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Beethoven in Beijing
Pictured during the creative process in action are pianist Lang Lang and Conductor Yannick Nezet-Seguin going over rehearsal notes.
This Sunday, March 26 at 3 p.m., filmmaker Jennifer Lin, whose sister Daria Lin-Guelig resides in Wellsboro, will be attending the free showing of her award-winning documentary film “Beethoven in Beijing” in the Deane Center’s Warehouse Theatre at 3 Central Avenue in Wellsboro. The film explores the Philadelphia Orchestra’s legacy in China, from 1973 until now.
Following the screening of her film, Lin, a former foreign correspondent for “The Philadelphia Inquirer” and her former Inquirer colleague, David O’Reilly will engage in conversation about the making of the film.
The screening is being presented free of charge to the public by the Endless Mountain Music Festival and the Deane Center for the Performing Arts, which are co-sponsoring this event. Refreshments and a question and answer session with the audience will follow. Donations are always appreciated.
“Beethoven in Beijing” starts with a forgotten moment in history when an American President wangled an invitation to have his favorite orchestra visit communist China and help change the world. The Philadelphia Orchestra’s 1973 tour was a tentative gesture of cultural diplomacy that resonates yet today, with China producing millions of musicians, erecting dozens of new concert halls and filling chairs in orchestras around the world.
How did this happen? This film shows the awakening through vivid stories from the people who lived it then such as the Chinese musicians who nervously greeted Maestro Eugene Ormandy in 1973 and who live it today, like Oscar-winning composer Tan Dun and renowned pianist Lang Lang, who credit the Philadelphians with inspiring their careers.
Archival footage from then and first-person recollections from American and Chinese musicians bring to life that 1973 visit, while behind-the-scenes access on current tours captures the dynamism of present-day China. The result, complete with a sublime symphonic soundtrack, is a compelling look at the transcendent power of music.
“Beethoven in Beijing” is more than just an eye-and ear-opening look into a forgotten chapter in history when President Richard Nixon recruited the Philadelphia Orchestra to visit communist China in hopes of reopening the closed-off nation to the West.
To be sure, there are shocking accounts of the repressive horrors of the Cultural Revolution, when western music was banned and artists suffered.
But quickly the story becomes one of rebirth and optimism, as a nation craving artistic expression embraces classical music and within decades becomes a major player in the world’s concert halls. The documentary chronicles not only this sweeping renaissance but also the effects on individuals.
When Nixon asked for the Philadelphia Orchestra’s help in rekindling diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China, he could not have known how this bit of cultural diplomacy would change the world of classical music over the next half-century.
For 31 years, Lin worked at The 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 also author of a family memoir, “Shanghai Faithful: Betrayal and Forgiveness in a Chinese Christian Family.” She is currently working on a documentary, “Beyond Yellowface”, about eliminating racial stereotypes from ballet and opera.
For more information, call the Deane Center a (570) 724-6220.
Writing: Diane Eaton