58 minutes | Apr 15, 2021

Beethoven in Beijing

On April 16, PBS’s Great Performances will broadcast the world premiere of the documentary Beethoven in Beijing, which tells the story of classical music in China over the last half century through the lens of the Philadelphia Orchestra’s storied relationship with the country, from its first performances in the P.R.C. in 1973 until its most recent tour, in 2018. Along the way, the film profiles established Chinese musicians and composers, like Tán Dùn 谭盾 and Láng Lǎng 郎朗, and introduces us to new Chinese talent, like the composer Peng-Peng Gong 龚天鹏. 

This week, Kaiser chats with three individuals involved with the film: co-director Jennifer Lin, a veteran Philadelphia Inquirer reporter and the author of the 2017 book Shanghai Faithful; producer Cài Jīndōng 蔡金冬, a professor of music and arts at Bard College, the director of the US-China Music Institute, and a former conductor of the Stanford Symphony Orchestra; and Sheila Melvin, a script consultant for Beethoven in Beijing and the co-author, along with her husband, Cai, of Rhapsody in Red and Beethoven in China, both books about classical music in the People’s Republic of China. 

Recommendations:

Sheila: This viola concerto, performed by the Shanghai Philharmonic. 

Jindong: The works of Zhōu Lóng 周龙.

Kaiser: A day in the life of Abed Salama, by Nathan Thrall, and Surviving the crackdown in Xinjiang, by Raffi Khatchadourian.

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