The Shanghai Symphony Orchestra has blossomed much like its home city, which has evolved from a key port during the Opium Wars to dazzling colonial outpost, to besieged wartime center, to a megalopolis of 24 million. When the orchestra’s 140th anniversary opens this weekend, it won’t be a Geritol-fueled tux-and-gown-fest. More than half the Chinese classical music audience is thought to be under 40, which is a reflection of Shanghai itself, a place where the future seems to have already found its footing—yet another magnet for the disposable income drenching China these days.

The season will open with a world premiere by the Chinese-American composer Zhou Tian—commissioned by the symphony and conducted by Long Yu, the music director—and continues on September 29 with Sir Simon Rattle leading the London Symphony Orchestra.