Beethoven in Japan and China

Pretty much a reworking of what I posted yesterday and this morning on Facebook, as I contemplate the ending of World War 2, Hiroshima and Nagasaki — my mother once told me that in August 1945 she went out into the backyard of 61 Auburn Street and threw up when she heard about The Bombs — and of course the issues surrounding the Chinese renaissance of recent years and possible American decline.

In 1959 in China:

The remarkable story behind that was told on NPR in August 2016.

 In Communist China, music had to meet political as well as aesthetic standards, and Melvin says some Chinese began to reinterpret Beethoven to fit those standards. “People started saying, ‘Beethoven was the original revolutionary,'” she says. “They recreated him as Revolutionary Beethoven, who was the man who freed music and could help free the masses of people, too.”

In 1959, the People’s Republic of China celebrated its 10th anniversary. The occasion featured the Central Philharmonic Orchestra performing Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, with Friedrich Schiller’s poem translated into Mandarin.

For the time being, Beethoven was synonymous with everything  China aspired to be. But within a few years, he’d fallen out of favor. In the 1960s, leftist forces began to take more control and to criticize Western classical music. “It was considered bourgeois, and anything bourgeois was bad,” Melvin says. “A lot of Chinese traditional music was also banned; you couldn’t do most traditional Chinese operas. It was anything old … they were going to build a new socialist China with an entirely new culture.”

Lu Hongen, who was a timpanist and conductor of the Shanghai Symphony in the 1960s, was an outspoken critic of the Cultural Revolution. Like many musicians at the time, he faced dire punishment for sympathy with Western culture and for his political criticism. After he was arrested, Melvin says Lu took to humming Beethoven’s Missa solemnis in his cell.

“Finally, they decided to execute him,” she says. “And he said to his cellmate, ‘If you ever get out of here alive, would you please do two things: One is find my son, and the other is go to Vienna, go to Beethoven’s grave … and tell him that his Chinese disciple was humming the Missa solemnis as he went to his execution.'”

The Cultural Revolution ended in 1976, and in March 1977 the Central Philharmonic Orchestra performed Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. The last two movements were broadcast across China, in a moment that Cai and Melvin say many Chinese people remember as confirmation that the Cultural Revolution really was over….

I posted a link to that in a comment on the following Facebook entry yesterday.

Thanks for introducing me to this music, Michael Xu!

Another rendition of the Butterfly Lovers Concerto. See what this woman from the USA says: “I absolutely adore this piece. Just heard it for first time on WRTI in Philadelphia and thought I must get this on my playlist. This piece has a lot of emotional components and I feel such a connection to each and every one. Out of a tragic story can come such beauty. It takes you on a such lovely journey. Bravo!” The power of music to break down barriers, to go beyond politics?

One can only hope. Yes Donald. They were doing this in CHIIINAAAH in April 2019. What were you doing, Donald? Ah! That figures! “Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump Apr 2, 2019 No matter what information is given to the crazed Democrats from the No Collusion Mueller Report, it will never be good enough. Behind closed doors the Dems are laughing!”

Bugger that. This is far more worthwhile. Enjoy the music!

Beijing Symphony Orchestra, Conducted by Tan Lihua

A Chinese commenter writes: “I am proud to be Chinese. I am proud that we have this music. By the way, I saw the two composers and premiere violinist were in the audience seats, in case you don’t know.”

For those who don’t know the story: A Butterfly Love Story of Shanbo Liang & Yingtai Zhu.

Shanbo Liang & Yingtai Zhu becoming butterflies

“A long, long time ago, there was a smart little girl named Yingtai Zhu. She pretended to be a boy so she could study in school. (In ancient time girls weren’t allowed to study in school).

She met a boy named Shanbo Liang. The boy was very different because he liked art, he liked to write poems, and he liked the sea, mountains and all the original beauty of nature. Yingtai and Shanbo had a lot in common but the boy didn’t know that Yingtai was a girl.

One day, Yingtai told Shanbo she was a girl. And then, they fell in love. Later, Yingtai’s parents asked her to go back home to marry a boy that she didn’t love.

But Yingtai and Shanbo were engaged and they did not tell their parents. Yingtai went back home and spoke to her parents about the boy she loved. But her parents were very angry with her and they locked her away at home. They wanted to have the wedding for her and the boy they chose for her.

Shanbo heard this terrible news at school and he was so sad and all he could think about was meeting Yingtai again. But his parents would not allow him to go see her at her house.

Shanbo stayed at home and became very sick…and one half month later, he died in sorrow of love. When Yingtai received this terrible news, she was so sad and ran to Shanbo’s grave. She cried and cried and cried…

Suddenly, the grave opened and a beautiful butterfly flew out. At the same time, Yingtai became a beautiful butterfly too. They were happy and flew into the sky together. All the people were shocked about their precious love and that God changed them into butterflies.”