Beethoven in Beijing

Stories from the Philadelphia Orchestra's Historic Journey to China

Jennifer Lin, With a foreword by Philadelphia Orchestra Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin
Book Cover

HC: $35.00
EAN: 978-1-4399-2161-6
Publication: Apr 22

192 pages
10 x 8
92 photographs

An eye-opening account of the Philadelphia Orchestra’s unprecedented 1973 visit to the People’s Republic of China

Read Chapter 1 (PDF).

Description

In 1973, Western music was banned in the People’s Republic of China. But in a remarkable breakthrough cultural exchange, the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted a tour of closed-off China, becoming the first American orchestra to visit the communist nation. Jennifer Lin’s Beethoven in Beijing provides a fabulous photo-rich oral history of this boundary-breaking series of concerts the orchestra performed under famed conductor Eugene Ormandy.

Lin draws from interviews, personal diaries, and news accounts to give voice to the American and Chinese musicians, diplomats, journalists, and others who participated in and witnessed this historic event. Beethoven in Beijing is filled with glorious images as well as anecdotes ranging from amusing sidewalk Frisbee sessions and acupuncture treatments for sore musicians to a tense encounter involving Madame Mao dictating which symphony was to be played at a concert.

A companion volume to the film of the same name, Beethoven in Beijing shows how this 1973 tour came at the dawn of a resurgence of interest in classical music in China—now a vital source of revenue for touring orchestras.

Reviews

"Beethoven in Beijing captures the trepidation, intrigue, and euphoria of the Philadelphia Orchestra’s good-will trip to China in 1973.... It memorializes a time when music enabled two estranged cultures to break down barriers of misinformation and communicate with smiles of understanding."
Broad Street Review

Beethoven in Beijing is, indeed, an ‘Ode to Joy.’ Jennifer Lin’s fine account of the Philadelphia Orchestra’s 1973 trip to Mao’s China reminds us that sometimes, even in diplomacy, culture matters both as a signal and a catalytic agent.”
Orville Schell, China writer and author of My Old Home: A Novel of Exile

“When the Philadelphia Orchestra came to China, I was a teenager who listened to Beethoven in secret on an old wind-up phonograph. Their visit helped transform the course of musical history in China and around the world. Jennifer Lin’s book reminds us all of the power of music to connect people and change lives—and also of how much effort this requires. It’s a lesson we should all revisit.”
Jindong Cai, Professor of Music and Arts and Director of the US-China Music Institute at Bard College

“Jennifer Lin’s wonderful book reminds us of a time in U.S.-China relations where much was possible and the future was bright.
John Pomfret, author of The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom: America and China, 1776 to the Present

“An unsung story of musical diplomacy comes alive in Jennifer Lin’s Beethoven in Beijing . This is a vivid, engaging, and deeply researched account of how the Philadelphia Orchestra’s performances in Beijing and Shanghai in 1973—in the midst of both the Cultural Revolution and the U.S.-China rapprochement— warmed relations and helped launch an era that brought Americans and Chinese together in myriad new ways.”
Mary Kay Magistad, former China correspondent for NPR (1995–1999) and PRI/BBC’s The World (2003–2013)

“Reading Jennifer Lin’s Beethoven in Beijing brought back the most vivid memories of the historic journey I was privileged to share with the Philadelphia Orchestra. Lin captures the exhilaration of our arrival to that mysterious and—until then—forbidden country in the fall of 1973. Her descriptions and the photographs that accompany them moved me deeply. Lin also restores for us the story of the remarkable friendships among musicians—Chinese and American—and our tiny band of fortunate journalists accompanying them. I was a very young reporter covering my first major story, and Lin’s book reminded me of the friendship that I most cherish from that groundbreaking trip: that with the brilliant maestro, Eugene Ormandy.”
Kati Marton, bestselling author of The Chancellor: The Remarkable Odyssey of Angela Merkel

"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."
Library Journal

About the Author(s)

Jennifer Lin is an award-winning journalist, author, and documentary filmmaker. She created and codirected the feature-length documentary, Beethoven in Beijing, which premiered on PBS’s Great Performances in 2021. For 31 years, she worked at the Philadelphia Inquirer as a reporter, including posts as a foreign correspondent in China, a financial correspondent on Wall Street, and a national correspondent in Washington, DC. She is the author of Shanghai Faithful: Betrayal and Forgiveness in a Chinese Christian Family and coauthor of Sole Sisters: Stories of Women and Running.


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