The magnificent China National Symphony Orchestra visits George Mason University twice, first on Saturday at the Center for the Arts, then a week later at the Hylton Performing Arts Center. Founded in 1956, it enjoys experienced personnel that contribute to its worldwide reputation. Many of its instrumentalists have won competition prizes and played under the finest conductors in the world and alongside major artists.

Artistic director and principal conductor En Shao conducts the first concert, while resident conductor Li Xincao will be on the Hylton podium. Both were child prodigies and have held prestigious positions throughout their careers. Following five years with the Chinese Broadcasting Symphony Orchestra, En Shao joined the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra as associate conductor and has worked frequently with numerous orchestras in Great Britain, Europe and Asia. In addition to conducting famous orchestras worldwide, Li Xincao is the principal conductor of the Symphony Orchestra of the National Ballet Orchestra of China.

The centerpiece and commonality of both concerts is a portion of the first movement from "Requiem for the Earth." The four movement composition by Xia Guan for orchestra and chorus is in memory of the 2008 earthquake at Wenchuan that devastated cities and rural areas alike. In the first movement describing people gazing at the stars to seek answers to life, the orchestra utilizes tubular bells, chimes, celesta and the ancient Qiang flute native to Southwestern Chinese folk music.

The China National Symphony Orchestra with violinist Yang Xu
Where: George Mason University Center for the Arts, 4400 University Drive, Fairfax
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Info: $30 to $60; 888-945-2468;
The China National Symphony Orchestra with piano prodigy Peng Peng Gong
Where: Hylton Performing Arts Center, 10960 George Mason Circle, Manassas
When: 8 p.m. Feb. 9
Info: $30 to $60; 888-945-2468;

" 'The Earth Requiem' is a long piece for chorus and it is impossible to play the entire work at this time," En Shao said. "We are just presenting an excerpt from the instrumental part in the first movement. The flute is Qiang Di, an instrument created by Qiang Zu people, a minority living in Southwest China which especially suffered from this earthquake."

Each concert features one of five renowned soloists accompanying the orchestra on this tour. Violinist Yang Xu, a member of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, will perform the Sibelius Violin Concerto at Fairfax, while piano prodigy and composer Peng Peng Gong plays Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 for the Hylton concert. Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 3 and "Here We Go Again," are very different, yet very accessible to contemporary audiences.

"We tour outside China once or twice each year. We want the audiences to like our performance and get to know about Chinese culture and the development of today's Chinese symphonic pieces."