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The Rebirth of the Shanghai Municipal Orchestra (1919)

Mario Paci’s first piano performance in Shanghai, Olympic Theatre, February 8, 1919.

On Christmas Eve of 1918, Paci was aboard a steamer sailing from Hong Kong to Shanghai where he had been invited to give several concerts. It was bitter cold. He was struck down by a fever and taken straight to a hospital when the ship sailed into port. During his prolonged recovery, Paci became infatuated by Shanghai and convinced that it was a city on the brink of greatness. He was invited to help rebuild the all-foreign Shanghai Municipal Orchestra (SMO) and gladly accepted.

Concert with Alfred Mirovitch (piano), Michel Piastro (violin and conductor), and Mario Paci (piano and conductor), 8 April 1919

When Paci took over the Shanghai Municipal Orchestra in 1919, it had only "16 musicians and 21 Manila men” (as Filipinos from Manila were then known). In just a few years, Paci expanded the orchestra and recruited some of the best musicians from Europe. He also increased the number of concerts and broadened the orchestra’s repertoire. The orchestra became known as "the best orchestra in the Far East" and many world-famous musicians journeyed to Shanghai to perform with it.

Paci recruited the talented violinist Arrigo Foa from the Milan Conservatory to serve as concertmaster of the Shanghai Municipal Orchestra. Mrs. Foa, Arrigo Foa, Sarah and Floria Paci standing here in front of Paci's house on Zicawei Road, Shanghai.

Musicians (Arrigo Foa on the right) engaged on the return from England and Italy, Hong Kong, 1919.

Mario Paci at work desk annotating a large score.

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Mario Paci conducting in concert, 1930.

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