red Lantern, Ballad of the Yellow River, and Five Girls and a Rope. In 1992, he resettled in Singapore and was the Music Director of Naxos (Singapore) Pte Ltd. He was also highly commended for his conducting of the Russian Philharmonic Orchestra in a Chinese music recording released by BMG of Japan.
Yan is also actively engaged in composition. His representative works include the symphonic poem The Sound of Water which won a Class One Prize in the Composition Contest of the Shanghai Conservatory of Music and Class Two Prize in the Third National Music Composition Competition; and the pipa solo work Nostalgia which won a Class One Award at the First National Pipa Contest of Contributing Works. Between 1992 and 1993, Yan wrote and produced for recording release Clouds, The Moon, A Music Journey on the Yellow River and Song of the General.
He was also highly commended for his conducting of the Russian Philharmonic Orchestra in a Chinese music recording released by BMG of Japan in 1994. He also conducted the China Broadcasts National Music Orchestra of Beijing, the Chinese National Orchestra, the Shanghai National Orchestra, the Singapore Chinese Orchestra and the Kaohsiung City Chinese Orchestra in their recordings. Under his baton, the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra has cut more than ten recordings, which include the world's first ever SACD live recording by a full-scale Chinese orchestra entitled The HKCO Silver Jubilee Concert, The Magic Notes of Zhao Jiping, Golden Chinese Classics of the Century ¡V The Award Winners Concert, Majestic Drums series, and The Silk Road Fantasia Suite.
Yan was awarded the “Cultural Medallion (Music)?by the National Arts Council of Singapore in September 2001. His achievements were simultaneously documented in The Famous Figures of the Contemporary Arts Circles in China. In 2000, he was a member of the Hong Kong Council for Academic Accreditation, and an Examiner and Arts Advisor of the Hong Kong Arts Development Council for Grants. Since 2004, he has been a Visiting Professor in many music conservatories. Yan was awarded a Bronze Bauhinia Star (BBS) by the Chief Executive of HKSAR in 2004 in recognition of his remarkable achievements in Chinese music as well as his efforts in promoting Chinese music.
The Orchestra held the Opening Rally of the Hong Kong Drum Festival at an unprecedented mass performance witnessed by all Hong Kong, when three thousand Hong Kong citizens played a drum piece, The Earth Shall Move. The event marks another Guinness World of Records entry for the Orchestra and served to boost the morale of the people of Hong Kong after the ravages of SARS. (2003)
More than 500 dizi players joined the HKCO in a mass performance at the Opening Ceremony of the Hong Kong Dizi and Xiao Festival 2005 - another world record for having the largest number of people playing the dizi together. (2005)