Documentary film about Philadelphia Orchestra’s 1973 China tour is now a book

Posted on: April 12, 2022

“In the autumn of 1973, Tan [Dun], then a teenager, was sent to a rural commune in Hunan province to plant rice. China was at the height of the Cultural Revolution,” writes Vincent Ni in Saturday’s (4/9) Guardian (U.K.). “One day, Tan heard … ‘Do you want to hear some interesting music? This is called “symphony.” The Philadelphia Orchestra is in China,’ a friend said to Tan. It was the first time he had heard about a ‘symphony orchestra,’ and it was striking…. The story of the Philadelphia [Orchestra’s] … two-week tour of China in 1973 … is the subject of a [2020] 90-minute documentary, Beethoven in Beijing, directed by … journalist Jennifer Lin. The book about the trip—under the same title—is published later this month…. [In the 1970s] US diplomat Nicholas Platt, now 86, was tasked … to negotiate with the Chinese what should be played…. Richard Strauss‘s Don Juan was rejected straight away. Debussy’s Afternoon of a Faun was said to be ‘decadent’ and ‘prurient.’ But the Chinese liked Mozart and Schubert…. The last trip the Philadelphia Orchestra made to China was in 2019…. Throughout the pandemic, it has managed to continue its connection with the Chinese virtually.”