Beethoven in Beijing: Stories from the Philadelphia Orchestra’s Historic Journey to China

Temple Univ. Apr. 2022. 172p. ISBN 9781439921616. $35. MUSIC
In this companion volume to the documentary Beethoven in Beijing (broadcast on PBS’s Great Performances), the doc’s writer, producer, and codirector Lin (Shanghai Faithful: Betrayal and Forgiveness in a Chinese Christian Family) explores a moment of artistic and historical significance. During the Cultural Revolution, Western classical music was banned in the People’s Republic of China, but that would change with the 1973 arrival of Maestro Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra, Lin writes. U.S.-China relations began to thaw with President Nixon’s 1972 visit and continued to improve the following year, with visiting delegations of athletes, scientists, teachers, and the first American orchestra to go to the People’s Republic. Lin’s account of the Philadelphia Orchestra’s historic visit incorporates “commentary from personal journals, newspaper accounts from reporters on tour, memoirs,” and more. Archival photographs and behind-the-scenes anecdotes enliven the story, and diplomatic cables “between the U.S. Liaison Office in Beijing and the U.S. State Department in Washington, DC,” illustrate the delicate diplomatic dance that made the visit possible.
VERDICT Fans of classical music will enjoy reading about one of the most important cultural events of the 20th century, while students of history will appreciate this account of a pivotal moment in U.S.-China relations.
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